Oct 23, 2018 9:30PM
Papermaking workshop in Sheila Nakitende’s Studio. Photo by Women’s Studio Workshop, via Flickr.
Making paper is magical; the medium holds boundless potential. I first learned this over 25 years ago, at a professional hand papermaking studio in New York, where I worked for six years. From there, I went out on my own and have been exploring the medium ever since. Whether you try papermaking as a hobby or dive deep into it like I did, you’ll be amazed by the transformation that occurs during this creative process.
Basic papermaking involves dipping a screen stretched across a frame—known as the “mould and deckle”—into a vat of pulp (made from recycled paper or plant materials). You then lift the screen out of the vat, and shake it so that the fibers interlock as the water drains through the screen. The freshly made sheet of paper is then transferred onto a surface—usually a piece of felt—and is then pressed and dried.
There are many ways to make paper, including Eastern and Western techniques that involve dipping or pouring. Here, I’ll describe the Western dipping method, which allows you to create unique, handmade sheets from the scrap paper you have at home.
What you’ll need:
- A mould and deckle (or, if you want to make your own, 2 old picture frames or 2 inexpensive stretched canvases, plus a piece of fiberglass or aluminum window screen)
- A blender
- Recycled paper (office paper, tissue paper, etc.)
- A plastic vat (larger than your mould and deckle)
- A staple gun (if you have one already)
- Duct tape or strapping tape
- Several sheets of felt, newspaper, fabric, or towels
- A sponge
- A clothesline
- Optional: Confetti, flower petals, string, or bits of thread (to add color and texture to your paper)
The mould and deckle
Making a mould and deckle. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.
You will need some sort of screen to capture the paper fibers and hold the sheet’s shape—this is called the mould. You can make a simple mould from an old picture frame or the stretcher bars of a new, inexpensive canvas from a big-box store.
- Remove the existing canvas if there is one, then use a staple gun to affix a piece of window screen—made from fiberglass or aluminum—that is cut slightly smaller than the frame. Apply duct tape or strapping tape to cover the staples and the edges of the screen. If you don’t have a staple gun and are making a small screen, you can just use duct tape to secure the screen to the frame.
- You will need a second frame that is the same size as the mould to use as your deckle. (Learn more about making your own mould and deckle here.)
If you want to purchase a mould and deckle instead, you can buy a set or a papermaking kit online at specialty suppliers like Arnold Grummer’s and Carriage House Paper.
Making pulp with a blender. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.
The first step in creating a sheet of paper is to make pulp, which you can do with a blender and recycled paper. If you really get into papermaking, there are many ways you can upgrade the process to increase your production and make larger sheets, but I recommend starting out small.
You can use a standard kitchen blender to beat pulp (but I don’t recommend using the same blender for food and papermaking). Large commercial-grade blenders are more efficient because they can blend more pulp at a time. (The king for processing pulp is the Hollander beater, developed in Holland in the 1680s, which is still used in professional papermaking studios today.)
- Fill your blender ¾ full with water, and add a handful of recycled paper (the equivalent of one standard sheet of office paper). Use plain white if you want white paper; printed/recycled office paper will yield a light grey, and/or you can mix in some colored paper. Experiment with various paper types (text weight, 100% cotton, card stock) to vary the resulting colors and textures.
- Put the lid on the blender and turn it on. I usually start at a slow speed—such as “mix”—and then switch to a higher speed when I hear the blender running smoothly (after about five seconds). If the motor sounds strained, turn it off and check that the pulp is not wrapped around the blades, or that there is not too much pulp in the blender.
- Dump the freshly beaten pulp directly into the vat if you will be making paper right away; or, you can collect it in a bucket and store it for a few days (it will start to smell if you leave it too long). Continue blending the pulp by the handful.
- The ratio of pulp to water varies, depending on how thick you want your sheets to be. Start with a few blenders full of pulp in a vat and see if you are happy with the thickness. Then, add pulp or water as necessary. As you make sheets, you will need to replenish your pulp.
