Some tentative conclusions on paper making

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kevin_2050
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I've finally managed to pulp some cotton in a kitchen blender, starting with denim, and cast a few sheets on my paper molds. The secret is to break down the fabric, either with bleach or by simmering in baking soda (the latter is far less toxic, and is what I'll likely go with in future). The results are interesting, even aesthetical, but hardly seem like the basis of a robust cottage industry, nor of a paper supply you would want to have to rely on exclusively.

Last summer I cast about 150 sheets of various sizes by recycling decent quality acid-free wood-based paper pulp. Again, the paper is rather beautiful, but it's extremely fragile. If you try to size it in a bath of water with glue size, it immediately turns back into mush (wanna guess how I found that out?). You can only write or draw on it reliably with either a really greasy, juicy ballpoint pen or by brushing on ink or watercolors (acrylics also work). Graphite shreds the surface and markers soak right through (brushed ink does this too - you have to apply it gingerly, and accept the fact that the back of your sheet is going to have soak-through). I've been using this paper to create nice brush drawings, which is what it seems to do best.

After the foregoing experiments, I've concluded that if you really want to make good, professional quality paper for artist's use, you've just got to have that Hollander beater. This is a device that grinds rags with metal cogs in a watery bath. The sources say that paper-makers of yore used to pulp plant fibers with wooden mallets and mortar-&-pestle back in the day; but anyone who has actually tried to grind fabric into a pulp using these devices will know how fantastically labor-intensive that is. Such paper must have been exceedingly costly.

I still have eight or ten ounces of denim that I cut into tiny pieces a while back. I think I'll try simmering it for quite a spell with baking soda (no bleach) using a solar concentrator I'll rig up. I'm hoping this may produce better pulp and smoother, stronger paper. But I'm not cutting up any more fabric until I have a better means of pulping it, if ever.

I'll try attaching an image or two of the aforementioned brush drawings. Meanwhile, here's a wiki article about a wind-driven paper mill using Hollander beaters:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Schoolmeester,_Westzaan

Yucca Glauca
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Thanks for this! I've always

Thanks for this! I've always wondered how paper you can actually write on with a quill was made since the stuff you get from paper making kits is so fragile, but I've never really looked into it. 

 

Also, I like your artwork! The floral one in particluar is my favorite, but they're all good. 

Blueberry
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Paper mill

I worked at a paper mill for many years and still do not understand all about making paper. The raw material was pine trees, bark was removed and burned to make electricty. The wood was chipped and placed in a digester for 8-12 hours plus lye or hydrated lime or both added to the mix. The plup was heated using steam. The folks running the machines had many years on the job and a slang no one could understand. My job was to make sure the machines had power. The mill only made brown paper so no bleach. Most mills making white paper use bleach or chlorine (nasty stuff). Making paper takes lots of power, plenty of electric motors the size of a car, voltage to the big motors 4160 volts 3 phase. Without cheap energy this will all stop. David

David

kevin_2050
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That's interesting info

The part about using lime or lye underscores the need to chemically break down tough plant fiber so that we can impose upon it whatever form we want. I think the Hollander beater may be able to shred rags without chemical input, or with a lot less. As for bleach, in art media it's perfectly acceptable to use tinted paper; there's a long history of that, so there's no problem with leaving old dye in the fabric. If you want white paper, put in white rags.

"Without cheap energy this will all stop."

I suppose that's one reason why it's good idea to be working on this. I live where there's often fairly steady wind, so the idea of powering a (small, modest) Hollander beater with a backyard windmill isn't necessarily absurd.

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ClareBroommaker
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Are cotton rags better to use

Are cotton rags better to use than raw cotton fiber?  How about grass fiber?  Flax fiber? The fiber of various wild plants whose brown leaves persist through winter?

kevin_2050
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I can't speak from experience yet

The idea with using cotton rags, I think, is that one is recycling the fiber. Also, at this point in history cotton scraps are common and can be gotten for free. I suppose this means that we're talking about a product of scarcity industrialism, or maybe even late phase abundance industrialism. Further down the curve of decline, when people begin to realize the value & utility of old scraps, they may cost something; or so I imagine.

Linen (flax) is superior to cotton. I would *love* to have linen paper. Hemp also is reputed to be very tough. I've heard that thistle makes good thread - I think it's the thistle stem - and I'd like to try it as a material for paper. But I've already burned out a blender on plants gathered in nature, so I'll be proceeding cautiously.

Blueberry
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Both

Paper for printing US money will contain cotton rags (new 100 percent cotton cloth from clothing manfactures, scrapes) in the mix. Legal paper for court documents will be  new 75-100% cotton fiber the reason it is so expensive. If you hold paper up to a light if it contains cotton you will see a water mark telling the amount of cotton. Acid free paper made from cotton fiber will have the longest life and will be much stronger. David

David