HAND PAPERMAKING

10/2019

I started writing this papermaking blog about a year ago and have added to it several times. This time, I am going to delete all of my previous writing and just describe where I have ended up. It has been a evolving, many step process, based on learning things, building equipment, reading, talking to others, and trial and error. I have now built, equipment wise, a conventional paper making studio with a Hollander beater, molds and deckles, a press, and a drying box. My standard size paper, at this time, is 11 x 17 and I can also make half sized sheets by using a split deckle. Someone ask me about making larger sheets and I told them that all it took was a reason to build the larger equipment.

FIBER: My paper is now made mainly from abaca, kozo, and gampi, which are fairly standard art paper fibers. I have also made paper which includes fibers derived from corn husks, leek tops, asparagus peelings, sisal, flax, grasses, bamboo, and artichoke leaves. Some of these can make quite nice paper on their own and some add interesting texture or characteristics to paper based on my three main fibers.

HOLLANDER BEATER: After experimenting with standard blenders and building custom, high capability blenders, I concluded that these do not provide sufficient fiber development and do not work well with all fibers. I spent some time looking for used Hollander Beaters, but ran into two problems. First, they are really, really expensive, in the $8000 to $10000 range. Secondly, they are much larger than I need, ranging from 2 pounds to 10 pounds of fiber per batch. I currently don’t want that much pulp of one type, because of my small operation and because of my emphasis on variety and experimentation. After several false starts, I finally committed to building my own Hollander Beater. After a few design modifications and partial rebuilds, I am now in business. My beater has 0.5 pounds fiber capacity in 5 gallons of water, which is enough for up to 20 sheets of 11 x 17 paper depending on thickness. Basic dimensions of the tub are 24″ long and 16″ wide.

PAPER FORMING: I use conventional molds and deckles and have made single compartment, multiple compartment, and deep deckles. I almost always hand pour my sheets (over synthetic felt) rather than drawing them from a tub. This allows me to make each sheet in a batch a different thickness, a different color, or with different additives. I also like the slow rhythm imparted to paper making while I wait for each sheet to drain and it allows me to mix colors for the next sheet or drain the previous sheet and add it to the post for pressing.

COLORING OF PAPER: I started out using acrylic paints, natural dyes, fabric dyes, and inks. These have several problems. First, they can bleed out of the wet paper and are messy, Second, dyes need a mordant, some of which remains in the finished paper. Third, for natural dyes, in many cases, I was unable to get the bright colors shown in my dying books. My experiments did show me several interesting results I can achieve, so I may still use these coloring methods for some future batches. Now, mainly, I use ground and suspended pigments along with a retention bonding agent, purchased from Carriage House Paper. Colors can be very strong, and they are permanent and lightfast. If you don’t over-pigment a piece, then the pigment does not bleed out of the wet sheet.

DRYING: My early papers were air dried and showed high shrinkage along with wrinkling. People have expressed interest in these papers, so I can still make them as needed. For more uniform, flat paper, I now use a home built conventional drying box with corrugated cardboard separators, blotters, and fans.

OVERALL SHOP ASSESSMENT: I work on a ‘wet bench’ of 3′ wide by 9′ long. It is large enough for the batch sizes of paper I am making and keeps the water contained and draining away. This bench and much of my general equipment such as containers, trays, and racks were purchased from a restaurant supply store which also deals in used equipment. All these items have served me well.

The photos below show my shop,

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Wet bench and other equipment
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Screw Press, Hollander Beater, and Drying Box. The press and beater are stored on swing down shelves above the bench and lowered with small rope hoists for use.
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Supplies and Paper Storage with Formica Top for Air Drying.

CLASSES:

I have attended three classes so far. First, in March 2019, I attended a 2 day workshop in pulp painting at The Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. We were taught various methods for forming sheets and applying pulp paint.

Second, a 5 day workshop in papermaking at Carriage House Paper in Brooklyn, New York, covering a very comprehensive group of techniques and methods for making and decorating paper. When I got home from this class, the summer issue of Hand Papermaking was waiting for me and I was able to look at every piece of paper and art in the issue and figure out how it was made. Since then I have been experimenting with and practicing what I learned.

Third, I recently attended a one day book binding seminar in Knoxville because I wanted to see how my paper would work in books. It did work but differed from the paper furnished in that it was thicker and a little harder to glue. It was also more porous and subject to glue bleed through. I can correct these problems either by the addition of sizing or by using methyl cellulose glue, which disappears as it dries. The three small books I made are shown here.

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QUOTE:

“I WAS SOOTHED BY THE WATER, MY CONSTANT STUDIO COMPANION”

(Amy Richard in October 2019 Hand Papermaking Newsletter)