Introduction: Opus the Penguin

Here's how to make everyone's favourite existential flightless waterfowl out of paper mache. You will only need cardboard, newspaper, foil, masking tape, and paint.

Step 1: Making the Frame

Draw your best Opus profile on a piece of paper and glue it to a sheet of corrugated cardboard. Drawing Opus is mostly a matter of getting the significant parts right, specifically the enormous honker and heinie. Cut it out with a craft knife. Now using the back half as a template, trace out two profile pieces and cut them out (first pic). Stick the whole lot together with masking tape. Now use cardboard to bring it into the round. Just hold a square of cardboard against the spine and trace a curve (second pic). After you cut it out, you can use it as a template for the opposite side of the body to maintain symmetry. Continue until you've done the whole body and beak to your satisfaction (third pic). I made mine about 14" tall.

Incidentally I found it easier to stick the body segments in with hot glue because it's quicker than fiddling around with masking tape.

Step 2: Filling the Body

The structure now will be very rigid. Fill up the segments with crumpled newspaper one by one and cover with masking tape. You want it as round-looking as possible, so pack in enough paper that the cardboard ridges don't stand out under the tape. For fiddly areas, such as the honker, I used aluminium foil because it holds shape better than newspaper.

When the body is filled, wrap any gaps with masking tape. Make some cheeks with balls of aluminium foil and tape them on.

Step 3: Feet and Flippers

Cut forms for the feet and flippers out of cardboard, bulk them up a bit with crumpled aluminium foil, cover with masking tape. To help the flippers keep their shape I taped in a couple of lengths of wire. You will attach them to the body after the paper mache stage.

Step 4: Paper Mache!

Now for the actual paper mache part of this so-called paper mache project. Here's how I do it:

Lay down plenty of newspaper to protect your table.

Tear other sheets of newspaper into strips of various sizes.

In a bowl, mix a bit of ordinary flour and water. There are no precise measurement required, but it should be kind of like a thickish soup. Here's a hint - a touch of household bleach added to the water will help prevent any mold.

Don't dip the strips of paper in the paste, press the paper to the form and smooth it over with pasty hands. This prevents lumps and air bubbles and mold under the paper.

You don't need more than a layer or two for it to dry fairly hard, but if you want rock solid, do five or six.

I did the feet and flippers separately and glued them on afterwards as it was much easier that way.

Now let dry, preferably in front of a fan.

Step 5: Paint!

I painted the insides of the flippers and the belly first, as it would be too tricky to do them afterwards, then attached the flippers with glue, tape and mache. Then, paint away! See you at the dandelion patch.