Introduction: How to Make and Recycle Paper

Picture of How to Make and Recycle Paper

We all know that recycling paper is one way of reducing our ecological footprint by lowering the total amount of waste we produce. However, many people don't know how paper is actually recycled, or even how much of the items they put out in recycling bins actually gets recycled. In this article I will explain how easy it is to make paper using a very simple process that utilizes tools readily available in the market or even at home. It's fun, straight-forward and you help protect the environment by recycling your own paper!

Items needed:
- 2 *identical* picture frames. Get rid of the glass/acrylic sheet and only use the frame itself
- some sort of mesh, something like what is used on windows to keep the bugs out. You can get a fiberglass roll of this stuff for $7 at any hardware store (e.g. the Home Depot) and it works great
- duct tape
- nails and/or stapler
- hammer
- large tub that can fit both frames (one on top of the other) horizontally
- pestle and mortar or blender to mash up the paper to form a pulp
- old wool/acrylic/polyester blanket that can be cut up
- spray bottle
- sponge
- manual press or lots of books to press the paper down and squeeze water from the paper pulp
- paper (preferably used computer paper, as newspaper will give you bad quality recycled paper)
- something to cover your work space because this can get messy ;)

The picture below is just for the icon for this step. This picture is in context on step 5.

Step 1: Making the Frame!

Picture of Making the Frame!

Alright, so the first thing we need to make is the frame with the mesh. This will be used to scoop up the pulp in the tub, ultimately forming the paper. This meshed frame is called "mold".

To do this, get one of the frames and put it on a table, with the smooth side facing up (the side without the grooves where you attach the back of the picture frame). Get your mesh/netting and put it on top of the picture frame. Cut up a piece that roughly matches the size of the picture frame.

Align the mesh so that it covers the whole picture frame, then nail it down. Make sure the net is *straight*, if it's wrinkly it won't work properly. I used a stapler because it's easier. If you use a normal stapler, slowly staple the mesh down to avoid bending the staples.

After the net is in place, hammer down the nails/staples to make sure they are "in" the wood, you don't want any spiky nails or staples sticking out.

(see pic)

Cut out any extra mesh you have (whatever is not on top of the frame) and duct tape the sides of the frames. Do not go over the "middle" of the frame, only tape the sides.

(see pics)

Your mold is now ready. The other frame remains unnetted, and is called the "deckle".

Now cut out the blanket in pieces that cover one of the frames entirely. After you've done that, it's time to shred paper.

(see pic)

Step 2: Making Paper Pulp!

Picture of Making Paper Pulp!

It's better to leave the shredded paper in water overnight so that it breaks down more easily, but you can do it without that. Put some shredded paper in a blender, add water (more water than paper) and blend it all together. You can do this manually using a pestle and mortar.

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When you don't see any clumps of paper or unshredded paper, you can stop blending it. You now have paper pulp.

Dump this paper pulp into the large tub and add water so that it covers the mold and deckle (one on top of the other) horizontally.

(see pic)

Step 3: Pulp to Paper

Picture of Pulp to Paper

Before you dip the mold and deckle in the tub, spray one of the blanket pieces with water, this will make transferring the paper pulp to the blanket easier.

(see pic)

After that, dip the frames in the tub. Note that the mold goes at the bottom, with the netted side facing up, and the deckle goes on top of it, smooth side facing down. If you don't use the two frames like this, you will probably not be able to remove the paper from the picture frame. It all makes sense when you do it yourself.

(see pic)

Rock the frames in the tub and make sure that the pulp is evenly distributed. When the mixture in the water is homogeneous, quickly lift up both frames. The pulp will get stuck to the mold. Let it drip for about 10 seconds and remove the deckle. You will notice that there is no pulp where the deckle was.

(see pic)

Step 4: Frame to Blanket

Picture of Frame to Blanket

Align one side of the mold (pulp facing the blanket) with the blanket and slowly lower the picture frame until it lays flat.

