I started writing this papermaking blog about a 18 months ago and have modified it several times. It has been a evolving, many step process, based on learning things, building equipment, reading, talking to others, and trial and error. I now have, equipment wise, a conventional paper making studio with a wet work area, Hollander beater, molds and deckles, a press, vacuum table, and a drying box. My standard size paper is 11 x 17 and I can also make half, third or quarter sheets by using a split deckle. Larger sheets won’t be attempted until 2021.
FIBER: My paper is now made mainly from abaca, cotton, linen, flax, kozo, and gampi, which are all fairly standard art paper fibers. I have also made paper with fibers from corn husks, leek tops, asparagus peelings, sisal, flax, grasses, bamboo, moss, and artichoke leaves. Some of these can make quite nice paper on their own and can also be used to add interesting texture or characteristics to paper.
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 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. Basic dimensions of the tub are 24″ long and 16″ wide. My beater has been in operation over a year now. It has undergone several iterations and works pretty well.
PAPER FORMING: I almost always hand pour my sheets (over synthetic felt) rather than drawing them from a tub. This allows me to work with smaller amounts of pulp and 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. I have abandoned all of these in favor of archival paper pigments, used with a retention agent. This was messy at first, when coloring single sheets, but I have gotten things under control by diluting the pigments in eye dropper bottles. One sheet of paper typically only needs 1 to 10 drops of the dilute pigment!
DRYING: My early papers were air dried and showed high shrinkage and wrinkling. For more uniform, flat paper, I now use a home built 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 used from a restaurant supply store. All these items have served me well.
The photos below show my shop,
CLASSES: I have attended three classes so far, pulp painting at Morgan Conservatory, a week intensive at Carriage House Paper, and a one day book binding seminar.
QUOTES: “I WAS SOOTHED BY THE WATER, MY CONSTANT STUDIO COMPANION” (Amy Richard in October 2019 Hand Papermaking Newsletter). “I NEED MORE STORAGE SPACE!!!!! (lots of paper makers say this).