Hundreds of Packing Peanuts

I came across a whole bunch of packing peanuts, which I thought would be a really cool medium for this first project. Even better, I learned that they can be “glued” to each other using only water! If the packing peanut is the type made out of corn starch, they ordinarily dissolve in water (probably so they’re biodegradable in landfills or whatnot). However, by only wetting a small amount, it gets very sticky – wetting two packing peanuts and sticking them together forms a great bond that I decided would be a great start for a project.

Now, what to make… I wanted to go with something big (>2 feet tall or wide), until I started playing with them. It takes a LOT of packing peanuts to make a structure of said scale. But as I tested gluing pieces together, I ended up making a jagged-like thing that reminded me of an antler – my mind somehow came to making a deer head! Weird, yes, and random, yes, but also kind of cool. It certainly follows a distinct aesthetic, too. Mounted heads all look rather similar, with the head cut off mid-neck and mounted to a shield-like plaque. This seems to me (mind you, I’m not a hunter) like a very strange item to hang in your home, but it is definitely a part of the wilderness home aesthetic (or log cabin, wilderness preserve, ski lodge, wild west, etc.). Thus, I thought it would be cool to make this out of packing peanuts, with a “plaque” of cardboard. Then I could hang it on my wall!

The packing peanuts are pretty fun to work with, but I’m surprised at how many I’ve used (hundreds so far). They seem to compress quite a bit as I’m working with them, and it requires many tight layers to create a structure. I started with a straight piece that was about 8 inches long, and then mounted it to the cardboard (using water again, which sticks the peanuts to the base like a charm) and began to fill in a shape. The below image is my progress after a couple of hours of additive modeling:

Night 1 status

You can see the neck’s shape, and the location where I’m planning to build up the head. To give you an idea of the process, I took a very brief time-lapse video with my phone: Time Lapse Video

I was very pleased with my progress, and was planning to beef the structure up to make it a bit larger, but to my dismay the whole thing had shrunk significantly over night. I must have used too much water on each bond, as I’m guessing that the moisture in the many bonds began to soak through to all of the peanuts and caused the volume to shrink. I won’t post a picture because it is pretty sad looking and I’m quite embarrassed. Next steps: add some more peanuts with less water, to see if I can bulk up the volume. Next next steps: dance around in triumph – or – choose a new project.


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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Kenzy O'neill
    January 31, 2016 7:37 pm

    I’m excited to see how this turns out! I was thinking, if you have trouble with the antlers supporting themselves you could use coat hangers as a frame inside possibly. Have you decided whether to paint/decorate it at all or do you plan to have it the color it is?

  • Ryan Yankowsky
    January 29, 2016 12:30 pm

    I had a similar idea to build a piece of furniture out of packing peanuts, and your structure looks quite solid so far. Have you considered using acetone to melt the peanuts together, the acetone dries much faster than water and should give you a solid result with less degradation over time, although you will have to consider the fumes.

    • Chip Bollendonk
      January 31, 2016 10:55 am

      Ryan, that would have been a great idea. I don’t really have good access to acetone so I didn’t even consider it. The plus side of the structure condensing so much is it formed a really solid base, and I used less water to finish which seems to have worked much better.


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