- At this point, you can add other small decorative elements to the pulp, like flower petals, confetti, or bits of string or thread. Note that natural elements (like flower petals) might bleed or turn brown—you’ll have to try it to see what happens!
Dipping the mould and deckle into the vat of pulp. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.
Your vat (a plastic tub) needs to be larger than your mould and deckle. For a mould that makes 8.5-by-11-inch sheets, I recommend a small cement mixing tub; for smaller sheets, you can use a dishwashing tub.
- Agitate the pulp in the vat with your hand to create a homogenous, evenly mixed solution.
- Thoroughly wet the mould and deckle with water. Then place the deckle on top of the screen side of the mould, making sure that all edges and corners line up.
- Hold these two pieces together as you dip the mould and deckle into the vat at a 45-degree angle to the bottom of the vat, scooping underneath the surface of the pulp and pulling toward yourself.
- Bring the mould and deckle parallel to the bottom of the vat, lift them up out of the mixture, and shake—left to right and back to front—to interlock the fibers. Shake it semi-vigorously (like you are panning for gold), until you see the fibers starting to settle on the screen.
- Be careful not to shake it for too long; when you see that the fibers have settled on the screen, you can remove the deckle. Set the deckle aside, gently tilt the mould, and watch to see that the sheet on the surface does not start to slip off.
The next step is transferring the wet sheet from the mould to another surface, traditionally a piece of felt. There are many felt substitutes, including newspaper, towels, fabric, or Pellon (interfacing). The couching material should be slightly larger than your sheets of paper, and you will need four or five couching sheets. Placing your couching material on a tray—like a cafeteria tray or cookie sheet—will help with collecting excess water and prevent a big mess.
- To couch, set one edge of the mould down on one edge of the couching material, with the wet sheet facing the couching material.
- Carefully lay the entire wet sheet onto the couching surface, and apply even pressure on the back of the mould’s edges and screen to ensure that the sheet transfers to the couching surface.
- Lift one edge of the mould, peeking underneath to see that the sheet has released, and then remove the mould.
To continue making sheets, place another couching material directly on top of the sheet you just made. Make another sheet, and then couch it onto the surface, lining it up with the sheet underneath. I recommend making just a few sheets at a time before pressing.
Once you’ve made a few sheets of paper, you will need to press them in order to remove some of the water. The lowest-tech device for this is a damp sponge.
- Lift one sheet of paper (attached to its couching surface) and place it onto a dry felt or newspaper (something that will absorb some of the water).
- Next, place a dry sheet of fabric or interfacing on top of the sheet to protect the wet paper’s surface, and gently but firmly sponge water out of the sheet.
- Wring out the sponge repeatedly as you continue pressing over the entire sheet.
Drying. Illustration by Alison Kolesar from Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds by Helen Hiebert.
There are many drying methods, but the simplest is to dry the sheet on the couching material.
- Make sure the sheet is pressed and firmly attached to the material, and hang it on a clothesline.
- When dry (this can take up to 24 hours, depending on the humidity level), peel the sheet off of the couching material, and put it under weight if you wish to flatten it.
- If you want a really smooth and flat sheet, you can try transferring the wet sheet from the couching material to a smooth surface, like a countertop or window.
- You can even dry sheets on textured surfaces, such as wood or walls, to give your sheet a unique surface.
This is just scratching the papermaking surface! My books, including Papermaking with Garden Plants and Common Weeds and The Papermaker’s Companion, go into extensive detail about each step in the process, and other methods. Enjoy!
Helen Hiebert is the author of five how-to books about paper and teaches classes in person and online.She lectures and exhibits her work internationally and is the host of the podcast Paper Talk.
