Paper Mache Angler Fish Teeth

So far we looked at:

This one I found very challenging on several counts including:

  • What to make the teeth out of
  • How to attach them
  • How to create the gums and lips around them
  • How to finish it all

For teeth I thought about using Fimo. Fimo is a name for a brand of polymer clay made by German company Staedtler. Dan (the monster-man) Reeder at Gourmet Paper Mache uses Fimo for his dragon teeth. My concern was they were too thick for my fish. I had a thought - why not bend coffee stirs and cut them into teeth.

Bending Coffee Stirs

I bent many coffee stirs then cut them to form teeth with scissors. The final fish has 61 teeth so every few hours I would remove the dry stirs and put more wet ones on the board.

Small teeth ready to mount

I did the top teeth first. The inside where the fabric attached was still raw. I glued on the teeth by applying some glue, press into place and hold for about 10 seconds. I could then let go.

1. All top teeth attached

2. Yarn edges glued on and lip started

3. Lip complete

Next was to finish the interior and exterior of the lip. Between each pair of teeth was a gap and the end of the lining cloth showed. On the top it is not as important inside as you have to look from below to see that area. I still wanted to work out how to do it.

Mixing chopped egg carton pulp with acrylic paint and medium

If you go with a fibre glass comparison I wanted a loose pulp that I could mix with red paint and acrylic medium. My solution was to chop up a pulp egg carton with a spice blade grinder. The result is a pulp fibre that could be mixed to form a paste. Using a palette knife the paste is applied to the edge of the lip and between the teeth. As the teeth were going to be painted white I was not worried about some red getting on them. In the picture below the inside and outside of the lip are complete as well the gaps between the teeth filled in.

Upside down view of the completed top teeth

It was now time to work on the lower teeth but putting in the top teeth had provided many lessons learned. In the next post I will document how the lower teeth were put in more efficiently.

Paper Mache Angler Fish Tongue and Mouth Lining

Cut out a piece of cardboard, cut the length of a white sock and insert

The shape of the mouth gives a ledge to rest the tongue on

The tongue is painted with a 50/50 glue/water mixture then full strength glue is applied to the cut end. Two heavy bowls were placed on top to hold it in place

Once dried the back is reinforced with more paper mache.

As there is a lot of glue under the end it is important to let this dry overnight. Excess glue can cause the body to warp.

Next step is to create the interior. I tried crumpled paper and cloth but it did not look convincing. A trip to a used clothes store resulted in an elastic girls tube top. The elastic made it so that I could stretch and form to the odd mouth shape.

To attach the fabric I drilled holes and sewed it on with black thread. A simpler solution is to buy a package of cloths pins. Run a bead of glue under a part and clip into place. Then once the glue is dry just remove the pins. If you are using wooden pins, you may need to put a stirp of plastic to prevent the glue from attaching to the pin jaw surface.

A slot for the tongue to stick through and cut and here is the result. The cloth is soft and pliable so the next step is to paint with 50/50 glue/water mixture to solidify it. Then acrylic paint is added to give it colour and more stability.

Mouth lining in

Mouth Lining being painted

One after thought was why didn't I leave most of the red and pattern showing? Good question. In hind-sight I probably should have left it. Around the edges I need to build up the lip and get rid of the white and blue. My idea was if the lining was all one red that would be easier to do. Next time I will leave the pattern.

Creating the Paper Mache Angler Fish Body

Balloon with several layers of kraft paper towel applied

Inspiration in place, it was time to start construction. The classic paper mache from our childhood is covering a balloon. The basic angler fish body shape is a pear. Inflating an 8 inch balloon to full yielded the desired shape. The paper I work with a brown kraft paper towel. It is durable, easy to tear and cut and lets glue pass through. I apply my glue with a paint brush, not my fingers. I know this is not how most people do it but using a brush gives more control. Also resin white glue is not the easiest stuff to wash off your hands. It is safe, I just prefer to stay clean.

Another interesting lesson learned was cut vs tear edges. With newsprint a torn edge will disappear while a cut will show when dried. Using kraft towels this is not the same. Even a cut edge disappears. Kraft paper is so much thinner but strong.

The resulting paper mache is smooth and pliable. You can bend it as well as cut with a knife or scissors. The pictures below are about 5 layers of paper. The mouth was cut out with a razor knife and scissors. I think of the paper mache like fibre glass. You build layers.

