how to make a water container with todays news?
November 16, 2010 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I need to make a vessel that will hold half gallon of water, and will not leak for at least 1 hour. The catch? I can only use 1 newspaper, 1 pound flour, 1 tablespoon of salt. It has to be ready for tomorrow. I can use my oven to bake it or dry it, so it has to fit in my oven. These are the "only" limitations. Any ideas?
posted by uauage to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is this any particular newspaper (e.g. must be last week's the State College Weekly Reporter) or can it be t ANY paper (the Sunday Times)?
posted by pointystick at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2010

Potential Loophole: Can you simply take the newspaper and fold it into a sturdy bowl, pour the flour powder into a mound in the center, then gently pour the water onto the flour and form a non-leak inducing paste?

Off the top of my head I have no real feel for how much water a pound of flour can soak up, nor how much newspaper would have to be underneath it for it not to soak through/go mushy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2010

So, umm, can you bake said article? If not, it's hard for me to think of what you could possibly do with raw flour that would hold that much water for very long.

If you can, I suggest that you make hardtack, but instead of shaping it into crackers, shape it into a low, shallow container. You can make a buttload of hardtack with a pound of flour, and the stuff is nigh on indestructible. I'd be shocked if something like that lasted less than an hour.
posted by valkyryn at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2010

It's a 40 page newspaper weighing a scant 4 ounces
posted by uauage at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2010

I would take an existing bowl (plastic or metal) and use it as the convex template for a papier-mâché bowl. ust lay the wet strips inside the bowl (papier-mâché can be made out of either ground-up paper paste, or strips - you want the strips).

You would be able to find a ton of easy directions for making papier-mâché online. If you use a fairly thick newspaper you could construct a bowl made of medium-width strips of paper that would be many, many layers thick and would hold water for a long time. You could dry it very very gently in the oven, maybe more than one time during the construction process. Half a gallon's not much water, really.
posted by facetious at 8:00 AM on November 16, 2010

Can you add water to the ingredients beforehand (to form pastes, etc.), or are we talking dry flour and dry newspaper here?
posted by Bardolph at 8:01 AM on November 16, 2010

I would create library paste out of the flour and water. That would give you a kind of glue to stick the newspaper together, perhaps in a thick bowl shape?
posted by royalsong at 8:01 AM on November 16, 2010

yes, I can bake it.
posted by uauage at 8:02 AM on November 16, 2010

pastes are allowed.
posted by uauage at 8:03 AM on November 16, 2010

I'd follow royalsong's idea... make a flour/water/salt paste. Thin half of it down to a really watery consistency, keep the other half chunky-style. Tear the newspaper into long strips. Then assemble like such:

- Invert a big metal bowl. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap for easy unmolding.
- Soak a bunch of strips in the watery paste. Arrange them in an overlapping configuation so they completely cover your plastic-covered upside-down bowl.
- Blast the bowl with a hair dryer until dry.
- Paint with a layer of the thicker paste, blast dry again.
- Repeat the entire strip-soaking/placement/drying/pasting process until you're out of raw materials.
- Bake in oven.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:05 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

srboisvert: super-clever, but I know if I drank half a gallon of water, I would NOT last an hour without, um, leaking. Heh.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:06 AM on November 16, 2010

sorry, i meant concave, but as i think about it it would actually be easier to lay the strips outside the overturned bowl, convex-style.
posted by facetious at 8:10 AM on November 16, 2010

If you go the papier mâché route, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then Vaseline or something. Otherwise you will not get the dried form to release from the bowl. Better yet, check online for better instructions.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:14 AM on November 16, 2010

I would go with the paste idea, and then freeze the half gallon of water before it needs to sit for the hour.. that way you don't have full saturation of said water and the paper mache/flour creation will only be exposed to the melting of 1.5 gallons of water, not the entire amount at once.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:18 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

correction: .5 gallons of water.... though if it works, you could try 1.5 gallons for extramacreditz
posted by Debaser626 at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2010

freezing is not allowed. water in liquid state only :)
posted by uauage at 8:28 AM on November 16, 2010

The papier mache route sounds good, but by cutting the newsprint into strips it seems to me that you're losing a lot of the watertightness that's already built into the intact sheets of paper. Could you just soak individual pages until they become flexible, then layer them intact over the outside of a round form, painting a thin layer of flour paste over each sheet before adding the next?
posted by Bardolph at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would maybe try to make a salt dough out of the flour, salt and some of the water, shape into a bowl and bake it hard, then line it with the newspaper and pour the rest of the water in.
posted by misha at 8:54 AM on November 16, 2010

Continuous sheets is the way boatmaking is done (e.g. fibreglass layup). Seems like a good idea.
posted by bonehead at 8:55 AM on November 16, 2010

Mythbusters made a boat out of frozen newspaper. I imagine you could use the flour as additional binding. The article talks about layering the sheets, like shingles.
posted by rtha at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2010

1. Hold back a little bit of newspaper and flour.
2. Make a leak-proof bowl as described above.
3. Using the held back materials, make a tray with a shallow lip using the same techniques as in step 2.
4. Place bowl on tray, put water into bowl.

Hopefully the bowl will not leak. But if it does the tray below should contain whatever drips through. You could even shred the leftover scraps of newspaper and put them in the tray to absorb any leakage.
posted by kc8nod at 1:01 PM on November 16, 2010

kc8nod's idea sounds good, but I wonder if people will feel like the tray is a cheat. To make it look more official, I'd make a small bowl that will JUST hold the right amount of water, and then a deeper bowl that will hold the first bowl. Basically you'll nest the two bowls, and that way if the first soaks through the second is still dry. And everyone else's ideas about making papier-mache bowls with full sheets of newsprint sounds good.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2010

Do you need to be able to pour the water out at the end of an hour? Being as these kinds of assignments are more about being creative, try this:

Blitz the newspaper, dry, in a blender. Mix the dry fluffy pulp with the flour. When it comes time to demo, dump the mixture on a table, pile it up into an inch thick disk with a small wall around the sides and very very slowly pour the water on top. You'll have newspaper dough flour, that won't "leak" water because it is all absorbed.

Also, gluten in flour is not water soluble. It will take some time but you can wash the starch out of flour and you're left with a totally water tight substance you could then bake into a shape. (which then makes tasty Setian or "wheat meat") You probably wouldn't get enough to hold .5 gal of water though.
posted by fontophilic at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2010

fontophilic, I thought about that.... but I don't think 4 oz paper and 1lb flour can absorb 2 quarts water that easily...
posted by uauage at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2010

Use high gluten flour for any papier mache' thing. Bread flour is good, high gluten flour best. Do not use cake flour- it has hardly any gluten, and you need that for the glue-y ness that gluten gives (wall paper paste is wheat gluten). The more layers of newsprint glued together, the better. I would also make the vessel flatter rather than narrow- less likely to sag and collapse.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2010

What'd you end up doing? Did it work?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:32 PM on November 21, 2010

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