Thursday, October 28, 2004


I made paper. Here's how.

I collected scrap paper for a few days. It added up much more quickly than I thought it would: fast-food paper bags, unused napkins that would have gone in the trash, bills, junk mail, envelopes with the plastic window torn out, old mapquest directions I didn't need anymore, a couple of doilies from a restaurant, etc. I tried to collect paper with as little ink on it as possible. And I didn't use any new paper, because imho, that would defeat the purpose of recycling paper.

Here's a sample of my scrap material:

I tore the paper into pieces about 1" square. Then I stuck them in an old wastebasket with water and let them sit outside overnight.

The next day, I gathered all my materials:

Blender, extension cord, water, wet paper, toes. All are necessary for proper papermaking.

I stuck the wet paper in the blender and added more water:

Then I covered it and pressed the button. From the sounds the blender was making after a short while, I surmised that I should add more water. I did, and then continued blending. This is what it looked like when I stopped:

We have a dog. She is a chihuahua. She is twelve and she still has not mastered the fine art of housebrokenness. Why do I speak of this now?

Because our attempts at trying to housebreak her (unsuccessfully) have yielded us with a formerly useless vessel.

Behold, the doggie litterbox:

Now, the papermaking tray:

That white stuff, incidentally, is the exact same stuff that was in the blender after it finished blending. Looks a lot whiter than I thought it would. Just dumped it in. Then I added water.

And cornstarch. Cornstarch is added so that the resulting paper won't bleed whatever ink you use on it.

I mixed it all up with my hands. It didn't feel like I thought it would. It's not sticky or clumpy-feeling. It felt more silty, like playing with very fine clay suspended in water. It didn't have the substance I thought it would.

I got my screens and frames:

Btw, the screen was bought in a large roll that cost $7 at Home Depot. I cut four small screens from it and folded the edges over twice. There was still plenty of screen left over. The two wooden frames are regular picture frames bought hastily at Family Dollar for $3 each. So, new materials cost a total of $13. Yeah, kinda pricey, but I'm assuming I'll be able to make all the paper I could ever want for this much, so all in all, it's not that much. You can probably pull off the same project much more cheaply if you're willing to be more patient than me.

After mixing the pulp thoroughly, I made a screen sandwich. It's just a screen held between two frames. I tried to put this in my tray and make paper that way, but the water was too shallow. So I had to readjust and fill with more pulp and more water and it was still too shallow. So then I took the screen by itself, slid it in carefully so that it was under the pulp in the tray, grabbed a frame, carefully slid it under the screen, placed the other frame on top, shifted till I thought it was an even layer and pulled the whole thing straight up. This was a lot easier to write than it was to actually do. It took several attempts for each lousy sheet.

Sorry, no pictures of the process. I was working alone that day and I couldn't hold the camera and make the paper at the same time.

But I do have pics of what it looked like after I pulled the screens out:

Having a deck for a project like this helps tremendously. I can't imagine what the inside of the house would look like if I tried it in there.

After the paper dried, I peeled it off -- it came off quite easily -- and placed it between scrap fabric I had lying around to dry more thoroughly. I placed heavy books on top of this to make the paper lie flat, flat, flat.

This is the sort of project that has a lot of leeway. A lot of instructional websites will give the impression that papermaking is this exact science and that if you don't make it their way, it just won't come out. Ridiculous.

All in all, this is a project that despite its inconveniences, I would definitely try again. Seems like the sort of thing that gets better with practice.


Blogger Cat said...

Cool! I'm glad you liked it. An idea... Next time when you soak the bits overnight, how about dumping in a Celestial Seasonings tea bag in there? Lemon Zinger is kind of red, and other flavors should yield other colors. Just fish it out before pulping.

5:10 PM  

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