Sunday, February 17, 2013

the nitty gritty details

round two of paper-making, lessons learned:

  • we each do better at some tasks than others.  fortunately, our strengths complement each others', so if we stick with what we do well, things go more smoothly.  diana is excellent at shredding the material and making it appropriately pulpy.  i do best at putting the pulp into the screen and filling in gaps and pressing out the majority of the liquid.  diana is fantastic at rolling to press out even more water.  
  • size matters.  big clumps of wet paper pulp do not cling to each other nearly as well or as attractively as tiny bits.
  • despite my original analogy to working with dough, paper pulp does not cooperate with being moved and squished into another space after the majority of wetness is removed.
  • some things take a really, really long time to dry.
  • toilet paper really is absorbent. 
add SHREDDED toilet paper to HOT water and let it all soak for a while.  big pieces take longer to work with. you might as well tear them into smaller pieces at the beginning so you don't have to have your hands in wet goo quite so long.
when it's cool enough to touch, get your hands in there and moosh it up (awesome sensory experience, by the way)...
...until it gets to this kind of consistency.

have the right tools for the job.  in this case, a screen and shallow pan.
scoop the pulpy slush into the framed screen and allow water to drain. the big tip here is to make sure the pulp is distributed evenly so there won't be weak points in the finished product. you can push the pulp down into the screen with your fingers or the back of a spoon, draining the pan as often as necessary.
this was our first attempt. note how bumpy and uneven it looks.
flip over onto felt and gently tap on the screen. it should come out easily and in one piece.

this one did not.  we tried some repair.
place a second piece of felt on top and roll till the cows come home. having a thick, absorbent towel underneath the whole thing just might save your wooden table from pesky water stains.

place paper on waxed paper and allow to dry.  direct sunlight works best; a hair dryer on low can speed things up just a little but the effort did not appear to pay off.  this was our second piece. you can easily tell the difference in consistency.

what i have read since this production run is that adding a bit of liquid starch or possibly white glue to the pulp make keep ink from bleeding into the paper.  we have not tested this yet.  actually, we haven't even written on any of the paper yet.  we rushed to have a sufficient quantity of sheets for diana's birthday celebration and ended up not even pulling them out.

looking forward to seeing how they might be used, though...

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