(see pic)

Once the mold is flat on the blanket (pulp facing down), get a sponge and press it down on the net to suck up as much water as you can from the pulp.

(see pic)

After that, slowly lift up the mold. The paper pulp will remain attached to the blanket, and you can now reuse your frame.

(see pic)

Step 5: Making More Paper!

Picture of Making More Paper!

Lay another blanket on top of the one you were just working on and press it down to squeeze as much water out of it as you can. I don't have a press, so I use a bunch of heavy books (that's where a lot of my university investments went to, to use books to press paper :( )

(see pic)

If you keep making paper, you will eventually need to add pulp to the tub. Add pulp as you need it, and pile the newly made sheets on top of each other. Once you are done, put the books on top of the whole pile and let them sit for a while.

After a couple of hours, remove the books and lay the blankets with the paper pulp one by one to dry. It takes a while to dry, so be patient (about 1 day).

(see pic)

Step 6: Conclusion!

Picture of Conclusion!

Once dry, peel the paper off the blanket. You will notice that the paper is wavy. To straighten it, put it in a thick book or in a phone book and press it down with more books. Leave it there for a few hours and you'll have some nicely home made paper to write on, print on, and make all sorts of crafts!

I use paper recycled this way with my photography to make nice greetings cards that I mail to friends etc. I also sell them through my website! :)

Be creative with your new hand crafted paper and tell me what you've done with it!


ChrisC527 (author)2017-04-22

use this wallboard mixing tool with a drill and a 5 gallon bucket with hot water and paper, i wouldnt go more than half way or you will make a mess. It easily munches up the paper into pulp or slurry.

the minecrafth (author)2017-03-30

DO NOT put the paper in a Blender! it wears down the blades a ton rendering the blender useless! i origionaly discovered i coudl make paper by accidently making pulp by hand! to do so take paper shreds (MUST BE CROSS CUT) put it in a cup of water and use ur hands to sqush an squeeze it, after 5-10 minutes you will have a nice bucket of pulp! :)

khawajanadeem (author)2015-09-19

It is very difficult process. Secondly I want good quality and quantity of paper. How is it possible to manufacture and sell it commercially.

You would need machines multiple expensive machines

LynnseyP (author)khawajanadeem2016-09-23

Then don't make it, buy the the paper someone already made for you.

DeniseQ (author)2014-08-08

i dont know what mesh means. i am confused on what to do. HELP ME! please :]

khawajanadeem (author)DeniseQ2015-09-19

I am interested in the recycling process. Kindly send me some more details of

your knowledge at my email address

She wontm do that

the minecrafth (author)DeniseQ2017-03-30

Seriously, open your window and touch the screen, thats mesh

leon-geyer (author)DeniseQ2017-01-22

Google translations :)
I suppose you speak spanish = malla

LynnseyP (author)DeniseQ2016-09-23

It is like the screen in your window.

Boygasmo (author)DeniseQ2014-09-03

Mesh is like a screen you use for your windows to keep the bugs out. I use my window screen and it works just as effectively as anything.

HermioneGranger070527 made it! (author)2017-03-18

Sounds fun but hard... and I did it!

Nuzi (author)2017-03-18

It sounds Fun!

shemerae (author)2016-08-13

hi, Quite interesting, how can I make smooth paper? Can I use glass instead of a wire mesh?

lidiae (author)shemerae2016-09-27

you can use fabric filter, usually it used for making tofu

LynnseyP (author)shemerae2016-09-23

No, the mesh allows for the water to escape and the new paper to dry/cure.

RafałH (author)2016-07-04

I did a handmade paper in the house. I must say that even comes out very cool these methods. It's easy just need to do them well. Meuse add to them a little gruel for wood to make it more durable. It can be done in several ways - I did this unusual recommend the latter. Thanks for the nice post.

koreanlove81 (author)2016-03-30

Do u have to have the mesh or can u use something else.

Colby_is_not_a_KRAB (author)2015-09-24

Colby_is_not_a_KRAB (author)2015-09-24

Wira ari (author)2015-07-05

Can you share what other products can be make from paper pulp?

