Friday, May 28, 2010


So today for my Paper in the Scholarly World class, we got to take a field trip! Our professor somehow contacted a local guy who has converted his garage into a home paper mill (handmade paper, that is), and we all drove over to see it and got to make our own paper!

For those who are unfamiliar, there are 2 basic ways of hand-making paper: the Japanese method, and the Western method. They both involve the same basic tools/supplies, which are the following:

1. A paper mold, consisting usually of a wooden frame with a screen in the middle, and a removable top "frame" called the deckle. It sort of looks like a window screen with a picture frame on the top. In the Japanese method, the deckle is hinged onto the mold, and the screen is removable, and in the Western method the screen is attached to the mold and the deckle is completely removable.

2. A vat or tub filled with water and other stuff, which I will get to :)

3. Fibers. Any kind of fibers at all. In the Japanese method they use plant fibers from the paper mulberry plant, also called kozo. In the Western method you can use pretty much anything you want, from cotton to linen to corn to soybeans to daisies to dryer lint, if you can get enough of it. You also need something to grind up or macerate the fibers. Where we went today the guy has his own Hollander beater, a machine used to beat the fibers, but you can also use a blender or literally beat them with a big stick for a few hours. In the Japanese method you also need a binding agent; they use something from a plant called the tororo aoi (pronounced toe-roar-oh owie), but there are also chemical ones. By itself when it is mixed it looks kind of like very runny egg whites, it's completely clear and does not color the water or fibers at all.

4. In the Western method, you need felts. Literally, many many pieces of felt. You can cut up an old army blanket or use synthetic felt, but you need lots of them. You also need some kind of press, for reasons I will explain later.

5. In the Japanese method, you need a large board/flat surface on which to dry your sheets.

So after you have gathered your supplies, you are ready to make paper! Basically you beat the fibers until they are broken up into thousands of tiny little individual fiber strands. Then, you mix the fibers with lots of water in a tub, so it's like over 90% water in the tub. In the Japanese method you add the binding agent to the tub; in the Western method, you can add dyes to color the paper, or other things to decorate the paper, into your tub. After you have mixed the fibers in the water they will sort of float there, but you also need to mix them around every once in awhile so they do not all sink down to the bottom of the tub.

After you have mixed up your tub of "stuff" (also called "furnish"), you then take your paper mold and hold it upright in front of you. You then dip/scoop it towards you in the water, and then lift it straight out of the water. To clarify: at first you will be holding the mold vertically, but as you dip it you turn it horizontal (so it is a flat surface for the fibers to settle on as the water drains down through the screen). In the Japanese method you can continue dipping as many times as you want to get a thicker paper; in the Western method, you just dip once.

I found I much preferred the Japanese method! I dipped my piece 3 times, then removed the screen from the mold by lifting the deckle (or top part of the hinged mold) and pulling it out. They had this nifty contraption that was a vacuum attached to a wooden box with a small slit in the top. I pulled the screen across the slit twice to pull the excess moisture out from the piece of paper (though at this point it was still pretty damp). After you pull out that moisture the piece of paper is sturdy enough to handle, so I took it off the screen and then used a brush to stick it onto a large "white board" to dry!!

I then tried the Western method, where I dipped the mold in the same manner into the tub just once. Either the mold was dirty or I did not have the deckle on sturdy enough, because my sheet did not come out as perfectly straight around the edges as others' had. After that I "couched" my sheet (pronounced kooched) onto the "couch" (also pronounced kooch!). The "couch" is a pile of felts and papers next to where you are dipping your mold into the tub. You start with a pile of water-dampened felts (maybe 2 or 3) so the surface is soft. After that you sort of roll your paper mold with the freshly made paper sheet on it and press down so that it stays on the couch. You then put another wet felt on top of it, and continue couching in a pile until you are done! After that you press the pile, which is called a "post." This guy had a press in his garage but he said that you could also just pile on some heavy boards or books and stand on top of it, lol! This gets a lot of the excess water out of the sheets, which can then be air dried or dried between pieces of blotter (heavy paper or other substance).

So, basically, that is making paper! I hope I have explained it well :) this was also a great review for my midterm tomorrow, lol. I really enjoyed it so I hope I will be able to make some of my own paper in the near future. Below are some pictures, which I will number in order here:

1. The Hollander Beater

2. The Japanese Setup (notice the box with the slit where I vaccumed the water out, and the mold behind it!)

3. The Western Setup (the couch is under that small pile of newspaper, which wasn't supposed to be there lol)

4. Me putting my Japanese paper up to dry! My sheet is the one the brush is over!

5. My sheet of Western paper after being couched. You can see that it is a little rough around the edges, lol!


  1. COOL! I want some paper made of daisies. :-)

  2. how fun!!! p.s you look so skinny!!