he process for making paper
was invented in China in the second century B.C. And until 1799, all paper was made one
sheet at a time. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, papermaking became a major
industry that provides us with countless products, including books, newspapers, notepads,
packaging material and boxes. In fact, modern papermaking machines can make a sheet of
paper 26 feet wide and nearly 40 miles long in just one hour. While the technology has
changed dramatically over the centuries, the basic steps are simple enough for you to make
your own paper by hand at home or in the classroom. Heres how to do it:
The process needs a lot of water, so work in
an area that wont be harmed by moisture. To get started, you will need the
- two 8-inch by 10-inch picture frames (without
- one 10-inch by 12-inch piece of wire window
screen to be sandwiched between the two frames
- one large tub or a 26-quart cooler chest that
will hold at least 2 1/2 gallons of water and that is big enough to dunk the picture
- 1 quart of liquid household laundry starch
- two large sheets of blotting paper
- one roll of paper towels
- one brown paper bag
- construction paper
- a rolling pin
- an iron
- a blender
- a smooth metal surface, such as a cookie sheet
or metal countertop
- blow dryer (optional)
Tear several sheets of paper towel into small
pieces and place them in a blender. Add small pieces of brown paper bag for strength and
small pieces of construction paper for color. Then add water and blend until the paper has
dissolved to pulp and makes a soupy mixture. Pour this mixture into the large tub and add
approximately one cup of starch per gallon of water. Fill the remainder of the tub with
water and mix thoroughly until the ingredients are evenly dispersed in the water.
Sandwich the window screen between the two
picture frames. Grasp the frames tightly in both hands and dip them sideways (not flat)
into the tub of water near the edge. Slide the frames down and across the tub until they
are resting flat on the bottom. Move the frames from side to side so the pulp is
distributed through the water. Then allow the pulp to settle.
Lift the frames straight up and hold them
tightly together until most of the free water has drained through the screen. Allow one to
two minutes for draining time.
Carefully remove the top frame and set it
aside. Then remove the wire screen on which the pulp has collected.
Lay the screen on the blotting paper with the
pulp side up. Place a second sheet of blotting paper on top of the wet pulp and press it
gently with your fingers to squeeze out excess water. Take a household rolling pin and
lightly roll it over the blotting paper to even it out.
Gently peel the blotting paper away from the
screen. The wet sheet will stick to the blotting paper. Starting at one corner, carefully
peel the sheet off the blotting paper. Carefully spread the sheet over a clean, smooth
metal surface and apply several paper towels. Slowly but firmly roll across the paper with
a rolling pin. After removing the paper towels, the damp sheet can be dried with a blow
dryer or set aside to dry. If dried naturally, the paper will be rough and curled. Use a
warm, dry iron to smooth out the sheet and give it a smooth finish.
Making paper by hand is truly an art with as
much diversity and possibility as the individual artists imagination allows. Once
you have mastered the basic papermaking process, you may want to experiment by adding
other ingredients and other types of paper to your basic mixture to create unique sheets.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Newsprint: By adding newsprint to your
mixture, you can create a smoother surface finish.
- Construction Paper: Colored construction paper
can be used to dye your sheet various colors.
- Notebook Paper: The addition of standard
notebook paper to your pulp mixture will produce a finer, much smoother sheet. However, it
will take longer to drain because the pulp fibers are so tight.
- Thread: Pieces of sewing or embroidery thread
can be added to create a unique texture as well as thin accents of color within the sheet.
- Kraft Paper: Kraft paper, such as a brown
paper bag, will make a coarse finish.
- Fabric: Bits of fabric can be mixed into the
pulp to create unusual sheets, which can be used for art projects and decoration.
- Leaves and Grasses: Put various leaves and
grasses in the blender with the torn paper to add texture and color.