Ariesgirl5959 (author)2015-04-21

I'm using this for my science fair project at school, though it's tomorrow and I haven't started yet so it'll probably still be drying when I bring it, but whatever!

barbie.guevara.9 (author)2015-04-20


I did something like this in school and I was thinking how nice it would be, since mothers day is coming to make a couple of rose petal recycled paper cards. But since you can buy the paper in sheets not much info on diy so any suggestions how to add the rose petals to the paper ? thanks

Bookrestore (author)2014-08-07

could I note that for those trying to imitate a specific paper or finer mesh you can use the paper of choice to dry between. Embossing sheets can be used for consistent stylized design and a blender used for fast emulsification of your pulp. I've even used an old book binding press ($90.00) and a modern vulcanization press ($1700.00) to produce fast, flat, modern paper. Vinegar to whiten news pulp and both food and clothing dye to color it..there is little you can't try! Including keeping your damp product between the shiny sides of two sheets of gortex material (one side felted) then running it through an old washing machine hand cranked or electric mangle..voila! Thin paper ready to dry!

Bookrestore (author)2014-08-07

shiny papers use synthetic sizing to control moisture absorption or wicking. There is no way for us to break ub the bonded fibers without very strong a I'd washes which 'take the nature out of natural'. Instead, we use non-glossy paper and then add a tablespoon of starch per quart for natural sizing. Baring that we can add sizing by making a normal clear gelatin fluid to rinse our finished paper in then re dry. This keeps the ink from absorbing and then we are able to reuse this paper later

peterochs (author)2014-04-15

inspired! used 8 1/2 x 11" beware... now that I think about it, there's a paper shredder in the building here I'm going to be invading...

BFA - sculpture, but have never done papermaking

cp233 (author)2013-07-25

Probably the best guide I've found so far! The only thing I was wandering about is how much starch or white vinegar to use in order to whiten the paper so that it an be written on clearly. Is there a set ratio of water:pulp:starch?

kirstenn (author)2008-10-21

do you have a specific water to paper ratio? im so glad you wrote this, im recycling our office paper into notebooks and things for us. this would be neat for our contracts. :] i know it is typically advised not to, but can shiny paper work for this at all? if not, what makes it not work? thanks again

Chessa (author)kirstenn2012-07-10

when you rip up the papper to half fill an object then full it up with water so all the papper is covered then after sitting for a couple of days then you take some out and put it in an blender with glue and water lots and when the pulp is nice and fine move it to an object of your choice and then get an handfull of the pulp and sqeese must of the water out then you fit it to make what ever it is make it about half an cm thick and then let is dry for a cuple of days

do not use shiny paper because it will have to sit for a cuple of weeks and byr then have gone bad news paper and old phone book are great to use have fun making what ever it is i had fun making a clock with my friends at school it's on my wall at home

ekobor (author)kirstenn2011-05-09

The ratio depends on the thickness of of paper you end up wanting. The more pulp to water in your vat, the thicker the sheet you will eventually pull.

If you mean in a blender for the blending process, 1:3 should work well. If in doubt, add more water. You can always squeeze it out later.

beehard44 (author)kirstenn2009-12-11

i read that as long as your paaper is submerged, then it is fine.

Seifpic (author)kirstenn2009-07-18

i think 1 part paper to 1 & 1/2 part water works good.

Chopsteeq (author)kirstenn2008-10-21

I don't have an exact ratio. You'll just have to try it out and see what it works better with the paper you're using! Shiny paper can work, I've used magazines before, but those that are too shiny might have plastic residues and other stuff in them that might not go well with the rest of the paper pulp.

