If you’re anything like me, you recycle a lot of paper. Did you know that, instead of hauling a bag of paper to the bins each week, you can recycle it yourself? Quite simply, paper is the basic ingredient in paper. With a few common household items, time, and a little practice you can turn paper scraps into artisan recycled paper. This, in turn, you can use as unique stationary, wrapping paper, or as a base for other hobbies like drawing or calligraphy. Papermaking is also a fantastic, hands-on educational activity for kids.
- Scrap paper
- Bucket or soup pot
- Plastic tub (approx 20l, the size of a large dishpan)
- Mold & deckle*
Step 1: Pulp
The first thing you need to do is tear up your scrap paper and soak it, at least overnight. Depending on what kind of paper you have, you may need to soak it longer. As a rule, the cheaper and flimsier the paper, the less time it needs to soak. Tissue paper, for example is done in an hour. Good quality printer paper can take a couple of days to completely soften. You can speed up the soaking process by pouring boiling water over the paper. Once it is thoroughly softened, put it in a blender, a few handfuls at a time, and blend for 15-30 seconds to form rough pulp.
Step 2: Dunk
Once you have a good supply of pulp, pour about three litres into your plastic tub and top up with cold water to about 8cm below the top. Stir well with your hand or a wooden spoon. Then, to form a sheet of paper, gently dunk your mold (instructions below) into the tub, vertically, lengthwise. Bring the mold toward you in a scooping motion until it is horizontal in the tub, 5-6cm below the surface of the liquid. Left it out gently, holding it level, and let it drain. Then, place the deckle (instructions below) in the frame and completely immerse them in the water. As you lift them out give them a quick shake back and forth and side to side to spread the pulp. Let them drain for about 30 seconds before removing the deckle.
Step 3: Dry
The easiest way to dry your paper, especially on a sunny day, is to put the whole frame outside and let nature take its course. You can prop the frame up against something for optimum sun and wind exposure, just be sure it is placed somewhere secure it won’t blow away!
How to make a mold & deckle
These are basically two frames of equal sizes you use, as above, to create the sheet of paper. The simplest way is to get two old picture frames and staple fine mesh to one to make the mold. Hobby papermaking site Paper Slurry has a good video tutorial.
What would you make with recycled paper? Share in the comments!