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

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

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

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

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

To strengthen the edges of the cardboard, hem or cover them with duct tape.

Step 6: Construct Facade & Attach

Mark and cut out the facade from a piece of card. The facade helps with the structure's stability and also makes it look more solid from the front. Attach to the front using duct tape.

Step 7: Prepare Papier Mache Mixture

Mix between 2-4 tablespoons of cornstarch (or cornflour) with as much water to make a thick mixture. Add 1 litre of boiling water and mix well. If you add more cornstarch, you will get a harder (and slightly more textured) finish.

Step 8: Cover Table With Papier Mache

Tear lots of pieces of scrap paper into thin strips. Immerse strip and wipe off excess liquid with your fingers. Strip by strip, slowly wrap the entire table with your papier mache mixture. Perhaps, to prevent the cardboard from becoming too damp, you could wrap a panel at a time, allowing to dry before continuing.

Step 9: Paint & Distress

There are many ways to gain a distressed paint look. Some people use many different coats of water based paint and with sanding edges and corners you can achieve a weathered and antique looking finish.

For this project I decided to go for a metallic distressed look. First paint the table with a dark colour (I used an oil based black). Next, you can rub a wax candle along the edges to help the next layer of paint to be removed without removing the first. When applying the second layer (I used an oil based grey/green), I added a little paint remover to the mixture to encourage a crackling texture in places. Don't worry about drips and an uneven finish, that's what we want. After the second layer is dry you can remove parts some of the paint (mostly along edges/corners) with a sharp edged tool. Even if your second layer is still a little sticky, you can still distress the finish by being a little rough with it.

Step 10: Finishing Touch of Gold

Finally, take a cloth with metallic gold paint on it and rub over the entire surface. You will notice that the edges, corners and imperfections will naturally gain more gold than the smoother surfaces. This gives the table a fantastic metallic distressed appearance.

Step 11: Side Tables for All

Papier mache side tables are light, stable, versatile and can really help decorate a home. Join the fight against clutter... reclaim your floor space with this simple paper side table.

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    40 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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??

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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

    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!


    5 years ago on Step 9

    Would there be any inconvienience in keeping it the way it is in step 9, pic 1?

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 9

    If you are happy at that point then great, I just wanted a different distressed look :)


    7 years ago on Step 11

    Very unusual and creative. I like the idea. Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

    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!!!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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!

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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!

    1 reply

    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.

    1 reply

    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


    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!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.