Nirgal38 (author)2008-06-05

I've made paper using other methods including Bill Nye's "pantyhose/clothes hanger" method. One thing I found especially useful is to iron the paper with a standard clothes iron set on a low setting. I slip it between two commercial sheets of paper then press it for a few minutes. Once I'm sure the last of the water has been heated out of the paper, I take off the commercial paper and give it a quick pressing right on the ironing board. I've made paper from old newspaper (very coarse and not good with runny inks), computer paper (good with pencils), old blue jeans (pretty light blue paper with interesting qualities) and dryer lint (odd colors depending on what I ran through the dryer).

thepelton (author)Nirgal382009-03-20

Pantyhose would be interesting. It sounds like it would give you a finer finish than windowscreen. I would love to try it.

miss janel (author)thepelton2012-03-04

I might suggest patterned tights to make paper with a detailed texture. I actually came to this instructable attempting to find a means by which to use a ripped pair of mine.

miss janel (author)2012-03-04

what is this paper like? does it rip easy? can it be folded? does it hold its shape? I love origami and cutting my own paper, to make the paper for myself alltogether would be great, but it needs to be fairly versitile paper.

BRUL (author)2011-08-13

You don't need to wet the felt. In fact, keeping it dry will make it drie a little faster. Just make sure you soak up a lot of water with the sponge, and carefully remove the mold, assisting on the edges.

21cmcgyver (author)BRUL2011-11-13

Try adding some unsweetened kool-ade to the pulp. Kool-ade makes a great dye. have you ever had it stain a white shirt? Its impossible to get out!

sstols (author)2011-10-19

I Still don't understand the deck bit./ Do you bit a frame of the same size on top of the frame with the mesh? I am new at this, got the mesh, and just have to make the frame.

ahillenb (author)2009-02-06

It looks like the picture frame is under the books, is that what i'm seeing?

jaq_b_qwik (author)ahillenb2011-09-22


Nah, its another piece of felt or wool. The picture frame got removed and another piece of fabric replaced it.

jaq_b_qwik (author)2011-09-22

Do you think cardboard would work?

flydogfly (author)2011-09-22

Wow, thank you for the instructable! I have just finished my first batch and I am waiting for the pulp to dry, I already got some people from my college interrested. :D.
I was able to do this using only ONE frame, but I got my hands dirty. As a final note, the final result of the paper isnt going to be perfected, but dont worry, because that is the charm of the recyced paper. :D

frankenboom (author)2009-04-01

could you use food coloring as a dye? Also, as I am a bit lazy, i dont want to go over to home depot until I absolutely have to, and i'm having trouble finding the right screen online. What is it called exactly? Also, under 15$, if possible

ekobor (author)frankenboom2011-05-09

Food colouring is unlikely to work well. It would run the moment the resulting paper hit any water, and would fade fast. Food colouring doesn't bond to plant fibres like it does to protein fibres. You would want a more commercial grade dye, or start with coloured papers.

gummydani (author)2009-04-04

Hi - this looks really neat. I am looking for a way to make a small disc out of recycled paper that is about the thickness of 10 sheets of paper. Is it possible to make a really thick paper sheet using this method? I also want to but fragrance oil on this disk afterward - would this work do you think?

ekobor (author)gummydani2011-05-09

Your best bet would likely be to pull a couple sheets a few milimeters thick, 10-12 should do, then let dry half way. Then layer them and press together. If they don't readily stick, ad a wee bit of water (just a tiny tiny amount, enough to make it damp) until they want to stick. Then press overnight, and dry like normal. It would dry a bit faster that way (having some dryer sections in the middle) then just cut it.

Or use a round baking pan to "cut" the shape into the still wet sheets (takes so little effort to tear the pulp).

As for fragrance oil, yup, it'll soak in. As for how fats it will leech back out into the air, I don't know. I'd be careful where you put it after putting oil on it though, gravity would cause the oil to want to soak through the bottom and ruin wood furniture and such...

nybras66 (author)gummydani2009-06-02

Why don't yuo use a cylinder form, instead? Something like the cartoon inside toilette paper or every other paper roll. I think yuo can fill it with paper pulp, and once dryed, you can cut the roll in disks like bread. It's only an idea, I don't know if this really work well...

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