What materials do you need to make paper? ›
Over the centuries, paper has been made from a wide variety of materials such as cotton, wheat straw, sugar cane waste, flax, bamboo, wood, linen rags, and hemp. Regardless of the source, you need fiber to make paper. Today fiber comes mainly from two sources — wood and recycled paper products.What can you make paper out of at home? ›
Orange peel, grape stalks, olive stones, walnut shells… These are just some of the things that Italian brand Favini can use to make its Crush tree-free paper. Generally, agricultural by-products that can't be fed to animals or used to generate biomass end up being incinerated.How do you make paper ingredients? ›
- Cellulose fibers are extracted from a variety of sources and converted to pulp.
- Pulp is combined with water and placed on a paper making machine where it is flattened, dried, and cut into sheets and rolls.
- Step 1: Prepare paper. ...
- Step 2: Add Water. ...
- Step 3: Blend it. ...
- Step 4: Prepare Paper Container. ...
- Step 5: Add Pulp. ...
- Step 6: Cover it. ...
- Step 7: Soak up excess water.
Washi is made by moving a frame around a vat containing a chemical solution with pulp and water until a fibrous sheet sticks to the frame. Following this, the sheet is removed and laid on a flat surface where participants can decorate their washi before it is left to dry.Is it hard to make handmade paper? ›
Making paper by hand at home can be a pretty simple process. It's also a fantastic way to use up your old receipts, scrap papers, junk mail, and copy paper that you were about to throw in the recycling bin, and instead create a thing of glorious handmade beauty.Is it possible to make paper without trees? ›
Sources of fiber for tree-free paper include: agricultural residues (e.g. sugarcane bagasse, husks and straw) fiber crops and wild plants, such as bamboo, kenaf, hemp, jute, and flax. textiles and cordage wastes.What is the cheapest source of making paper? ›
Chemical Pulping is the most common process. Through pulping, wood chips are converted into pulp for paper. The bits are chemically cooked to breakdown wood and fibrous components to cellulose fibers.Can you make paper from any tree? ›
Type of Trees Used to Make Paper
Paper is made from softwood or hardwood trees, but 85% of the wood pulp that makes paper in the U.S. comes from softwood coniferous trees. They have longer fibers known to produce stronger paper. The primary trees in this category are pines, firs, spruces, hemlocks, and larch.
- Pulpwood yard stores the raw material.
- Pulpwood is debarked and chipped.
- At a mill, chips are cooked in a digester and broken down into pulp.
- Pulp is washed, bleached, and softened.
- Pulp is mixed with water and pumped onto a moving screen.
- Paper machines rapidly press, dry, and smooth the pulp.
Is mold on paper toxic? ›
The truth is that even if mold has begun to grown in the paper, it is highly unlikely that toxic molds are present. The problem is, however, in the remote chance they are present, there are serious ramifications to the health of those handling them.What is the most sustainable way to make paper? ›
Hemp is one of the best alternatives that you can find for traditional paper. Hemp is a regenerative crop that grows rapidly, maturing in as little as 90 days (compared to tree's which take 7 to 35 years). It requires less chemicals, water and energy to turn into pulp and is extremely sturdy as a fiber.How do you make paper look old and dirty? ›
Fully Crumbled. Simply crumble a piece of paper into a ball and keep it like that for a minute. After a minute unfold the crumbles and flatten the paper using the palm of your hands. This will give the paper a very aged look.What is the Japanese god? ›
"Shinto gods" are called kami. They are sacred spirits which take the form of things and concepts important to life, such as wind, rain, mountains, trees, rivers and fertility. Humans become kami after they die and are revered by their families as ancestral kami.Why is Japanese paper so good? ›
Its sturdy, absorbent texture made it ideal for calligraphy and other ink-based art. Because of the way washi filters light and its strength from intertwining fibers, it was used for paper screens in windows and doors, as well as for lanterns and lamps.Can you run homemade paper through a printer? ›
You can print on your paper via inkjet printer, photocopier, or laser printer. What kind of handmade paper can I use with these more recent printing technologies? A crisp rather than soft sheet of paper will feed best through your printer.What is the problem in making paper? ›
The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills.How many trees are killed a day for paper? ›
More than 200 million trees are cut down daily to make paper. This means that a tree is cut down every 2.5 seconds. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere when trees are cut down for paper production is estimated to be about 28 million metric tons per year.What can replace paper? ›
There are many alternative fiber papers available to those willing to step out of the box. Bamboo, cork, cotton, hemp, mulberry and even stone (yes, stone) are just some of the options available to you. Cotton is probably the most familiar of the tree-free fibers and with good reason.How many trees does it take to make 500 pieces of paper? ›
1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333 sheets. 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree. 1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (as used for high-end magazines) uses 15.4 trees.
