Do It Yourself: How To Make Paper

A guide to making papers at home from tissue or older newspapers. Information on materials, clean up, history and gift ideas.

The art of paper making dates back to ancient times, when the first sheets of papyrus were produced and used to make scrolls. Since then, it has evolved into the modern paper industry which produces billions of sheets of paper from a variety of sources and for a variety of uses. Older methods are still around, however, and can make great craft projects for children and adults alike.

To start the paper making process, get a piece of screen around 8" x 10". Take the edges and fold them over twice, making somewhat of a frame around the main screen. You may set this part aside for now, as it won't be used until later.

Next, take whatever paper you plan on using as your base and begin tearing it into small pieces in a medium-sized bowl. (If you're feeling really adventurous, you can use natural materials such as hay, grass, and even some textiles like flax or cotton. You might want to research what materials work best and in what combinations.) Add hot water to the bowl until it is around 2/3 - 3/4 full. Allow the bowl to set for a few minutes, so that the water has a chance to saturate the paper soaking in the bowl.

Now, you'll be making what's known as a "slurry". Take the bowl with the paper pulp and, using an electric mixer, begin beating the pulp until it is quite watered down. Add 1 tablespoon of starch, and continue mixing. After a few minutes, whatever paper was in the bowl should be finely shredded and difficult to distinguish from the rest of the water mixture.

Pour the slurry into a 9" x 13" baking pan or a similar container. (A smaller container may be used, but you'll have to make your screen accordingly. The screen that you made earlier needs to be smaller than the pan that you use.) Slide the screen into the bottom of the pan, moving it around until a mostly even layer of the slurry is above it. Let the mixture set for several minutes so that the slurry can settle after being moved by the motion of the screen.

Once the liquid in the pan stops moving, lift the screen straight up out of the pan and hold it there. It should be covered with pulp from the slurry, and the excess water should be draining back into the pan. Hold it like this until the water stops falling out of the pulp; it should still be quite damp.

Now place the screen, pulp side up, on a stack of newspaper. Place more newspaper on top of the screen, and roll a rolling pin back and forth over the stack to squeeze out the excess water. After several rolls, remove the top paper and the wet paper underneath the screen, replace with dry newspaper, and repeat.

After you have removed some of the excess water, take the newspapers away and gently begin peeling the paper pulp off of the screen. It should hold together by this point, though if you pull it hard our roughly it will still rip. Place the damp paper on some dry newspaper or other absorbent surface so that it can air dry on its own.

And there you have it. Easy-to-make paper in the comfort of your home. As an added bit of information, the process by which you made your paper is quite a bit like the process that paper recycling plants use to make the recycled products that you might use in your home. You might want to experiment with different types of paper as a base to see if you can make paper that you might use yourself!

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