How to make your own paper: recipes and instructions

Recipes and instructions on how to make your own paper from stratch or from recyled materials.

Paper, similar to what we use today, was first invented in China during the second century. The word paper comes from Egyptian papyrus, a writing surface made from the flattened pulp of papyrus stalks. In modern times, the process of making paper has become automated, with most people purchasing their supplies at office supply and other retail outlets.

Due, in part, to the scrapbooking craze, homemade paper is making a comeback. Not only does homemade paper work well in scrapbooks, it also makes a wonderful craft project for family time with the kids. By using old newspaper and other waste paper products for the fiber in your new paper, you will also be helping the environment.

Paper From Scratch - The Old Fashioned Way

Paper made from scratch this way is best done outside in the open air. You should wear eye protection and rubber gloves.

Gather green plants such as grasses, bulrushes or leaves from broad-leaved trees such as fig or palm. You will need enough to fill a five gallon bucket.

Cut your green material into small pieces using a knife or scissors. Soak the pieces in enough water to cover overnight.

In a large bucket, add 4 tablespoons caustic soda to 4 gallons of water. Always add caustic soda to water. Do not put the soda in the container first.

In a large container made from any metal other than aluminum, pour the caustic soda water over the soaked material.

Allow this mixture to simmer for approximately two hours, stirring occasionally. You will know it is ready when the fibers pull apart between your rubber gloves.

At this point, wash the material in cold, clear water to remove the soda residue. When the water runs clear, it is time to beat your fiber to a pulp. By the way, this is where the expression 'beat to a pulp' comes from.

Fill a flat bottomed, plastic bucket one quarter full of fiber. With a heavy stick or baseball bat, begin beating the fibers until it becomes a mush, or to a paste like consistency. Add water as needed to keep material wet.

Dump the paste into another bucket and repeat until all the pulp is made.

At this point, you can make the paper easier to write on by adding sizing to the mix. In a large bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons laundry starch in a small amount of cold water. Add one half gallon boiling water and stir until clear. Add this mixture to your pulp, mixing throughly.

Add clean water to this mixture until you have a product that resembles thick soup. You are now ready to begin forming your paper in your molds. Further instructions are below the next recipe.

Recycled Paper

This paper can be made indoors in smaller batches. The recipe can be doubled or tripled to make larger amounts.

Choose five or six sheets of old paper, bearing in mind that whatever color the paper is your new paper will have that same hue. Tear the paper into small pieces, no larger than one inch square. A paper shredder does this wonderfully. Soak the paper in hot water to cover for approximately one hour.

Fill a food processor or blender half full of water. Add the paper fibers and mix until smooth. When smooth, you can add in a very small amount of crushed herbs. You could also add in a few drops of food coloring at this point. Mix until smooth.

Fill a plastic dish pan half full with warm water. Add your pulp mixture and stir to thick soup consistency. Your paper is ready to mold.

Molds are simply screens in wooden frames. Nylon screening seems to work the best. The easiest way to make these is by purchasing wooden picture frames, remove the inserts and glass, and staple the screening onto the backs of the frames.

Dip your prepared mold into the paper pulp. Shake gently to distribute the pulp evenly on the screen. The thicker your pulp soup mixture, the thicker your paper will be.

Allow the frame to drip over the pan. Lay a piece of clean cloth over the paper. Press the cloth into the paper to remove it from the screen. Flip the mold, and use a sponge on the outside of the screen to remove as much water as possible. Remove the screen and allow your new paper to air dry.

Making your own paper can add that extra bit of creativity to any project you choose to do. Try it for wrapping the next gift to someone special.

© High Speed Ventures 2011