[tutorial] First try of making paper

Since i started sketching and printing, a lot of drafts and failed prints accumulated and were crammed in a box by me.

When that box finally was full I thought about things I can do with all that stuff, recycling directly came to my mind. So here are my first tries in making some printing paper.

First I was watching some tutorials on Youtube, to get an idea of the process. Luckily the single steps seem not to be too complicated:

  • Build a screen
  • Shred paper
  • Soak paper in water
  • Mash paper to pulp
  • Dilute small amounts of pulp in water
  • Put water through screen

So firstly, I build a screen (or sieve) from fine aluminium mesh. I think it was supposed to be a fly screen.

The frame is built from wooden strips, that are painted with shellac (I had it left over) and then screwed together with angles. The screen is staples in place, while tensioning it with pliers.

A second frame with the same measurements needs to be built to put on top, called a deckle. This will keep pulp from floating off the screen at the sides.

The deckle was constructed the same way as the screen, just without the aluminium mesh. I put some rubbery duct tape in the corners and on the frame of the deckle, to make it as water-tight as possible (later I will find out, that this isn’t necessary at all).

Next a plain type of cloth is needed to put the wet sheets of paper on for drying. I chose some more or less texture less sheet of PET felt and cut it into pieces of the approximate size to fit two sheets of paper on them. I also got a few sheets of thicker felt to use it for soaking up the excess water.

Other tools I need were a large tub for putting the water in, a blender, a bucket and a strainer.

Now it was time to start. I shredded some sheets of the scrap paper with a paper shredder and soaked it in water, in the tub, over night.

On the next day I took small amounts of the shreds and blended them with a large amount of water. I then thoroughly strained the resulting pulp and put it in a bucket. The water went back into the large tub.

After processing all of the shredded paper, I added more water to the tub and the first sheet of paper could finally be produced.

I put a hand full of pulp into the tub and thoroughly dispersed it in the water for about 3 to 4 minutes. Then I got the screen and deckle and went into the water. When I could see the pulp accumulating on the screen, I pulled it up in a straight manner and let it drain.

During blending I didn’t realize how many big chunks of shredded paper were still left in the pulp, as it is very hard to see them. To get more even paper it is necessary to blend the shreds for a VERY long time!7

After letting the screen drain for a moment, I pressed it upside-down onto one of the PET sheets. From the backside of the screen I mopped up the excess water with a giant sponge. I did that until no larger amounts of water were coming out of the paper when I pressed the sponge down. Then I hung up the PET sheets for drying.

After a few hours the sheets were dry already (it was a very hot day) and I could try printing them. Here in comparison with Fabriano Tiepolo printing paper (cotton).

The feel of the finished paper is like toilet paper and it is not very strong. So it is suitable only for printing and not for painting or sketching.

Further research gave me the hint, that it is possible to add starch and/or PVA glue to the pulp to alter its properties. It is also possible to coat the finished paper with starch and PVA but that as to be done in a thin layer and I don’t have any possibility to apply thin coats.

So I made a new batch of pulp which I blended for a longer time now and added starch to it. For this the starch must be diluted in water which then gets heated in the microwave, to solve the starch. This starch solution can then be poured into the pulp. Be careful, it is very hot!

I produced a few sheets of paper from this „Starch pulp“ until I had just a bit pulp left over. To this I added a bit of PVA glue, of which I have a lot laying around.

The resulting paper feels a bit like stiff toilet paper, oops! Maybe I still need to try coating the paper. Maybe it will work with a very diluted starch or PVA solution, that will be brushed on in multiple layers.

At least the paper shreds are smaller this time. I really like the look of the resulting paper now.

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