Handmade Paper Techniques
In the recent weeks, I have been busy experimenting and learning new and exciting printmaking techniques and preparing for the busy Easter period which is just around the corner. After cutting, resizing and framing these pieces I was shocked to discover the amount of paper waste I was accumulating, all these scraps of paper were either to small to print on or too thin in length to do anything with, so I began to research how I could effectively use these pieces creatively without having to recycle them, (printmaking paper is expensive of course).
Having those recycled papers hanging around, prompted me to research into making my own paper, (or at least attempt to) using my scraps and cut offs. so I thought id share the process below and give my honest opinion on the process. With the listed products below, you’re well on your way to making handmade paper and being ridiculously friendly to the environment.
Supplies for Making Paper
Plastic storage tub
Mould & Deckle (a screen attached to a frame)
Wood boards OR sponge & rolling pin
STEP 1: CUT UP PAPER
Cut or rip up your paper into about 1 inch squares.
Soak your paper for a few hours or overnight.
Drawing, printmaking, and watercolour papers are best because they are generally made from stronger fibres. However, experiment with junk mail, office paper, paper grocery bags, the yellow pages, rejection letters, and more. Be sure not to include any plastic.
STEP 2: BLEND IT & MAKE A VAT OF PULP
Combine a mixture of water and a good handful or two of paper scraps in a kitchen blender. (not too much, or it is possible you'll burn the blender motor out). Blend until it’s a pulp. Empty this mixture into a storage tube about 1/3 to 1/2 way. Add more water to the tube. The more pulp to water, the thicker your paper will be.
STEP 3: PULL SOME SHEETS
For this, you’ll need a mould and deckle. This is basically two frames that are the same size, one with screen attached. (I'll insert a link on how to make one at the bottom of this post) There’s also a list of papermaking suppliers who sell mould & deckles, so it might be worth a quick research.
Now, for sheet formation:
Stir your tube of pulp.
Hold the mould screen side up, and place the deckle evenly on top.
Holding them together at a 45 degree angle, dip the mould and deckle to the bottom of the tube and scoop up, holding the mould and deckle horizontally.
As you lift it out of the slurry, give it a quick shake back and forth, and left to right to align the fibres and make a more uniform sheet. Stop shaking before the sheet is fully drained.
Let the water drain to a drip.
STEP 4: COUCHING
‘Couching’ means to transfer the wet sheet from the mould to a flat, absorbent surface. Wool felts are ideal, but there are many other options: wool blankets, smoother towels, thick paper towels or bed sheets. Set up your sheet with a board underneath and soak your couching materials.
Remove the deckle from the mould.
Place a long edge of the mould on the sheet.
In one smooth motion, place the mould face down, press down, and lift from that initial edge. (Think of this like a close the door, open the door, motion.)
STEP 5: PRESSING
Option 1: Hand Pressing
Place a paper towel on top of your freshly couched sheet. With a sponge, press gently at first, then press firmly with as much pressure as possible. If you have a rolling pin, use that to press your paper even more.
Option 2: Board Pressing
Place another sheet on top of your freshly couched sheet. Continue to couch another sheet, layer another sheet, and repeat. Layer one final sheet and another wood board when you’ve made a stack. Take the post outside to a concrete or stone surface and stand on it with as much pressure as possible.
STEP 6: DRYING
Option 1: Surface Drying
Find a flat, non-porous surface. Smooth wood boards, plexiglass and windows work well.
Take your wet sheet and gently press onto the flat surface. Make sure the edges are pressed down well.
Let the paper dry (1-3 days depending on humidity levels and thickness of the paper).
Peel it off.
Option 2: Exchange Drying
Get some blotters, towels, or other absorbent, dry, flat material.
Layer the material and then your wet handmade paper on top.
Repeat. Create a stack.
When you’re done, place a wood board or a book on top. Weigh it down with more books or something heavy.
Check it once every day and exchange the damp material with dry material until your handmade paper is dry.