Making Paper by Hand
Paper has been made by hand for hundreds
of years and only relatively recently in paper's history has
automation entered the picture. Paper is still made by hand(called
handsheets) for standards purposes(e.g. tensile strength and
optical property testing) and can be made by anyone with the
knowledge of how to do so. There are many versions of how to
make paper, all of which are generally very similar. Those methods
will be combined here in order to show how paper can be made
with fairly common household items.
First, the materials to be used:
- Common household blender(is to be used only for papermaking)
- Various types of paper from various sources(junk mail,
newspapers, paper sacks, colored papers[sorted], typing
paper, etc.) Do not use coated papers.
- A window screen or similar netting material(for mould
and deckle) with approximately 40 holes per inch, cut to
desired paper length and width. A screen cut to 7.5 inches
by 10.5 inches will fit into an invitation size envelope
when folded. Larger screens can be made by building a wooden
frame and stretching the screen material around it. Alternatively,
one can use 2 small embroidery hoops for the screen frame.(See
- A tub larger than the screen-frame(so that one can dip
the frame easily into it)
- Newspaper and clean paper towels(for blotting)
- Old, reusable dishcloth or other felt-like material
- Liquid Starch(optional, use if paper will be written on)
- Heavy items, such as large books
Important: Only use these materials
for papermaking. When finished, store the materials in a safe
place where they will not me mistaken for cookware for food,
etc. This is extremely important, as severe poisoning
will result if food is prepared using this equipment(e.g. blender,
pot for boiling paper, etc.) after it has been used to make
paper. A separate set of equipment should be bought(or otherwise
obtained) simply for the exclusive use of making paper.
Preparation of Materials and Equipment
Begin by tearing up the paper into
small pieces(about 1 square inch) and segregating the colored
scraps from the white paper. Remember that the paper must be
torn and not cut, as tearing exposes more paper fibers to water
when it is mixed to make pulp. Optionally, soak the paper in
water overnight so that when pulp is ready to be made, fiber
breakdown is done much faster than with paper that has not been
Now, prepare the screen mould and
deckle as follows:
A simple screen can be made by taking a piece of screen 2 inches
larger than an 8.5x11 inch paper and using duct-tape to tape
around the edges up to the sheet of paper(laid down as a guide).
An alternative screen that can be made is by using two embroidery
hoops, which can be obtained at any hobby store. Cut the screen
to two inches larger than one hoop. Separate one of the embroidery
hoops and stretch the screen over the inner hoop and secure
it with the other part as one would do with embroidering. The
now screened hoop is the mould and the uncovered and non-separated
hoop is now known as the deckle(See illustration below).
The couching cushion should now be prepared. The purpose of
the couching cushion is to facilitate transference of the new
paper to the surface on which it is to dry. The cushion is made
from a damp pad of newspaper. A couching felt is put over the
paper to prevent the new paper from sticking to the couching
cushion. A damp dishcloth will be used as a couching felt. Place
the newspaper on a flat surface and the dishcloth on the newspaper.
This is to prepare for drying the new sheets of paper.
After the equipment is made and prepared,
pulp production can begin. Fill the blender approximately 75%
full of water and some pieces of the torn paper(about 20-30
pieces per 4 cups of water). Paper types can be mixed, as long
as the colors mix well. If the paper has been soaking overnight,
as pointed out above, it will process much quicker. Put the
top onto the blender and blend at high speed for between one
and two minutes. Pour the first batch of paper pulp into the
tub and repeat the blending process with more paper scraps and
water, pouring each resultant batch into the tub until the tub
is 50%-75% full of paper pulp. If the paper is to be written
on, add the liquid starch at this stage. When a sufficient amount
of pulp has been reached, a sheet of paper can now be made.
The sheet of paper is made by dipping
the screen(the mould) with the deckle vertically into the tub
of paper pulp, deckle pointed inward toward the paper pulp.
Once under the water surface, turn the screen horizontally and
pull the screen and deckle out of the water. It should now have
paper pulp on the screen and the excess water should be allowed
to drain from the "apparatus." If the duct-tape screen is being
used, make sure that the pulp is pushed from the edges, as the
pulp will stick. Shake it to ensure a fairly even distribution
of paper fibers. After the water has mostly drained away, invert
it onto the couching felt prepared earlier so that the new paper
sheet will fall onto the couching felt. Blot off the extra water
from the back of the screen, so that the paper will more easily
dislodge from it onto the couching felt(i.e. the dishcloth).
After the paper has been dislodged, press the new paper to get
the rest of the moisture that is still trapped in the fiber
matrix. Set aside and place a few heavy books on top of the
paper to press more moisture out. Be sure to put paper towels
between the books and the paper, as the paper will still be
prone to adhere to the bottom book! Repeat the process to create
more sheets. Optionally, the paper can be ironed(to give the
paper a smooth finish) and allowed to air-dry.
Clean Up and Disposal
After as many sheets of paper as
desired have been made, proper disposal and cleanup of papermaking
equipment should be done. If paper pulp still remains in the
tub, then it should be poured through a sieve down the drain
in order to catch and reclaim as much of the paper pulp as possible.
It might be necessary to rinse the tub out, again making sure
the pulpy water is sieved to reclaim more pulp. When as much
of the paper pulp has been reclaimed in the sieve as possible,
remove it from the sieve and squeeze out the excess water, set
it aside and allow it to air dry. Store it in a cool, dry place.
It can be reconstituted when more paper is desired to be made
by adding water and reprocessing it with the blender. Remember
to store the papermaking equipment where it will not be mistaken
for normal cookware.
To find out how paper is made in the paper industry, see the