Why don't we use bamboo for everything? ›
Bamboo's greatest weakness is its poor durability in its natural state. The material attracts insects and fungus, which cause decay, and untreated bamboo structures don't last more than a few years.Why don't we make paper from hemp? ›
Costs. Production costs are about four times higher than for paper from wood since the infrastructure for using hemp is underdeveloped. For the most part, hemp paper is used for specialty applications and not for mass applications such as printing, writing and packaging paper.Why do we not make paper out of bamboo? ›
The Challenges Facing Bamboo Pulping and Papermaking
With respect to raw material supply, bamboo has a higher cost of logging, storage, and transportation compared with wood raw material.
It is estimated that a standard pine tree, with 45ft of the usable trunk and a diameter of eight inches, will produce around 10,000 sheets of paper. To consider this in another way, one ream of paper (which is 500 sheets) will use 5% of a tree.How much paper can a single tree make? ›
You'll discover that it contains approximately ten cubic feet of wood. Therefore, it takes around eight trees to produce that pound of paper. Since the weight of an average 500-sheet packet of paper is 5 pounds, a tree has between 10,000 and 20,000 sheets of paper.How many trees does it take to make one paper? ›
1 tree can produce 16 reams of paper approximately. Therefore, 25 trees are required to poduce 1 ton of paper.Can rocks be turned into paper? ›
The process of stone papermaking in principle mixes fine powder of calcite rock with non-toxic resin, one of which is HDPE (high density polyethylene), as well as other additives, then melted at high temperatures and formed into a sheets like paper.What part of tree is used to make paper? ›
Paper is an organic material that is primarily made from the cellulose fibers of virgin wood from trees which is used to obtain pulp. This cellulose pulp can be obtained from virgin wood or also from recycled paper.Is money made out of trees? ›
Is it really 'paper' in the traditional sense? There are no wood fibers or starch in currency paper. Instead, like high quality stationery, currency paper is composed of a special blend of cotton and linen fibers.How did Muslims make paper? ›
Muslims were responsible for the transfer of papermaking from China, where it had been invented in the centuries before Christ, to Europe, where it fueled the print revolution in the late fifteenth century. Muslims encountered paper when they conquered Central Asia in the eighth century.
How do you make paper by hand? ›
- Prepare the Paper. The first stage in making paper pulp is preparing the paper. ...
- Pulp the Paper With a Hand Blender. Use a hand blender to pulp the wet paper mix. ...
- Press the Paper Pulp Into the Mold. ...
- Press the Water Out of the Paper. ...
- Turn the Paper Out from the Mold. ...
- Finishing the Paper.
