Giant Paper Mache Globe

I love maps. They possess a rare combination of beauty and function. Even better than maps are globes, but they are pricey. A 24-inch diameter globe sells for anywhere between $500 and $2000. When calling around about globes of that size, salesmen warn you: "They are very expensive".

I decided that I could easily make a giant paper mache ball and paint it like a globe. It wouldn't have the detail of printed globes, but it would be very cheap!


I went to a party supply store and bought the largest round balloon that they sold. It was $2.69. I blew it up to 31 inches across. I had to measure the circumference and calculate the diameter to make sure it would fit in and out of my doorway! (To get an idea of how large my globe was going to be, check out the size of an interior door.)

I tore a giant stack of newspaper into strips and mixed up some glue-flour water. Paper mache is heavy when it is wet, so I created a suspension system with twine encircling the bottom of the globe. It took about four hours to cover the balloon with enough paper to be a strong shell.

Unfortunately, the big balloon had a little expansion and contraction that it needed to do, and my perfect white sphere become a little bumpy. I did what I could the next day to fix it up.

I primed the globe and brought it to my apartment for painting. Mapping out a giant globe is not easy, but luckily I am a super whiz at geometry. I gridded the surface out into 15x15 squares and began sketching in the continents. It took forever, but it was pretty neat. I used a large Hammond world map and I had to constantly re-size things to fit accurately into the grid, especially near the poles.

I learned a lot about the world's geography, as you can probably imagine.

The thing that surprised me the most is how big South America is. It is really huge.

I bought a pint of paisley blue and a pint of bright shamrock paint. I decided to just use those two colors with some white for Antarctica. I roughed in the ocean first, then carefully cut it in to my coastlines using a small brush. I think it was a flat #2. Then I painted the land masses. The painting stretched out over 3 weeks. I rationalized this time span by calculating the surface area of the globe: 21 square feet. Finally it was done. It turned out great, but bumpy. I didn't engineer a 22.5 tilted axis stand, so it just hung straight up and down, but it did spin. The scale worked out to 249 miles per inch.


I gave it to Maria Kammerer for her birthday. She loves maps too.

She had to take her door off the hinges to fit it inside her apartment.

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Contact Rob  Feb. 1999
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