The basics of making paper

I start with a very over simplified description of paper-making, and also provide a brief mention of why knowledge of grain matters to craftspeople. Rather more serious descriptions ~ using the proper vocabulary ~ are also available ~ follow the links at the bottom of the page. Most modern paper is made by machine ~ we have a note on that [113017].

Paper is made from the fibres which serve to keep plants ~ trees ~ bamboo ~ papyrus ~ grass ~ bushes ~ upright as they are growing. These fibres are mashed up by bashing and mashing the stalks ~ by various methods ~ with lots of water, toform a soupy sludge. Some of this is spread out on a large flat seive and the water drains away. The mass of fibres collected in the seive is allowed to dry and will form a lump of fairly stiff and spongy board ~ especially if a little glue is added to the mix. This is called papier mâché. If, as it dries, it is also moulded around a shape it makes useful packaging ~ an egg box is a good example. If, whilst seiving and before and during drying, the mash is spread out thinly and then squashed a bit it will make cardboard. If very finely mixed ~ even more thinly spread ~ squashed a lot ~ carefully dried against a smoothish surface ~ then it will make paper. There are may things that have to be 'just right'. A paper-making apprenticeship last several years.

The 'paper' just described does not have any grain. The fibres are all bundled around in the sludgy mix, and lie all over the place. As the water is squeezed and dried out the fibres interlock. For some people that is a good thing ~ it makes the paper stronger. The fibres that made the original plant stalks strong are still intact, and now act as reinforcement for the rest of the paper. The advantages of this are explained, in some detail, on the page of notes about grain [113023].

There are numerous names or trade-names for traditional handmade papers ~
~ Khadi (India) [120729]
~ lokta (Nepal) [122241]
~ mulberry
~ Two Rivers (Somerset, UK)
~ washi (Japan) [126791]
~ Xuan (China) [113527]

Readers may wish to browse on related topics, some of which are listed below.

Traditional handmade paper names or trade-names ~ Khadi (India) ~ lokta (Nepal) ~ Two Rivers (Somerset, UK) ~ washi (Japan) ~ Xuan (China)

~ Why knowing about grain is important [127784].

~ Ways of finding the direction of paper's grain (0) check the length ~ [122082].

~ Ways of finding the direction of paper's grain (1) tear it ~ [122082].

~ Ways of finding the direction of paper's grain (2) wet it ~ [122092].

~ Ways of finding the direction of paper's grain (3) ~ cheat it [123382].

~ Ways of finding the direction of paper's grain (4) ~ paste it [124341].

~ Ways of not finding the direction of paper's grain (5) ~ guess it [117509]


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