How to Make Handmade Paper
Welcome to our holiday sale. We love the idea of taking time to cozy up and get crafty during the holiday. Here is an excerpt from The Permaculture Transition Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Resilient Living on how to make your own handmade paper – perfect for homemade gift cards and labels.
Paper is made from the pulp of trees. In many large cities in the world it has been estimated that somewhere between 3,000–4,000 trees are used each week to produce the weekend newspapers. Trees are rapidly being depleted globally, leading to dehydrated landscapes, soil and wildlife habitat loss and streamline silting. Consumer demand has outstripped tree growth and replacement. Recycling paper, cardboard and tree material will be inevitable in many countries in the years to come. Old newspaper can be used to make paper but if it contains excess ink, the paper produced will be stained a gray color. Computer or white paper pieces work the best. Glossy paper and magazines should be avoided because they are difficult to mash.
You can mash and shred plant materials such as the leaves and stems from bananas, but these are more time consuming and may require chemicals, boiling and physical mashing to make the pulp. If you want to give it a go, combine about 20–30% of banana pulp with the balance of recycled paper pulp. The basic principles of this process can be easily demonstrated but you will need a deckle. This is a wooden frame that has a fabric (screen) stretched over it. A typical frame might use 1 in (width and height) timber and be about 5 in.
The fabric needs to have holes in it to allow for water drainage. Window screen or even shadecloth is suitable. Secure the window screen or shadecloth by gluing or stapling it to the frame. The deckle should be constructed by keeping both the size of the tank and the size of the paper sheet you want in mind. The deckle should easily slide in and out of the tank or basin. Beware of using colored felt or cloth. The colors may run and stain your paper. Commercially made paper is often bleached by chemicals that can damage our environment. This exercise uses no bleach or chemicals in the process.
Electric blender or food processor
Large tank, pneumatic trough or baby’s bath
Felt pieces or cloth (e.g. old plain handkerchief), large enough to cover deckle
Option: electric iron, flat masonite or plywood, weights or bricks
1. Tear waste paper into small pieces and place into a food blender.
2. When the blender becomes half-full with paper add enough water to completely cover it.
3. Blend the paper until no more large lumps are visible, and the mixture is of a thin consistency.
4. Pour the mixture into a large tank or trough.
5. Add an equal volume of water to the tank.
6. Slide the deckle at an angle into the tank. Hand mix the paper fibers in the water (to make an even mixture).
7. Lift the deckle upwards, with a slight sideways movement (or tapping) to filter the fiber and drain the water.
8. Turn the deckle over and place it onto a felt cloth or handkerchief. 9. Wipe the underside (now top) of the deckle to remove excess water. Rub the wire to free the fibers so that the paper can be separated from the frame.
10. Carefully pull the frame off the paper. The paper should remain behind on the felt or cloth.
11. Cover the paper sheet with another piece of cloth to help the paper dry. Alternatively, after a piece of cloth or felt is placed on top of the newly formed paper, place a flat board, with or without weights, to flatten and help dry the sheet. The drying process can be speeded up with the use of a hot iron. Do not iron the sheets directly; the paper sheet should be sandwiched between pieces of cloth.
12. Before the paper dries completely, gently pull the sheets off the felt — if left too long the paper sticks to the cloth.
You could also try different screens. For example, compare steel wire with plastic window screen or shadecloth. Experiment by adding food color dye to the water. The paper produced is often patchy in color but still useable. If you intend to write on your paper with ink, then you may have to “size” the paper. This means that the paper is immersed or covered with substances, such as starch or gelatine, to prevent the bleeding of the ink throughout the paper sheet.
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