When you can't go period, go faux!

Linda J Doerksen
SCA: Halima al-Rakkasa
first webbed July 6, 2006

As I sat at my encampment at Cragmere's Armada, one item was especially glaring... The cooler. Oh, true that there was a cover over it, a cover that slipped at every breeze, never mind every time we opened it. A week later, I made my decision...

Go faux! (For those not familiar with French, pronounced GOH-FOH) That means, when you can't make the real thing, make the plastic thing less obvious.

Before, sort of Take one Coleman Cooler. In this case, a plastic one with molded-in-place handles. Add a couple of large brown paper bags, or some brown kraft wrapping paper, about twice as much as you think you need. Rip the paper into rough pieces about the size of a splayed hand. Mix up some goop: 2 parts water to 1 part Weldbond glue. Stir it well and pour into a small tray that'll take your paper bits.

Some people say you can duct-tape over the raised lettering, but I find that the glue might not stick well; I prefer to paper the bumpy bits first, and then go over the whole cooler.

At this point, you might want to use a permanent black marker (or brown) to color edges and such that might show; I colored the hinges, and chose to depend on my skill in papering for the rest. You might want to replace the hinges with leather or metal for additional brag-factor.

Be certain you've eaten recently, because once you start, your hands will get stickier than you could ever imagine.

Cover the raised lettering first, dipping each piece of paper into the glue mix and smoothing it onto the cooler, working methodically. I do the top, go down one side, and then go around. I skip the bottom. Overlap a bit, smoothing the edges, and working out any air bubbles. Straight paper edges get used on straight cooler edges. Don't cover the hinges.

At some point, I find the lid keeps closing on me, and sticking edges together that ought not; that's when I put a layer of plastic food wrap along the edge to prevent sticking.

When everything is covered that should be, leave it alone to dry a day or two; when dry, the surface will no longer feel cool. If there are rough spots, take a bit of sandpaper to them to smooth them. I don't get very fussy about it, as my paper layer is usually flat.

Then get some Minwax PolyShades in a dark-ish color, like Antique Walnut Satin, and a foam brush. Give the papier mache one thin coat, let dry thoroughly, and add a second. If you want a darker finish, add a third coat.

After: leather? rock? I wouldn't leave this out in the rain, but I wouldn't do that with an untreated cooler, anyway. I do like the leather look, and I'm now planning to add some color to it. Heraldry, perhaps?