The earliest paper was called 'cloth parchment', but it often contained wood and straw in addition to cloth. All these raw materials were beaten to a fine pulp and mixed with water. Sheets of paper were then pressed out, dried and hardened.How is Bible paper made? ›
Bible paper, also known as scritta paper, is a thin grade of paper used for printing books which have many pages, such as a dictionary. Technically, Bible paper is a type of woodfree uncoated paper. This paper grade often contains cotton or linen fibres to increase its strength in spite of its thinness.Is paper naturally white? ›
What Makes Paper Turn From Brown To White? Being flattened wood pulp and such, paper is naturally all shades of brown. It's processed and bleached to the desired colour using a cocktail of chemicals, depending on the finished shade that the manufacturer wants to achieve.Can you imagine a world without paper why? ›
We live in a paper world. Without paper our lives would be unimaginable. Or almost unimaginable. We can, of course, imagine it, as we can imagine anything, for the great writers and artists and musicians have taught us to imagine, in their books, and their paintings, and through their music.Can mold grow in your lungs? ›
The mold spores can colonize (grow) inside lung cavities that developed as a result of chronic diseases, such tuberculosis, emphysema, or advanced sarcoidosis. The fibers of fungus might form a lump by combining with white blood cells and blood clots. This lump or ball of fungus is called an aspergilloma or mycetoma.Can you smell black mold? ›
Odor. Black mold has a strong musty odor. This smell provides a pretty reliable signal. Even if you can't find visual evidence of mold in your home, the smell is often indicative of mold that grew large enough to present a health risk.Can breathing black mold hurt you? ›
Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores can cause a person to become allergic to mold. Molds can trigger asthma symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough in people with known allergies. People who do not have allergies can also become irritated.Can you turn grass into paper? ›
The production process of grass paper is easy in comparison to wood-based paper production. Starting material is hay, dried grass which has been grown on regional agricultural compensation areas. The hay is being transported to the paper mill.What are the 5 types of paper that Cannot be recycled? ›
Types of paper that are not recyclable are coated and treated paper, paper with food waste, juice and cereal boxes, paper cups, paper towels, and paper or magazine laminated with plastic.
Is bamboo more sustainable than paper? ›
“Bamboo tissue products produce 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than tissue products made from 100 percent virgin forest fiber,” Shelley Vinyard says. This is especially problematic when we look at some of the companies behind the big names in traditional toilet paper.Does lemon juice make paper look old? ›
For paper that looks burned, my favorite technique uses lemon or lime juice and a heat gun. Dab the juice onto the edges of the paper, then heat. The more you heat, the darker the burn marks become. This technique takes a little practice, but the effect is well worth the time.How do you make paper look ancient? ›
- Pre-heat oven to lowest setting. ...
- Crumple up your piece of paper into a ball, then smooth it out and place in your baking sheet.
- Pour hot coffee over your paper. ...
- Sprinkle instant coffee over your paper.
- Let stand for a few minutes, letting the coffee crystals “blossom.”
The raw material which is widely used in papermaking is pulp. Many types of fibers like cotton fiber and cellulose fiber are used to produce the paper pulp. Nowadays the most popular material used for producing all quality paper is wood pulp.What is the 7 types of paper? ›
- Acid-free paper.
- Archival paper.
- Artist's paper.
- Blotting paper.
- Book paper.
- Box covering and lining paper.
- Business card & business form paper.
- Calculator & cash register paper.
About 2,000 years ago, inventors in China took communication to the next level, crafting cloth sheets to record their drawings and writings. And paper, as we know it today, was born! Paper was first made in Lei-Yang, China by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official.Can we make paper without trees? ›
There is a wide variety of alternative 'fibres' that can work as an alternative to wood-pulp paper. Sources for tree-free paper include: agricultural residues – for example, sugar cane bagasse, husks and straw. fibre crops and wild plants – such as bamboo, kenaf, hemp, jute, and flax.What tree makes paper? ›
Paper is made from softwood or hardwood trees, but 85% of the wood pulp that makes paper in the U.S. comes from softwood coniferous trees. They have longer fibers known to produce stronger paper. The primary trees in this category are pines, firs, spruces, hemlocks, and larch.What is toilet paper made out of? ›
Toilet paper today is mostly manufactured from a "chemical pulp," but it all comes from paper. Forms of paper used in the production of tissue paper can include various forms of recylced paper, virgin tree pulp, as well as hemp plants. The main materials used to prodcue toilet paper include: Water.