Making Recycled Paper The Easy Way
Written by Sally_in_Wales
This is a very simple, no fuss method for making sheets of paper out of easily found materials.
A bowl to soak paper scraps in
A rectangular washing up bowl or silimar to use as a vat
A sheet of aluminium mesh (see below)
A stick blender or a whisk and a bit of patience
A plank or chopping board
A pile of smooth lint free cloths
Start by tearing scrap paper into your soaking bowl. You can use pretty much anything, today I'm using dead envelopes and waste paper, but newspaper or yellow pages are excellent for a first go. Be aware that the softer the starting paper, the softer your finished paper. Newspapers pulp really easily and are great to use with children as there is very little waiting time, but they do give a softish, grey paper.
Next, boil the kettle and pour boiling water over the torn paper. You can use cold, but I think it helps soften the pulp faster to start with boiling, and in the case of well handled or stored paper it might help kill off any mould spores or other ickies. You can leave this for several hours or overnight at this point.
Whilst we wait, a word about that aluminium mesh. Traditional papermaking uses a mould and deckle, often approximated at home by netting tacked over a picture frame. This is fine if you have time and resources to put one together, but if you don't or if you want to do this with a crowd of children, aluminium mesh is my secret weapon. You get this from car repair places (Halfords or similar) where it will be found with the fiberglass and bodywork supplies. You can also get it online. It should cost anything between £1 and £2 for a roughly A4 sized piece, and you can cut it smaller with scissors if you want. You don't need to do anything to it, its ready to use straight out of the packet, and lasts forever.
When the paper breaks up easily, give it a whizz or work it well by hand and whisk until you have a smooth pulp (add a drop of hot water if doing this by hand, cold paper pulp feels a bit disconcertingly slimy!)
We're ready to make the paper! Half fill your vat with warm water (again, it just feels nicer that way) and tip in two or three cupfulls of pulp, keep the rest for topping up with later. Give it a swish to spread the pulp out evenly.
Put ready on the draining board, or if outside, a chopping board or similar, with a piece of cloth on it. If you are making lots, the best thing of all are those j-cloths you get in the supermarket, they can be re-used and give a really good finish, but I didnt have any to hand so am using old teatowels (which I really should have ironed first, but we'll treat this as 'art paper' :wink: )
You need to do the next three pictures in one smooth movement. Hold the mesh by the very edges, and slide it into the vat, hold it under the surface for a second or two, then smoothly lift it stright up. You should have a nice even layer of pulp on it. If not, turn it over, let the pulp fall off, and try again. It takes a couple of goes to get the feel of any new vat of paper.
Let the pulp drip for a few moments, then carefully and fairly swiftly turn it over onto the cloth covered board. Press down hard on the mesh with both hands to squish out some water, then lift off the mesh to reveal a very soggy and fragile piece of paper.
If the paper looks really thin, you can put another layer of pulp on top of it. if you are happy, carefully put another cloth on top of it, and make your next piece of paper as squarely on top of the first as you can.
If you like, you can add inclusions, here I've put wisps of blue wool on top of a thickish layer of pulp, then put a very thin layer of pulp on top to sandwich it all together. You can use pressed flowers, feathers and leaves successfully like this.
Keep going, adding more pulp when the vat starts to get a bit thin.
When you have built a stack of as many pieces of paper and cloths as you like, press the last one down really hard to force water out of the pile and angle the board into the sink to drip for a while.
Very carefully peel apart the cloths and hang them out to dry with the soft paper stuck to them (this is where the j-cloths work really well, they dry very fast and you get loads in a pack that can be cut up to slightly bigger than your mesh sheets) The teatowels take a bit longer to drip.
When the paper is almost dry you should be able to peel it off the cloth easily. It can be ironed if you need a smooth finish, or left slightly lumpy for a base for cards or other crafts. Try pressing it between linen cloth for a very posh finish. Trim the edges if you wish.
Any sheets that don't work well, just drop back into the vat and you can start again.