How to Build a Parade Float With Papier Mache

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Papier mache is a versatile medium for making parade floats.
Papier mache is a versatile medium for making parade floats. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

From Independence Day to Mardi Gras, there are plenty of holidays and celebrations that inspire parades. While some parades flood the streets of New York City with gargantuan balloons, others wind their way through small town streets with marching bands. One common parade display is a float that has been created to celebrate an occasion or represent an organization. Although a wide variety of materials are suitable for float building, papier mache is a versatile medium that can be used for floats large and small.

Things You'll Need

  • Trailer
  • Chicken wire
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Large Bowl
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush

Form chicken wire into the shape desired for your parade float. Multiple sections of wire may be secured together using zip ties or small pieces of additional wire twisted around the adjoining sections. Attach the shape to a trailer or other platform that will be towed in the parade by stapling the bottom of the chicken wire shape to the float base. Crumple newspapers and stick them to the wire with masking tape to create more intricate shapes.

Cut strips of newspaper to be used for the papier mache. Cut strips approximately one inch wide to use on small forms, or up to six inches wide to use on larger forms.

Mix the papier mache paste. Combine two parts all purpose flour with three parts water. Whisk the ingredients together until all of the lumps are worked out and a smooth paste is formed. Add one tablespoon salt for each cup of flour to help keep the paste from molding while drying. Two parts white glue may be mixed with one part water to make a stickier paste.

Dunk the strips of newspaper into the bowl of papier mache paste. Slide your thumb and pointer finger gently down the newspaper as it is removed from the bowl to remove any excess paste.

Lay the paste-soaked newspaper strips over the form. Slightly overlap each strip of newspaper until the entire form is covered. Allow the first layer to dry completely, which may take up to 24 hours, depending on the size of the float, before repeating the process to adhere a second layer of papier mache. Leave the float to dry for approximately 48 hours before beginning to paint.

Apply a coat of paint primer to the float using a paint brush. Allow the primer to dry. Paint the float using a semi-gloss paint product. Be creative and use paint as a medium to bring the papier mache form to life.

Allow the paint to dry and finish the float by adding streamers, banners or other decorations to enhance the effect of the papier mache display.

References

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