A reader asked me this morning for the pattern for the baby elephant I’m working on, so here it is. The sculpture isn’t finished, of course, so we don’t really know yet how it will turn out – but if you’re brave, you’re certainly welcome to the pattern.
[edit - I made a video about this whole process. You can see the YouTube video about How to Make a Paper Mache Elephant here.]
To print the full-sized patterns, click on the pattern images below. A larger image will come up in a separate window. Then save the image to your desktop and use your image editing program to print it out.
I’m making a baby elephant sculpture that will be 30″ high when it’s finished. You will need to transfer the pattern to a grid with 2″ squares to make your elephant this size. If you don’t have room for a full-sized baby elephant in your house, just transfer the pattern using a grid with smaller squares.
This would be a good math problem for your kids – get them ready for those story problems when they go back to school. (Do they still have story problems in math class?)
I’ll make a video of this project when it’s finished, just because I think that would be fun. For now, here’s what I’ve done:
I cut the pattern out of fairly thin press-board – a tad bit over 1/4 inch thick. If you’re heading to the store to buy material, I suggest you use plywood instead, because it’s stronger. If you use 1/2″ plywood, you probably won’t need to stiffen the legs, as I did with some scrap 1 x 4 boards left over from a remodeling project, using Gorilla Carpenter’s Glue and clamps.
I used the spacing pattern (see above) that I threw together in Photoshop to determine how far apart the leg pieces needed to be. The pattern indicated that I should have about 4″ between the body and the legs. I used two pieces of 2 x 4 lumber glued and nailed to each side of the body piece for each leg (plus the 3/4″ from the stiffening boards) to come as close as I could to 4″ using scraps I had on hand. If you make a sculpture that’s either smaller or larger, you’ll need to calculate these dimensions yourself.
In the photo below I’ve added the 2 x 4 scraps to the body and I’m ready to attach one of the back legs. I used some big nails to make sure the pieces were well attached. Since I don’t expect children to climb on my elephant, I decided to not use metal braces for the legs, but you can see that I cut the body piece in the leg areas so that I could add braces if I thought they were needed. Ask the engineer in your family if you’re concerned about safety issues.
So, at this point our baby elephant looks like this:
I’ll be using the spacing diagram to make sure I’m coming close to the actual form of an elephant when I start adding crumpled paper to the body and legs. If you’re making an elephant yourself, make sure you also look at many photos of the real beasts, so you get a good feel for the bulk and personality of this wonderfully intelligent creature. You can find a great photo of a baby elephant from the front here. The photo I used for the pattern model is here. I straightened the legs to make it easier for the finished sculpture to stand up without supports.
You’ll eventually need to decide if you want an Indian elephant, with small ears, or an African elephant, with enormous ears. The shape of the back is also different – African elephants have a noticeable hump on their backs, even when they’re babies. The pattern on this page is for an Indian elephant.
You can learn more about these differences here.
Have fun – and if you do make a paper mache elephant, be sure to let us see it!