Pulp Friction!

Following the last post on recycling post into handmade paper, I thought I’d have a go with corrugated card which is something I often find myself storing up, baling up and taking to the recycling centre. Before I begin I would like to say that there are some excellent videos on paper making on YouTube as well some good step-by-step tutorials right over the web, so I’m not going to attempt to try to add anything to what is already there, but thought I would share my own process. As always I welcome comments and advice from those more experienced, adventurous or curious…

I began with cutting up an old Amazon book package, some offcuts of brown parcel paper and a scrap of green stuff left over from my tickets. The green stuff went in to see if I could add a few flecks of colour into the brown. This was left overnight to soften up.

A minute or so on full pelt in the blender left me with this rather unappetising slop…

…with some encouraging green flecks! Then it is poured into a large plastic tub, into about 4 inches of water.

And vigorously mixed to distribute the pulp throughout…

It’s time I introduced the equipment. This consists of two parts; the mould, on which the paper is created, and the deckle, which gives the paper its edges.

The mould is a simple wooden frame with a mesh screen pulled tight across the top. The deckle is slightly larger and fits over the mould, like a lid with a large hole in it.

As soon as the pulp is freshly mixed, the deckle and mould are held tightly in place and plunged into the pulp mix.

This requires a smooth sweeping downward arc movement from the vertical to the horizontal until the deckle and mould are completely submerged:

The deckle and mould are then gently lifted upwards, keeping it horizontal and not causing too much commotion in the water.

They are then lifted out and gently tipped to drain:

I balance it upon the edge of the tub in order to lift off the deckle. And if you didn’t already know, this is where the term ‘deckle-edge’ originates – this is the untrimmed edge of the paper created by the deckle (‘decke’ – covering in German.)

But this is far from being a sheet of paper; rather a layer of mushy, watery pulp that can be easily wiped off (and reused if you are unhappy with the consistency.) The image below really shows the delicacy, and is of a different mixture that I did later.

The next stage is to remove some of the water. I do this by laying over a sheet of nylon mesh (recycled from screen printing) and using cloths and sponges I gently dab all over to soak up as much excess as I can. The cloth is wrung out into the sink to avoid over diluting the pulp in the tub.

When there is not much more to remove, I take the mould over to a clean dry surface. I am in the kitchen here, and have laid out a disposable kitchen cloth (re-usable too!)  on a glass sheet and I smoothly flip over the mould onto the cloth.

With a dry cloth, I continue to press and dab away any more water. After a short while, the mould can be carefully lifted away… 

…leaving a rather promising layer of wet pulp, trying to look like a sheet of paper. It is still far too wet and fragile to do anything with at this point and needs to dry. So far, I have left mine on a flat surface overnight before transferring them to the garage printshop and hanging them up to dry off fully.

They are much darker when wet, and will be substantially lighter when dry. Here are a few close-ups – the lighter ones are from the same batch of corrugated card with a batch of coarsely blended bright yellow paper pulp:

So what do the final sheets look like?

These are pretty accurate colour matches. They are now going to spend some time sandwiched between stiff card in the press before being recycled again into printed artwork. It’s a very, very satisfying cycle.

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