Making Paper at Home

Making paper yourself is a bit time-consuming but not especially complicated, and you probably have most or all of the necessary raw materials.

| December/January 1993

making paper - step 1

Fill a five gallon plastic vat with three quarts of pulp. Add cold water to within 3 inches of the top. Insert mold and deckle vertically.


Although making paper is a common enough activity, making paper at home is not because few are familiar with the techniques involved. As a calligrapher, I was initially drawn to making my own paper so that I would be able to practice my art on interesting and unusual "canvas."

I'd never realized how simple the process actually is. You probably have most of the equipment already; what you don't have you can make. Also, in addition to creating beautiful stationery, I take pride in knowing that I'm helping to reduce waste in our throwaway society.

Waste Paper into Pulp 

Recycled-paper pulp can be made from tissues, computer paper, photocopier paper, wrapping paper, brown paper, note paper, or envelopes — all used on their own or in combination. Tear the paper into pieces measuring approximately one inch square and soak in water overnight. The better the quality of the paper, the smaller you need to tear the pieces and the longer you need to soak them. For example, tissues can be torn into quite large pieces and soaked for only 30 minutes, while watercolor paper needs to be torn into pieces less than one inch square and soaked for two or three days. If you're in a hurry, pour boiling water over the torn paper and allow it to stand for an hour or two.

Place a small handful of wet, torn paper and two cups of water in a blender and blend for 15 to 30 seconds. (Thick cardboard or quality papers will take longer.) After a while, experience will tell you how long to blend different kinds of paper. Remember when first starting out, blend paper for the shortest possible time — just long enough for the fibers to separate. Stop the machine after 15 seconds and check; if there are still large pieces of paper visible, allow another 10 seconds and check again. If the pulp is too thick, add more water; do not dilute it too much or you will produce fine, fragile sheets that are difficult to work with. Don't worry about little bits that do not break down entirely; they will add character to your finished product.

If you don't have a blender, beat the soaked paper strips into pulp by pounding them in a bucket with a thick stick or bottle filled with water. Although pounding the pulp is historically more authentic than using electric appliances, be forewarned: it is hard, time-consuming work.

After blending the pulp, pour it into a bucket or large plastic bottle until you have enough for several sheets. Figure that one load in the blender will make one thin sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" paper. A two-gallon bucket of pulp will make 20 to 25 sheets.

9/6/2013 4:56:56 AM

Your information about paper recycling is useful. Using papers for making the paper cup is one of the recycling activities of papers.

8/27/2013 6:57:45 AM

This article is useful for children to know how to make papers. Different varieties of papers used to make cup are made with high quality raw materials which enables recycling.

elm whitewillow
6/25/2012 10:13:15 PM

I agree with Jeff. Also the instructions were a bit confusing.

jeffrey terhoeve
10/24/2011 8:19:29 AM

Nice story. It would be nice to see some pictures of the actual process and some of what the finished product would/could look like.

william pople
7/24/2011 6:06:15 AM

I would think you could check the acidity of your slurry with a pool tester and add alter the ph as needed. There are places on the net to see the correct chemicals to use. It becomes a big math problem to determine what and how much to use. If you have a small vat and only a little way to go to reduce the acidity then you can use a small quantity of a strong base or a large quantity of a weak base. Example of common bases are agricultural lime and backing soda; both common and Eco-friendly. Depending on how far off the ph is use the drain and fill method to dilute the acid and bring the ph up to Neutral(neutral is 7.0 acid is less Alkaline/base is higher). Note adding bleach to the water will make the slurry slightly acidic. I'm not sure if neutralizing the bleach will negate the mold killing/ whitening effect one would be using it for. One thing I'm curious about is if we wanted to add seeds to the paper to make it "plant-able"; when do we sprinkle the seeds? I know to add flowers or herbs to the paper you would do it while draining the paper to have a few strands on top to encapsulate the decorations. Would the seeds go in then or right before the couching?

ruth bradfield
2/9/2011 3:08:45 PM

Good information on paper making. However if you use recycled papers that are not acid free, your paper will not be archival, and it will yellow and become brittle, and ruin any other thing you may put on it, like photos. There is an aerosol spray available that says it makes paper acid free, but it will be expensive to spray a lot of paper with this. Recycling SOUNDS good, but if you want to create a work of art that will last you might want to think twice about using recycled papers with an unknown acid quantity. Newspaper is notoriously bad to use for paper making as it is highly acidic. Just look at what happens to a newspaper after it sits around for a while and you will see what the problem is. Maybe the author has a way to make his recycled paper acid-free. If so he should include that information in this article. Cardboard also has a lot of unknown glues and stuff in it.

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