Instructables

How to Make and Recycle Paper

Featured
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.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
peterochs5 days ago

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

cp2338 months ago
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?
kirstenn5 years ago
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
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 kirstenn2 years ago
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.
i read that as long as your paaper is submerged, then it is fine.

i think 1 part paper to 1 & 1/2 part water works good.
Chopsteeq (author)  kirstenn5 years ago
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.
Nirgal385 years ago
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).
Pantyhose would be interesting. It sounds like it would give you a finer finish than windowscreen. I would love to try it.
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 janel2 years ago
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.
BRUL2 years ago
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 BRUL2 years ago
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!
sstols2 years ago
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.
ahillenb5 years ago
It looks like the picture frame is under the books, is that what i'm seeing?
Ahillenb,

Nah, its another piece of felt or wool. The picture frame got removed and another piece of fabric replaced it.
jaq_b_qwik2 years ago
Do you think cardboard would work?
flydogfly2 years ago
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
frankenboom5 years ago
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
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.
gummydani5 years ago
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?
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...
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...
spydyr nybras664 years ago
Sounds good in theory. I tried to use a toilet paper tube filled to the brim and packed tightly. Took 2 weeks to dry, and even then the interior was still moist. Cutting it was fairly easy with a serrated blade. It wasn't smooth but it worked. So maybe just half full or 1/4 full would be ideal for this set up.
Rectifier6 years ago
Does anyone know how well homemade paper takes ink? I usually write with fountain pens and am constantly annoyed by the inconsistent quality of paper available, some writes beautifully and some "feathers" to the point of unreadability, even within the same pack of paper or journal book. Short of buying big $ nice paper, i think it would be neat to try to make my own. But I get the feeling that this homemade paper, at least, will soak up ink like a paper towel - what kind of finishing is required to make a nice, smooth-writing paper?
You can use unflavored gelatin, Faultless spray starch ( the best), liquid starch or formaldehyde (not the best) to size a.k.a seal the paper fibers to allow writing with fountain pens, markers or for direct use in SOME printers. Read your owners manual and check for use of watercolor or hand made paper. Also, not all (most) ink jet printers have permanency or water resistance, and this will directly affect your quality on handmade paper.
Totally incidental, but my dad was part of the team that developed the Faultless spray starch.
kd1uc Rectifier5 years ago
Paper needs sizing, such as gelatin that 'iconnu' suggested. This seals the fibers and helps prevent bleeding. If the paper you start with has sizing already in it the paper should not bleed very much if at all. I made some out of the 'Yellow Pages" and ran it through my ink jet and tried my fountain pen and found no discernable bleeding.
Rectifier kd1uc5 years ago
cool! so how does one determine if the paper has sizing already? I guess a test scribble with a fountain pen on the scrap paper will tell?
kd1uc Rectifier5 years ago
A test blotch is the best method. Pretty much any commercially made paper has sizing added. If you use a ball point or pencil you don't need sizing but you said you like your fountain pen so... I have been trying to make some paper out of corn husks. I have boiled and reduced the the husks into fibers but I haven't had time to beat it into pulp yet. The mash so far looks great but gross. Right now I dried it so it would not rot too far until I can get the time and ambition at the same time. Just about any vegetation will make paper including grass clippings.
 Grass doesn't have enough fiber in it I don't think. You can only pick certain things and regular grass I doubt would work unless it had grown tall and gotten super wide like it does when it goes to seed... 
Cattails are a good one..it makes are really good pulp!
Grass soaked in builder's lime works, and leaves a grassy scent to the paper made.  I would love to try fennel, myself, and make licorish scented paper.
Hardness and the ability to make ink ride on the top and not soak in and blur is a problem I have had with making paper. You can also make paper from long straight stemmed plant stems soaked in builder's lime and water until it breaks down and dissolves all the soft green part, leaving the fibers. Long straight stemmed plants would include cornstalks, iris leaves, fennel (the smell would carry through), and grass. I remember taking a nature walk, and seeing another plant, and suggesting that it could be used that way. The lady in charge of the nature walk advised me not to use it... it was hemlock. I remembered enough about Greek History and the death of Socrates to realize that was a bad idea.
 @thepelton I would not tell people to use lime in this project. Lime also breaks down human flesh serial killers use it. YUK.  There are thousands of how to's and books on making paper to use natural plants.  Also you should make a frame and a deckle for this project so it will not curl. 
The ned result is two interlocking frames.

I like the way you told people to use old fabric..cotton sheets  and t-shirts work the best.
The lime I was referring to was not quicklime, but builder's lime, which is not as caustic, more easily available, and workable.
 Well that is good but note what you said is  " as caustic" there is no reason to do anything but natural ingredients in paper-making.
Why buy stuff ? I used to teach art and I taught this as a recycle project you don't need to buy anything. I used to go to flower shops and ask for the flowers that cannot be sold as well and put the petals in ....You can make molds and do paper casting too :) You can them put in objects of all sorts..Try not to buy stuff if you can  folks we want to purchase less and be better to the planet...plus making stuff shows how super crafty we are :)
You have to make a strong binder and that can be out of natural things as well...
People made paper for thousands of years before we had Wall-mart ...
What just coccurred to me is that ashes are alkaline, and can often be gotten for free, and a little bit, but not too much, would negate the acid in newsprint.  Put too much in, and you'd have LYE.
 What ashes? I did not say to burn things and put ashes in..if you mean the petals..not not too many because then you can see your writing. They cannot touch because they will make a hole usually as well.
I was thinking of a means of putting something slightly alkaline into the mix to counter the natural acid of such source material as shredded newsprint.  What occurred to me just a few moments ago is Sodium Bicarbonate would work and not be difficult to work with.
Pro

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?

close

PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!