There are sites all over the place about making paper. They make it look quick and easy. It isn’t really. Well, it’s easy, but time-consuming and tedious. And it takes a lot of preparations and special materials. But it is a lot of hands-on fun, and the homemade paper comes out pretty cool. Here’s some details on what I did.
- First, dig out an old wooden picture frame, take out the glass, and replace it with screening. Use thumb tacks or nails to attach the screen. I went to the dollar store and bought an 8 1/2 x 11 document frame and some screening from the local hardware store. This will be your “paper mold,” and will give you a sheet of paper the size of your frame. In papermaking lingo, it’s called a deckle. Here’s how mine came out. My frame broke in a few places from the nails, so I used lots of duct tape to reinforce it. As a side note, I bought an enormous roll of screening, just for a 9 x 12 piece (it was really cheap though). If you want some, call me. Seriously. I don’t really know what to do with a 9-foot roll of screen.
- Gather an old phone book or other source of paper, and tear the paper into small pieces (about 1″ square). Put all these scraps in a big bowl.
- Find a large tub that your picture frame will fit in. I used a plastic underbed box.
- Make sure you have a handful of rags on hand that measure larger than your sheets of paper will be.
- You also might want to have some liquid starch on hand. This one is optional, but it helps the ink not spread out into the paper and become hard to read when the paper is dry.
Once you’ve prepared all your materials, take your bowl of paper scraps and add water to it. Mash it up with your hands until it’s thoroughly soaked and soft.
Then, get out your blender and fill it about half full with wet paper scraps and the other half with water. Blend it until it’s smooth.
After you have a batch of paper pulp ready, pour it into your large tub. Add about 3-4 batches, and then about as much water as paper pulp, maybe a little more. Add some liquid starch, if desired. Now you’re ready to actually start the papermaking process.
I set the lid to my box next to the bin itself to serve as a means of catching all the water I squeezed out of each paper sheet. Here is my workspace. Yay for sunlight streaming in!
Take your deckle, dunk it into the bin, and pull it out with a layer of paper pulp over the screen. Cover the wet pulp with a sheet of plastic so you can press out as much water as you can. The plastic helps keep the pulp from sticking to your hands. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, my chocolate chips wrapper worked just fine, though it will go a tad bit faster if you have a piece of plastic that is big enough, so you don’t have to keep moving it around to be able to press all the water out.
Peel the plastic back and there is your paper! But you’re not done yet…
Lay a rag on the box lid to absorb extra water, and set your deckle on it. Don’t flip it over yet, you want to squeeze out as much water as possible first.
Wring out the bottom rag and replace it. Now you’re ready to lay your deckle face down to get the paper out. I started by tapping on one end and then gently angling the deckle up so the paper peeled off.
You now have a piece of very wet paper on a very wet rag. But you’re still not done…
Put your deckle face up on top of the paper, then lay another rag on top of the paper and press down, trying to absorb even more water. The screen of the deckle keeps the paper from peeling off with the top rag. Wring out the top rag as much as needed. Lots of water will come out…
Now you’re finally ready to let your paper dry. Remove the top rag and the deckle, so you’re back to the wet paper on the wet rag. Pick up the rag, plaster it on a window and peel the rag off the back, leaving the paper stuck to the window. The paper will dry faster if you use a window that gets full sun or mostly full sun. Leave it for about a day and peel off your dry paper tomorrow. And let the neighbors across the driveway wonder what’s going on in your kitchen…
Continue the process until all your windows are full!
If you’re going to make a bunch of paper, you’ll notice the paper gradually getting thinner because you’re straining out the pulp and leaving the water in the bin. You’ll need to add extra batches of paper pulp from the blender after about 12 sheets or so. My 3 batches made all the paper in the windows: 15 sheets. The last few were super thin though.
Oh and a bin of paper slurry will keep at least for a few weeks in your kitchen if you’re not ready to dump it out yet and want to come back to making more later. But it will be annoying and in the way. And it might make your kitchen smell funny, kind of like wet phonebook.
When you’re all finished DO NOT pour the remaining paper slurry down the drain. It WILL harden in your pipes….which doesn’t really sound like fun to fix, so I poured it in my compost bin. It watered it down a little, but that’s fine. It’ll drain out eventually. And phone books are printed with soy ink, so I don’t have to worry about extra unwanted chemicals going into my compost.
I ironed my paper on a really low setting to smooth out some wrinkles and bubbles from the windows, and to flatten it out a bit. It was a little curled from peeling it off the windows. Make sure the setting is really low, or it will singe the edges of your paper (oops).
Then, when you get all your paper made, you can use it to make your own handmade journal 🙂
EDIT: Oh, and one more thing, I learned an interesting lesson about recycling throughout this process. It took about 1/8 of a big book of the yellowpages to make about 25 sheets of paper total. That’s a concrete lesson illustrating why paper recycling is ok, but using less paper is better. It’s nowhere near a 1:1 ratio. A whole lot of old paper recycles into a little bit of new paper. It was fun, but the better option is to opt out of the yellowpages in the first place.