Paper Mache Skull Questions

Your old pal Spook gets a lot of mail from folks who, having tried their hand at making a paper mache skull, can’t seem to de-mold the copy without tearing it, poking holes, or jamming a screwdriver under a thumbnail. This makes for a generally unpleasant experience all around.

Frustration is a key ingredient in all sorts of FAIL, to which I attribute some dented trash cans, a collection of snapped dowel rods, and half a dozen tool-shaped holes in the walls of my garage. The following note on the subject, recently hurled in our direction, is … illustrative.

“you need to give alot more info on your paper skull instructions. this method doesn’t work…you can’t get the paper off the skull afterward which ruins it, and the paper doesn’t even remotely resemble a real skull. either you’re leaving out some important steps/tips, or else this is just a big waste of time & cash.”

Hm. Vinegar, mixed with a little oil, makes a nice salad dressing. Spray it on your garden, and you’ll wipe out all the tomatoes.

While I’m not inclined to be overly helpful to this person (Grumble wanted to write today’s post), there are other folks who might be experiencing similar issues with their paper mache skulls, so I updated the project page with some further, possibly helpful, tips.

  • Use a release agent like WD40, wax, spray silicone, or anything slippery that won’t melt your skull and burn the skin off your fingers. (Ask a classical guitarist to play any AC/DC song for a good visual of what I mean.)
  • Use a very thin glue for the first paper layer, or try just water and no glue at all.
  • Apply several paper layers, or your copy won’t be strong enough to survive de-molding. You can add up to three layers in one session. A fan helps with drying. Feel free to apply more layers, but allow ealier layers to dry first.
  • Pay special attention to the eye sockets and nose cavity. Overlap long, thin strips, adding extra coverage from the center out to eye ridges, cheek bones, etc.
  • Don’t try to de-mold until the copy is completely dry.
  • Slice your copy into three pieces, or try a different pattern if mine has not been successful for you.
  • Break the seal around the base of the skull and jaw bone by carefully prying, or cutting, the paper edge from the form. Work slowly, and go all the way around.
  • Slip a small flat-tip screwdriver or butter knife under an edge and carefully work it around to peel the paper from the form. Concentrate on one area until it lifts away.

We enjoy corresponding with all haunters. If you have a story to share, a question for the team, or would like to offer constructive criticism, the Undead Letter Office is open 24-7. All other correspondence is subject to our Grumble Filter.

9 Responses to “Paper Mache Skull Questions”

  1. You should write back to that person “I forgot to mention gasoline. You must first apply gasoline to the skull. And your paper. And your clothing.”

    Some people. I get a lot of that as well. Nothing is nicer than coming home after work and having someone DEMAND that I send them my methods.

    You’re a good man, Spookyblue. : )

  2. You handled that nicely…. and gave some good tips in the process…. voila! Great post!

  3. Isn’t that typical. When it ‘doesn’t work’ it’s clearly the fault of the person writing the instructions and in no way can the person who is ‘following them’ at fault. Even if they fail to read all the caveats and hints.

    I tried the PM skull last summer and had no problems that hadn’t been identified as problem areas to which particular care needed to be taken. Like thin glue, WD40, enough layers and taking extra time around eyes and mouth. Mine turned out just fine but then I READ through the instructions carefully. All of your hints above were contained within them.

    I’d love to see what Grumble has to say, no doubt he includes things like what condiments are best served offending bleepwads who are as ungracious as MR It can’t be my fault because I failed to fully read and comprehend what was written.

  4. How very rude. I am not amused by how someone’s lack of artistic ability is somehow your fault. :P

    Should I mention again that I’ve always regarded my discovery of your projects page as akin to hitting the Halloween jackpot?

  5. Hee hee … thanks for the good words. :)

    A lot of mail lands here at the Outland Post Office, and only about one in 50 are cranks, grumps, or otherwise nimrods. Easy to spot, easy to ignore.

    I don’t know if it was the note itself, or the bogus return email address that lit the fire this time

  6. I freely admit that I have trouble following directions (which is why Stewie has an 8′ arm span and a head the size of New Jersey), but even I made this skull work. Some people, indeed!

    BTW, I hear that ordinary cooking spray works as a release agent, too. Haven’t tried it, but if it doesn’t work, at least your omlette will slide off your workbench much more smoothly.

  7. Wow. It’s not rocket science people. You handled that much better than I would have. Good Job! Oh, and I wrap my items in tinfoil before adding the mache. It might slip a little, but I don’t care about getting the fine details. I just want the basic shape of the skull. I go over the skull with paperclay later to add my own details.

  8. I found the perfect thing for loosening the copy from the original….a plastic citrus peeler. It has a scorer on one end and a flat, tapered, flexible end for working between the rind and the “good” stuff. It works a lot better tan a butter knife because its a lot more flexible and easier to get in the smaller spaces like around the eyes. Hope this helps some of your readers out. Love your site!!! My yard haunt wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for your tutorials. You rock SpookyBlue!

  9. Excellent idea! There are dual purposes for all sorts of kitchen gadgets, and this ranks right up there with the long-handled-meat-fork / back-scratcher.