Useful Parade Float Building Tools and Materials

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useful tools for building a parade float arts and crafts tools and materials for float building what to use to make a parade float

These are some useful parade float building materials and tools although there are others and often the most successful parade floats are created from materials meant for the trash, recycled items and everyday household materials.

Glue Gun

A glue gun is a life saver in many parade float building situations. When you need to attach something or quickly repair part of the float hot glue sticks almost everything. Although there are some surfaces which hot glue does not stick you will find it handles most float building materials well.

Chicken coop wire fencing

Chicken coop wire fencing can be easily cut using scissors or wire clippers and can be manipulated into different shapes using just your hands. This wire is perfect for making the basic frame for a parade float character or object. The chicken coop wire is not usually seen in the final float but it is often the base which holds the whole float together. Often the chicken coop frame is then covered with either crape paper, paper mache or fabric.

Foam sheets

You can buy large sheets of foam, a little like a very thin mattress, these come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses (usually half inch and one inch thick). The foam sheets are used to cover the frame of a float character or the foam is cut and shaped to make various objects and characters. Sheets of foam are easily cut with scissors and can be stuck using a glue gun. A small knife can also be used to chisel features into the foam, for example when making a face.

Face made from a sheet of foam over a chicken coop wire structure.

Scissors, knife, wire cutters and staplers/staple gun

These cutting tools are necessary to cut, shape and secure your float materials in place.


Newspaper is used for paper mache and also for stuffing into the basic frame of parade float characters to add bulk. Then the paper is covered over using paper mache, fabric or other coverings.


Fabric covers a multitude of sins when building a float! A brightly colored piece of fabric can be draped or sewn over large sections of parade floats and also used to dress parade float characters. Even if a sewing machine is not available rough hand sewing can be enough to hold the fabric in place for the duration of the parade. Glue can also be used to attach fabric to parade floats.

Joseph and his coat of many colors made of fabric, head made of paper mache


You don't need to use expensive paints when building a float, the basic kid's acrylic paints bought from a crafts store is good enough. Use paint to add color and continuity to your float. Sponge (as mentioned above) can be painter as can paper mache once it is dry.


Glitter is great on any float just sprinkled over everything! Sometimes you don't need to even glue the glitter on simply throw it over your finished parade float. If you do want the glitter to stay in place the best thing to use in white plastic craft glue. This looks white when you put it on but dries transparent. Glitter can be added to any surface on a parade float.

White plastic glue

White plastic glue is useful because it dries transparent and sticks to almost anything. This glue takes a long time to dry in comparison with hot glue so if you need to work fast and have things stick straight away then rather use a glue gun. For glitter, paper mache, paper and some fabrics white plastic glue is best. White plastic glue is used instead of the traditional homemade flour and water glue that used to be used.


Wire is important for securing parts of the float in place. You can tie chicken coop wire fencing to other objects using short pieces of flexible wire. Make sure you have thin wire so that it is flexible enough to twist. Use short pieces of wire stuck threw two objects that you want to join then twist the two ends of the wire together and you are done.

Crepe paper

Crepe paper is used to cover large areas of a parade float instead of fabric and also to cover chicken coop wire.


For larger floats and parade float structures wood is often used.

Sheep made from foam polyfilla which has been shaped on a metal frame.

Expanding foam polyfilla filler

This product is usually used in the building industry to fill in gaps between dry wall, bricks and any other building materials. In parade float building you can use the foam to achieve several effects. If you just spray the foam filler you can create the look of an exploding volcano or whipped cream and ice-cream. You can also form the foam into shapes if you work quickly to shape the foam before it turns solid. If you do shape the foam filler it is imperative to wear gloves.

You can be creative and use materials which have been recycled to build your parade float as well as any interesting and colorful arts and crafts materials you find in your local stores.


Ron Siojo
Posted on Apr 4, 2011
James R. Coffey
Posted on Apr 3, 2011