DIY: Paper

As part of the process of developing my workflow for Corvus, I’ve been trying to find the best way to handle the fairly considerable amount of scrap paper which is generated by the publishing process. Printing errors, test printings, failed experiments, unused corners and ends–all of this stuff piles up, and there is a lot more of it as I start to experiment with handbinding and with formats other than the 8.5×5.5 pamphlet. I’m fortunate to have very good recycling options here, so presumably nothing need go to waste. But an awful lot of what is piling up in the work area these days is also pretty high-quality scraps, full of interesting fiber from various sources. Some problems are solved easily. For example, the larger pieces of palm paper left from “Whisper-Song of the Catbird” can be bound together as notepads. For the rest, I’m trying an experiment in onsite recycling, making new paper from my paper scraps–and whatever other interesting fiber happens to be handy. I have built two very simple sets of molds and deckles in the last week, and experimented with the acid-free fibers closest to hand. A first set of four 8.5 x 11″ sheets–made with paper scraps, pulverized denim from some old blue jeans, and a bit of dryer lint; dipped from too small a tub, and not terribly well pressed–proved it could be done, and pretty easily. I headed from the local dollar store yesterday, and put together a deckle, mold and press for roughly 6 x 9″ sheets–all for under $10. All the parts are the sort of cheap Chinese goods that probably wouldn’t exist in a sane economy, but I really wanted to see if I could actually improve my makeshift rig with the sort of thing likely to be floating around in a thrift store. Two mirrors and some window screen (already purchased for the first set, for less than $2 a yard) made the mold and deckle. Two cheap towels, a few sheets of craft felt, some handi-wipes, two small C-clamps and two of the ugliest laminate-on-particleboard “paintings” I have ever seen made a workable press. A couple of minutes’ work with my much-abused blender, and a few more to dip out a half-dozen sheets, then into the press while I made breakfast–and I have a batch of much nicer paper-sheets set out to dry.

All the instructions were on the internet. I read very elaborate directions, and watched videos that involved $1000 pulp-beaters, and then read the shortest, simplest stuff I could find–and finally scaled things to my needs and pocketbook. Adding fiber from yard waste, or botanicals from the local woods, will only require a couple of added steps, and the purchase of a few common chemicals to neutralize acid and lignins. I should, ultimately, be able to cover the boards for the scrap-paper notepads with homemade paper, or even to print on what I’ve made (though this requires a couple more small increases in sophistication.) Of course, this stuff is worth doing just for the pleasure of getting to know something directly about paper, which is such an important part of my world. I encourage others to try the experiment.

[I’ll make a fuller report later, and will document the whole process in a forthcoming pamphlet.]

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

1 Comment

  1. Very cool. I’ve wanted to make my own paper for awhile now. Keep us all posted on your progress!

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