How do I harden my pinata?

Hello! I am making a rather large spiderman pinata for a party Monday, and may have been too enthusiastic in laying down multiple layers of paper mache during single sittings. I have done three layers at this point, but am worried it will not fully dry out in time and am wondering if there is anything you would suggest to harden the surface and make it very difficult to break! Also, I did not plan the hook very well, and am unsure how to string up what I predict will be a 10 pound pinata. Would you think cutting a somewhat large hole into the shoulders, adding a wire hanger, and closing it up with superglue work?

Thanks for your help!!

Answer from Piñata Boy

The only way to harden the piñata faster is to dry the papier mâché faster, and the best was to speed the drying is to put a fan blowing on the piñata.  If it’s warm outside and you can put it in the sun that also helps, but wherever you put the piñata, make sure you have a fan blowing on it.  Keep turning the piñata in front of the fan every half hour or so, so that as one side dries another side gets a turn.  I can’t say how long the entire process will take, just keep it going until it’s dry. I have also tried using a blow dryer to help speed the drying, but from my experience the fan was much more effective and the hair dryer was a lot of effort for a small payoff in terms of time saved.

The piñata will continue to feel soft until the papier mâché is fully dry, so throughout almost the entire drying process the piñata is going to feel soft and you may think it’s not drying out very well, but it will suddenly become much harder at the very end of the drying process.

If you still have balloons inside the papier mâché, then when the piñata is dry enough that the sides will not collapse, you can remove the balloons and cut a hole in the papier mâché, and use a blow dryer to help dry the piñata from the inside.  I know I said earlier that a blow dryer wasn’t very effective, but it’s the only way to circulate warm air inside the piñata, and it works better in an enclosed space.

It’s okay to add the hanging hook after the piñata is dry.  For a heavier piñata you’ll want to make a hanging hook similar to the ones I describe here.  This design for the hook helps spread the hanging force over a larger area and prevents the hanging hook from tearing through the papier mâché.  The second example on that page shows how a hanging hook is added after the papier mâché work is done.  To close up the hole just use masking tape and if you are pressed for time you can decorate right over the masking tape.  (Superglue doesn’t adhere well to papier mâché.)

Good luck!

2 Responses to “How do I harden my pinata?”

  1. Tina

    I made a pinata using a punch balloon along with the all purpose flour and water using your ratio. I wrapped it first with newspaper and then did 4 layers of papier-mâché. I allowed each layer to dry over night and the last an extra day caused I had to work. Even though it is stiff it dents?
    I had no choice but to proceed cause my daughter’s 1st b-day is this Saturday 6/17/17. I popped the balloon inside while sitting on a laundry basket and started decorating with fringed crepe paper. It is denting where it rests on the laundry basket and I keeping having to push out the walls. I’m afraid it will not break open when struck with the stick. The kids ages are from 4-11 years old. What do you think went wrong? I would like to make more in the future.

    • Piñata Boy

      Hi Tina! Sorry for the delay answering this — I missed the e-mail notification of this question and only just now came upon it by accident. My answer is too late to help you this time, but hopefully this won’t be your last piñata.

      When you’re making a large piñata like one based off a punch ball, you have to add additional layers of papier mâché because the weight of the papier mâché causes the walls to collapse when you pop the balloon. Normally four layers is about the minimum you can get away with on a punch ball, but when you rested it on a laundry basket, all the weight of the piñata rested on a few points, and that’s what caused it to dent in. (This happens almost no matter what you rest it on, even a round bowl or just a flat surface.) With four dried layers you were very close to the walls being thick enough to prevent this from happening — I think one more half-layer would have done it, and a full layer almost certainly would have (you apply a half-layer by laying down papier mâché strips with gaps in between to create a checkerboard-like pattern that covers only half the surface).

      Whenever I make a large piñata for younger kids, I always have to make the walls thick enough to support their own weight, but then they’re too thick for the kids to break. I weaken the walls once they’re dry by stabbing them with a knife (go psycho crazy if you do this — lots and lots and lots of holes) or by making cut-lines with a razor blade where I want the piñata to be really weak. Then I decorate over the cuts to hide them. The cut-lines don’t have to go all the way through, just enough to make the papier mâché tear more easily when it’s hit.

      I hope your piñata went over well at the party! Sorry I’m late with this reply, but I hope it helps next time.


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