Picture of How to Make a Papier Mache Side Table

Imagine a land where side tables were outlawed. There are few who will stand up and resist such a dark regime that oppresses innocent floor space... it is up to the few, to oppose this great wave of darkness and clutter! Come join the resistance, begin the fight, recycle, reuse and make a papier mache side table.
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Step 1: Materials & Design

Picture of Materials & Design

You will need...

A design: This design just happened as I went along, the dimensions came from marks on a length of wood I used as a ruler (that's why they have no rhyme or reason, sorry). As long as you are consistent with the basic dimensions, your table should look great. I have included my dimensions just in case you want to make an exact replica.

For the side table structure:
Cardboard (for the basic structure of the table)
Duct tape, scissors and marker pen
Lots of scrap paper (for the papier mache)
Cornstarch (or cornflour), water, measures and a bowl

For painting and distressing:
A few colours of paint (black, grey green and metallic gold)
A wax candle (to help with distressing)
A sharp edged tool (like a knife to help remove paint from edges)
A little paint remover (to help create a crinkly distressed look)
A brush and cloth (to apply paint)

Step 2: Mark & Cut Out Pieces

Picture of Mark & Cut Out Pieces

Mark out the sides and shelf/back piece with your marker pen. Using your scissors, cut out the side pieces and shelf/back piece and score along any lines that will need to be folded.

Step 3: Tape Shelf/Back to Sides

Picture of Tape Shelf/Back to Sides

Using duct tape, attach the shelf/back piece to the sides. First tape the tabs in place, then cover the remaining joints with tape.

Step 4: Construct the Table Top

Picture of Construct the Table Top

Using additional pieces of card, construct the side table's top. I initially used two layers of card taped together, but then decided to add a third for strength. Attach to the base by taping around the edges (the back of the top should be flush with the base's).

Step 5: Cover All Edges With Duct Tape

Picture of Cover All Edges With Duct Tape

To strengthen the edges of the cardboard, hem or cover them with duct tape.
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gusnako3 years ago
nice i'll make it too... did you guys(that made it) notice any signs of mold because of the cornflour after a while or is it safe??
rocketsurgery (author)  gusnako3 years ago
Absolutely no mould... as long as it's dry and especially if you paint it... then it's not likely to show any sign of mould...

SO this is three years later, still no mould? That's great!! I know in Oklahoma anything paper in my in-law's house could get mouldy, because they did not have central air conditioner and it gets very hot and humid. I'm wondering if in climates where mould is an issue, maybe some diatomaceous earth mixed in with the cornstarch and water mixture might be enough to help head it off at the pass, especially if some white vinegar used as part of the water/liquids to thin it down?? Just a thought. I'm actually thinking of borrowing elements of this awesome design for a shelf project I've been wanting to remodel. It's a cheap melamine-topped particle board shelf kit that got heat damaged by the in-laws, so that the pretty white ended up with horrible brown yellow spots in random places. I want to repurpose it as a shelf for my coffee "stuff" (I had a K-cup and it recently died, but I still have stuff like those Vietnamese style stainless steel coffee/espresso strainers, pretty coffee boxes/tins, etc etc so just a place to put all the clutter, especially as I'm likely to get a replacement coffeepot later.). I loved the ideas about the painted distressed look, and the gold paint on it. So I'm still not sure how I will do it all, but I really appreciate your time in posting this instructable!! I hope it is still working well for you all this time later!

Oh! speaking of the gold paint... would the gold foil type stuff work too, do you think, with maybe some sort of spoon or boning tool to mash into the surface in random edges? I bought some a long time ago for some other project (I can't even remember what it was I thought about doing with it!! It's been that long ago....). Duuuh, I guess I can go search for a "gold foil" instructable!! haha

rocketsurgery (author)  msdrpepper9 months ago

Hey msdrpepper! Thanks for your encouraging comments on the side table. Yes, it's still going strong, with no sign of mould, I've even added extra papier mache furniture (book shelf & coffee table) to extend the craziness. I wonder if a dehumidifier would help if anyone finds themselves in a really humid environment ;)

Thanks again and all the best!

LvNo10001 year ago
Would there be any inconvienience in keeping it the way it is in step 9, pic 1?
rocketsurgery (author)  LvNo10001 year ago
If you are happy at that point then great, I just wanted a different distressed look :)
belisa2 years ago
Very unusual and creative. I like the idea. Thanks for sharing!
rocketsurgery (author)  belisa2 years ago
Thank you for your encouragement, belisa!

