How to Make Paper
Created | Updated Nov 1, 2002
Paper is a medium commonly used for writing and drawing. It is also used in the production of books, magazines and some electronic components, and is even used as insulation in some modern housing. Since Bryan Donkin developed the first commercial paper-making machine in 1806, mechanised production has become commonplace. However, in many shops you'll see textured paper for sale that looks hand-made - papers with leaves and other natural features - which costs a lot more than regular paper.
For the price of a few sheets of regular paper you can make your own paper of this kind, using household objects. And you can personalise the paper to your own specific requirements.
You Will Need
Waste Paper. Coloured or white, most paper types can be used, but high-quality papers such as computer printout paper, writing paper or brown wrapping paper are the most effective. Avoid printed newspaper, as it produces a very unattractive grey paper owing to its very high ink content, and it is also prone to disintegration.
A rectangular washing-up basin
A wooden spoon
Some good quality blotting paper. Alternatively, non-woven fabric such as 'J-cloths', or any brand of non-woven, lint-free domestic cleaning cloth.
A flat surface
Making the Frame
The frame (or deckle and mould) is the most important element of the paper-making process, and will be the most costly piece of equipment needed. It can be easily bought in craft shops, or made at home.
- 8 lengths of 3/4" thick wood
- Waterproof glue
- Mesh (such as net curtains, or aluminium mesh from a car repair shop)
- A stapler and staples
Cut eight lengths of wood to the size you want your paper to be. Or you can buy these pre-cut, to save time and ensure all the lengths are the same. The dimensions of the deckle and mould will determine the size of the paper you make. So for an A4 sheet you'd cut four pieces of timber measuring 21cm and another four approximately 30cm.
Join the corners together with waterproof glue.
Secure joints with screws to prevent them falling apart while the glue sets.
Take one of the frames and choose one face to be the back and one to be the front. Along the back of one of the side members, use the staples to fix the mesh. Wrap it around the outside edge of the frame, across the front of the frame, around the outside of the opposite edge, pull it tight and staple it to the back of the opposite side member. Do the same at the top and bottom of the frame, carefully folding the corners, so that the front face of the frame is covered with a taut piece of mesh something like a drumhead.
Leave to dry.
Once you've gone to the expense of either making or buying a Deckle and Mould you won't have to do it again, unless you're wanting larger sheets of paper.
How to Make the Paper
Tear your chosen paper into postage-stamp-sized pieces, remembering to remove all foreign bodies such as staples, glued edges, paper clips and sticky tape.
Soak paper in a little water to soften it to a pulp.
Fill the blender with enough clean water for the quantity of paper you're using. The pulp shouldn't be too thick or too watery, so add the water carefully, and adjust as necessary. The pulp should be the consistency of thick wallpaper paste or mashed banana. Pulse with frequent pauses to avoid the motor overheating. Avoid making a smooth pulp, as this means the paper could be weak. Anyway, a slightly chunky pulp will give interesting textures.
Switch off the blender and leave to one side.
Fill the basin with clean water, approximately four parts water to one part pulp.
Pour pulp into the washing-up basin, making sure that the basin has one of its widest sides closest to you.
Stir pulp with the wooden spoon in order to distribute the particles evenly throughout the water, before pulling your first sheet of paper.
Hold the mould and deckle firmly together, with the mould mesh side up and the deckle on top creating a frame. The depression is where your sheet will be created.
Lower the frame into the near side of the basin and gently push it away from you, gradually submerging it until it lies flat under the surface of the water. You may want to move it back and forth to ensure that you get enough pulp on the mesh.
Holding the mould flat and level, carefully lift it from the basin. But before all the water drains away, gently rock it back and forth. This will help the fibres to mesh together, ensuring that the paper will be strong.
Rest the mould and deckle on the basin for about 20 to 30 seconds to allow some of the water to drain away.
Place a damp cloth on a flat hard surface.
Remove the deckle/top frame. This will leave the paper on the mesh and make it easily detachable.
Hold the mould almost vertically to one side of the cloth and in one smooth movement roll the mould down so that the pulp is pressed to the cloth.
Using the sponge, press quite hard on the back of the mesh to transfer the pulp to the cloth. You should be able to see it coming away from the mesh, and reverse the rolling action to lift off the empty mould.
At this point you can add dried flowers, leaves, glitter, silk threads or other 'ingredients' to individualise your paper.
Gently press another cloth onto the paper to help with the drying process. Then pile heavy books onto the paper, so that it dries flat. Leave for 30 minutes.
Remove the books and the top cloth, and leave to dry in a warm dry place such as in an airing cupboard.
Once dry, carefully peel each sheet from the cloth. You have made your own home-made paper!
You can also make bowls from the pulp, by sieving the pulp to drain off excess water and pressing it into a bowl lined with cling film. You can also use household objects to imprint patterns into your paper for other interesting effects.