Cut and brace the mouth

Join the mouth to the body

I needed small wooden sticks that I could use to build fins and the tail. At first I tried wooden skewers. The problem is they are bamboo and do not soak up water. Coffee stirs on the other hand are soft wood, are pliable when water-soaked and retain their shape when dried. My local dollar store had packages of 150 stirs for $1. Perfect.

Bending Coffee Stirs

Avin's blue angler fish inspired the tail shape. Using a combination of bent coffee stirs and bamboo skewers I created this structure.

Tail Structure in bent coffee stirs and bamboo skewers

The Tail Covered

The next step is to move inside the mouth. As illustrated in the time-lapse construction video, you work from the inside out. I will start that in the next post.

Paper Mache – Angler Fish

Now that the Mahi Mahi fish was done I wanted to do another fish but I wanted to create it from scratch. I looked for inspiration and found several ideas.

My biggest boost came from a YouTube video called "Gourmet Paper Mache Fishwichwich."

Watching the time-lapse creation showed me that you had to basically build the fish from the inside out.

Two artists provided my key inspirations

Elements of each image inspired me.

Timothy Klanderud

Akin Vong

Akin Vong

Paper Mache – Mahi Mahi Fish

Last year I took a course in oil painting. As someone new to painting I found oil challenging but acrylics more forgiving. Painting on a canvas was not exciting to me then I remembered loving paper mache as a kid. When I searched the web I found two websites that inspired me.

What surprised me was the variety of materials and glues available as well a paper mache clay.

Original Plastic Fish

My first idea was to use an old plastic fish I bought at the Outer Banks in North Carolina as a mould. I tried various glues and recipes but the one I enjoyed the most was white resin glue diluted with 10% water. Then for paper I tried several newsprints, tissue and paper towels to name a few but got interesting results with kraft folding paper towels. These are the basic brown towels you would find in a gas station.

While some of the glue recipes would release from the plastic, white resin glue bonded well. I decided to just cover the model with paper and paint.

Covering model with paper mache

While reading the Gourmet Paper Mache site I learned about cloth mache and using materials other than paper. I decided to glue lace trim onto the body to create a scale like effect.

Covering the body with lace trim to create scales

Next came the fins. Why not create a rib structure with twine and yarn?

Cotton string glued onto the tail to create ribs

Here is the model with all of the paper, string, yarn, lace and gesso done.

Model covered and gessoed

My original idea was to mount the fish on a canvas like a trophy mount.

Original trophy mount idea

Next came painting the fish. As mahi mahi are colourful I had freedom to go a bit wild. Then I decided to use a 18x36 inch canvas and have the fish swimming into the scene. I painted the canvas as underwater with the light shinning in. I mounted wood reinforcing to the back to support the weight of the model then glued and screwed the model on.

Here is the final result as it hangs in my living room.
And so started my love of paper mache.

Fish Hung

Fish Hung above door

Margaret stars in a pet store ad

What’s On Digest – Parksville/Qualicum approached me about using a picture of Margaret for an upcoming ad. Here is the result.

Bosley's Jun13

Another way to carry a smart car

In June 2006 I wrote about Dennis Murphy and his unusual way to carry hist smart car.


Today I heard from Carl-Erik “Stina” Johnsson of Helsingborg, Sweden with his solution. The truck is a 1990 Volvo that he bought new and used for 2,300,000 kms in his trucking company. There is a hydraulic crane and on the cage top a loop to fit the crane hook. It take around 12-15 minutes to load or unload.

Amazing system Stina.

Funny toast to my new son-in-law at the wedding

May your banjo play bright and crisp
May your coffee be dark and rich
May your ‘shine be smooth and sweet
May your best houn’dog warm your feet

All good things I wish for you
But remember and it’s true
Treat her right and don’t be naughty
Or they will never find the body

A special thanks to Sue Reynolds and James Dewar who helped me with the poem structure. I was amazed how many hours it took to write a one minute poem.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day

Margaret Defends Crown

Proud Mother

Margaret Helms successfully defended her title, and for the second year in a row, captured the win in the large breed category of the “Doggy Fashion Show” at the Sunderland Maple Syrup Festival. The English Bulldog, who belongs to Dorothea and Rich Helms of Sunderland, was dressed in her Easter finery – pink feather boa and pink hat. Many thanks to Barb Thompson of Pawsitive Style Pet Food Accessories and Grooming in Sunderland, who once again generously sponsored this contest and provided great dog goodies to the participants and winners. Margaret is home now, and exhausted from the pressure of competing and posing for the paparazzi who hounded her for photos and quotes. Her take on the day: “Woof!”

Which way is the Easter parade?