Thanks for reading :)
Dudeyowuzup3 years ago
Well done. Thanks for including so many pictures! I thought the cleaner lines of the cardboard looked better than the uneven look of the paper mache, but I understand if the paper mache is required for additional strength. However, when I first looked at the pictures, I thought your side table was covered in foil! It wasn't until I read the step about painting it that I realized it was just metallic paint.
rocketsurgery (author)  Dudeyowuzup3 years ago
Thank you so much! I think you are right about the smooth, cleaner lines of the cardboard. Perhaps you could use a finer paper to prevent the harsh and uneven look of the papier mache? Thanks again for your comment!!!
Jeabou3 years ago
Does it matter what kind of paint you use? I think briefly working in the Paint department of a large hardware chain store confused me even more with how many kinds of paint there are. My apologies for such a noobish question!
Jeabou Jeabou3 years ago
Check that. My apologies, I did not read in detail enough. Oil based, got it. :) Cannot wait to get crackin' on this one this weekend!
rocketsurgery (author)  Jeabou3 years ago
Hey there, hope your table goes well!!!
ajackson163 years ago
This is awesome! I'm currently lacking in bedroom furniture and have been needing some bedside tables. I recently gutted about thirty hardback books to make Miss jessyratfink's book headboard and have been looking for a way to recycle the gutted pages. I think instead of painting it, I'll "paint" the outside with a bit of tinted wallpaper glue to let the words shine through while still getting an aged look. Thanks so much!
rocketsurgery (author)  ajackson163 years ago
Thanks! I think your idea is great! I had thought of using comics for the final layer and then using varnish to cover. If you do make something, please post a picture :)
This is great! If only I had this instructable when I was in college, life would have been so different...Thanks for posting.
rocketsurgery (author)  emilygraceking3 years ago
Yeah... with or without cardboard furniture... university life can be quite the jumble, mingle, tangle... nice that we made it out alive :) thanks for your comment
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rocketsurgery (author)  DELETED_Magebear3 years ago
Thanks Magebear!!! Very encouraging... cornstarch and water works really well (depending on how you apply it - how long you immerse the paper etc)... it holds together really well - the side table is very solid... and of course if you paint it then no worries... Thanks again!
scmtngirl3 years ago
So cool! I've been hankering for a new coffee table but have yet to decide on one I like. Maybe I'll try making something like this as a temporary solution. Very clever and beautiful in a unique, artistic way.
rocketsurgery (author)  scmtngirl3 years ago
Thanks scmtngirl... coffee tables are so expensive these days... a cardboard/papier-mache one would be neat... thanks again for your kind comments :)
osibisa4 years ago
fun -- I have used masking tape making papier mache stuff, and it's a lot less expensive than Duct. less slip, too.

rocketsurgery (author)  osibisa4 years ago
You are so right, masking tape is great re: papier mache and very strong once covered. I just had access to duct tape, which is fine once you've covered it with papier mache and great for stability :)
ellequoi4 years ago
This sounds like a good project for when the school year has finished... how long did it take to make?
rocketsurgery (author)  ellequoi4 years ago
The structure took a few hours (and I was taking photos to document it, so probably less)... then papier mache takes an hour or so to do (but spaced this over a period to allow for drying etc)... I simply applied one layer of papier mache and it certainly strengthens the cardboard (use more if you require a stronger finish)... I have the table next to my bed, so I'm not pushing it for strength (but I did place 20lbs on it to test for strength and it coped very well)... painting takes as long as the paint takes to dry... Hope you find some time to make one...
how much weight would you guess this could hold?
rocketsurgery (author)  anarchy burger4 years ago
Hey anarchy burger... I'm not sure... but it's really stable and strong... I just put around 20lb (~9kg) in tin cans on it (left it for 10 minutes) and it sits there quite happily... :)
ohh thats rad!! great 'ible by the way :) such a wonderful take on the cardboard furniture, very concise & easy to follow.... can't wait to make one!
lemonie4 years ago


rocketsurgery (author)  lemonie4 years ago
Thanks lemonie
Uncle Kudzu4 years ago
Good job! The end product looks great and the how-to part is good too!

I do stuff with papier mache sometimes (see my avatar, Senor Hardhead), and your 'ible gives me something new to think about. Thanks for sharing!
rocketsurgery (author)  Uncle Kudzu4 years ago
Thanks for the encouragement Uncle Kudzu! Senor Hardhead looks great!
sitzikbs4 years ago
very immpresive!
nice work man.
rocketsurgery (author)  sitzikbs4 years ago
Thanks for the encouragement sitziks... Loved your Duct Tape Swing BTW...
slice_rulz4 years ago
i have often thought about doing something like this you did nice work. i would suggest using a paper based tape like packing tape to get the paper mache to stick to the tape better.
rocketsurgery (author)  slice_rulz4 years ago
Thanks slice_rulz... Great tip on using packing tape... The papier mache mixture seems to adhere to the duct tape reasonably well, but I'm sure using strong paper tape would certainly be a better choice... Thanks again...
knife1414 years ago
Very nice! I like seeing projects where something useful and artistic is made from throw-away materials. Good job!
rocketsurgery (author)  knife1414 years ago
Thanks knife141... love your sock monkey :)
mehendalek4 years ago
Nicely done :)
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