Handmade Papermaking with Pulp

Simple Instructions for Papermaking

Use handmade paper for artwork, card making, paper crafts or as a surface for stitch.

Handmade paper can be made from pulp, linters, recycled paper and plant materials. The materials are beaten and combined with water to make a slurry. The paper is made when the cellulose molecules are combined. This occurs when the pulp slurry is deposited on the screen of the papermaking mould and undergoes hydrogen bonding.

A Mould and Deckle is used to scoop the slurry from the pulp mix; the Deckle is an empty frame while the Mould is another frame which has mesh screen stretched across it. The frame rests on the mesh side of the deckle and when the mould and deckle is pulled through the slurry it captures the pulp fibres on the mesh and allows water to drain through the holes.

Papermaking Mould And Deckle Diagram

Handmade paper with deckle edge

To make handmade paper you will need the following items:

  • Pulp crumble or/and linters or/and recycled waste papers to make a slurry
  • Papermaking Mould and deckle
  • Washing up bowl (larger than the Mould & Deckle)
  • 2 wooden boards (for pressing excess water from paper)
  • Couching cloths
  • Handheld blender or liquidiser

Preparation

Cover your work surfaces with newspaper or a protective cover. If using linters or old paper, tear into strips and soak overnight in cold water.

  1. Empty the pulp crumble into a washing up bowl half full of warm water. Using a hand held blender, blend for 10-15 seconds. The pulp slurry should look like porridge and feel like silk. Repeat this process if lumps remain (if using linters or recycled papers, blend in the goblet of a liquidiser which is half-filled with water, but be careful not to overload).
  2. Prepare an area for couching (pronounced coo-ching; the process of transferring the wet sheet from the mould to a flat, absorbent surface). Place a few layers of towels or newspaper on top of your first wooden board and position a couching cloth on top of the pile. You can use a variety of absorbent items for couching; the felt couching cloths are extra thick and absorbent, or you can use cut up woollen blankets, layers of paper towel, or even old cotton sweatshirts! Your couching cloths should be soaked in water, squeezed out and used damp.
  3. Every time you make a new sheet of paper, you will need to put down a new couching cloth to receive it (it is a good idea to have a supply of them at the ready).

How to use the Papermaking Mould and Deckle

You are now ready to make a sheet of handmade paper.

Go back and stir your pulp slurry, which will by now have settled unhelpfully at the bottom of the bowl. (a) Hold the mould and deckle firmly together, mould side up, deckle on top. Plunge them at 45 degrees into the gently swirling pulp mixture, at the far side of the bowl, (b) and gently bring them towards you, still under the surface, until horizontal.

(a)
Mould And Deckle In Pulp For Papermaking 1
(b)
Mould And Deckle Papermaking Slurry 2

(c) Lift the mould and deckle horizontally out of the bowl, allowing the water to drain through the mesh. (d) Gently shake them as you lift, side to side and back to front, to create a strong hydrogen bond. The sheet is 90% water at this stage. (e) Remove the deckle and allow surplus water to drain away to a few drips.

(c)
Mould And Deckle Draining Paper Slurry 3
(d)Pulp Slurry On Papermaking Mould
(e)Remove Deckle From Mould 4(e)Pulp slurry on papermaking mould ready for couching

Now comes the difficult bit – getting the pulp off the papermaking mould! This is easier than it looks.
(f) Place the long edge of the mould along the side of the couching cloth. The trick is to push down at the beginning and pull up at the end, transferring your weight from one side of the frame to the other in an even, continuous movement. This will roll the wet pulp firmly off the mound and place in onto the couching cloth.

(f 1)Taking Pulp Off The Papermaking Mould 5(f 2)Taking Pulp Off The Papermaking Mould 6(f 3)Taking Pulp Off The Papermaking Mould 7

(g) Cover the wet paper with a new couching cloth and then place the second wooden board on top. Press with a heavy weight (or even stand on the top board if it will take your weight!) to squeeze out the water.  You may choose to stack several wet sheets of paper, with a couching cloth between each sheet, like a pile of pancakes. Leave the stack under a heavy weight or in a press overnight.

(h) After pressing, separate out the stack so that each sheet of handmade paper is resting on a couching cloth and leave to dry before removing the sheet.

A little about Papermaking Pulps

Linters are made from the pulp of short cotton fibres, partially beaten and formed into dry sheets that resemble blotting paper. You simply tear them up, soak them overnight and then blend them with a food blender to create paper porridge. These Cotton Linters will create a smooth paper with strength, durability and permanence.

The pulp from the Daphne bush can be used to make the highly textured Lokta paper which is offered on this site.

You can use any plant fibre for papermaking, the fibres can be ‘broken’ down further by boiling them in a solution of soda ash.

Lets Dance Paper Sculpture By Susan Cutts
‘Let’s Dance’ by Susan Cutts

Experimenting

  • Include the various papermaking additives in your pulp to create superior handmade paper. Keep notes of the results.
  • Add texture and detail to your handmade paper by adding petals, seeds or threads to the pulp.
  • Colour the pulp with pigments, natural dyes or recycled coloured paper. The Selectasine Eco Pigments disperse easily in the pulp while natural dyes bring the aesthetic colours of nature.
  • Create a watermark by attaching a wire shape to your mesh. Less pulp will cling to the wire, creating a watermark in the mirror image of your shape.
  • To vary the texture, try drying the paper on the mould itself, or pressing between towels or net curtains.
  • Try making papers from plant materials. Fibres are cooked in a solution of water and Soda ash to dissolve the non-cellulose part of the plant. The remaining fibre is then chopped up and beaten into a pulp using a blender.
  • Use starch for sizing the pulp so that it makes the paper less porous improving the surface for writing or painting.
  • Create sculptures from your handmade paper, see this inspirational film from paper sculptor Susan Cutts
  • Explore different ways of drying your sheets of handmade paper. Flipping the damp sheet off the couching cloth onto a window or mirror gives a smooth surface to the paper. A Dry Box, constructed from layers of box cardboard with a corrugated centre, allows air to pass through between the damp sheets and the couching cloths, see how Sarah Miller from Miner Books Co made her Dry Box!

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