This could be a lengthy blog post because there is so much information to pass along. I could go on about the paper making process, but there are literally dozens of other websites that do a much better job than I ever could explaining how it is done. Perhaps one day I’ll do a video, but for now I’ll just give my insights about an extremely cool hobby. I’ll also post links to a few of the resources I used to get started.
I have made paper from a wide variety of resources. There are two main categories of material used for paper; raw and previously processed. This is pretty much the same as using either raw material or recycled material. I’ll list them below:
Old paper: This is probably the easiest material to obtain and also the material easiest to work with while making paper since it takes very little additional effort to make old paper into handmade paper. Most paper is made from wood pulp. Wood pulp paper has a lot of draw backs such as short fiber length and poor fiber quality. This in turn leads to a relatively short life span for wood pulp paper. Look at old newspapers or books and you will see how brittle the pages are. Paper made from linen or cotton will hold up for hundreds of years, wood pulp paper starts deteriorating after 10 years or so.
Cotton cloth: Using cotton rags to make paper is a very interesting way to recycle that old T-shirt that is still sitting in your closet from back in high school, or perhaps those holey denim jeans that you are hanging onto to wear after you lose weight.
In order to reduce the fabric fiber into paper fiber, the fabric must be separated into individual fiber components. The traditional way to process fabric back to fiber suitable for paper was with a machine called a Hollander beater. Basically the cloth is pulverized repeatedly until it has the consistency of paper mache.
Hollander beaters cost upwards of $2,000 on the cheap side, so I had to find another way. What else pulverizes anything that enters it? A Vitamix blender! This is worthy of its own blog post so once I have the post up - click here - to see the process and results. The bottom line is that it works quite well.
|Denim from Mackenson's blue jeans. Nearly completely pulped on the left.|
Linen Cloth: I used linen rags acquired cheaply at a local thrift store. The process is the same as for cotton
Silk: I also found some inexpensive old silk clothing articles at the local thrift store. Once again I use the same process as for any other fabric.
Burlap/Sisal, Jute and Hemp fabric: I haven’t tried these yet, but the process will be the same as other cloth.
Raw fiber materials: Pretty much any plant fiber can be used to make paper. The trick is to find plants with long enough quality fiber to be able to extract it manually, chemically or mechanically without losing it. There are hundreds of potential plants to use. I list the ones I have used. I’ll write another blog post describing the process, it is somewhat entailed.
Iris leaves: For those who grow iris plants you know that every year in the fall the outside leaves turn white or tan and die. Have you ever noticed how thick and strong the leaves are? This was the first material I used to make paper, and an excellent source of fiber. It makes a dark tan to light brown paper if using dead iris leaves.
Cattail leaves: I’ve heard of people using the cattail fluff as well. It would be an interesting experiment to try. This is the highest quality paper I have made. It is very smooth, very strong and works in an ink-jet printer.
Morning Glory Vines: This one did not work out as well as I had hoped. Likely it didn’t work as well because I did not process it enough. However, it still produced a paper that looked pretty cool and good for wrapping things (like x-mas presents) to give them a natural look.
Dogbane Hemp: This is very similar to milkweed (see below). Use the bast fiber (bark) of the dogbane hemp plant. There are challenges when using bast fiber of broadleaf type plants over the leaf fiber of grasses (like Iris and cattail). The main difference is that fiber yield is lower, and separating the bast from the stem is time consuming. There is also considerably more foreign material left over after processing. The benefits are that the fibers are MUCH stronger than the other fibers mentioned before.
Milkweed: As far as paper is concerned, it is very similar to dogbane hemp. I used the bast fiber. Any reason to use milkweed is a good reason. One of my goals is to one day grow at least some milkweed commercially for fiber purposes while helping the monarch butterfly. As you may know the milkweed also has the silky material that is fluffy. I have yet to try to turn this material into paper, but the day is coming. Coincidentally, dogbane hemp also has silky material in it’s seed pods.
Birch Polypore mushroom: We are mushroom fanatics, and I received a birch polypore mushroom from a co-worker. I regularly get random mushrooms given to me by co-workers who know I enjoy collecting edible mushrooms. Unfortunately the Birch Polypore is unpalatable (though technically not poisonous). Thinking back to my biology 101 days, I got to thinking about fungi. I found a couple of people who had turned other polypore mushrooms into paper, so gave it a go. It is possible to turn a birch polypore into paper. However, the fiber length is fairly short meaning the paper is more delicate than other papers I have made. Also, the mushroom pulp is very sticky, and this makes the process of couching (see other post) more difficult.
A few other plants I plan on using: Pineapple (as soon as I collect enough tops), Hops vine, snow on the mountain (I have some collected), nettle, and lilly leaves. I’d also like to try a few other types of mushrooms.
A list of resources that I used and got me started.
Wiki-How; Gives the basics
Mother Earth News: Also fairly basic
Video from epicfantasy: This guy has a lot of really cool stuff and a neat haircut!
More advanced, but very useful for turning raw material into fiber
A quick google search will lead you to a lot of resources.