Introduction: How to Age Paper in Batches

I've tinkered with aging paper a bit over the years, but when it came time to age some envelopes for my artifact storytelling project, I found that a lot of the tutorials focus on aging a single page at a time, and faced with a box of 250 parts, I needed to figure out some techniques to make everything run a bit faster. This instructable will show you how to age a stack of 30-50 pieces, and end up with consistent markings across the batch, in about 1 hour.

For this tutorial, I'll be aging the preprinted envelopes from my project. They come from the printers bright white with solid blue borders. To make it look old, we'll have to change some things.

Step 1: Sand the Edges

First, we're going to sand down the areas around the edges of the envelopes. This step will be most noticeable on printed paper, but you can also do it anywhere your piece is folded to make it look like it's been rubbed a lot over the years.

Do to 7-10 envelopes at once, stack them on top of each other in a stairstep pattern. Grasp the stack in one hand, and run the sandpaper over the edges with the other. You can run the sandpaper parallel to the edge to scuff up areas further away from the edge, or perpendicular to hit the edge specifically. Do this for all the edges on the fronts and backs of the pieces.

Step 2: Bake the Paper

Once you have a large stack of scuffed pieces, separate them into short stacks of 5-10 pieces and place them on a clean baking pan. Stacks that are too thick will bake less evenly. Place the small stacks next to each other on the pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 400° F. The paper will brown and some adhesives (like the glue that keeps these envelopes together) will bleed through and make a kind of watermark.

Step 3: Vertical Coffee Staining

Coffee and tea staining are standard go-to methods for aging paper, but this method is a bit different. I want the envelopes to all have the same stain, and I don't want coffee to completely saturate the piece because it tends to make the paper rather stiff and make the edges curl up. Instead I want to create a water stain, as though the envelope has been dropped in a puddle.

Clamp your stack in between two boards and set the assembly vertically in a pan. You want the side of your item that will have the most staining to be on the bottom. In this case, I wanted the most staining on the bottom right corner, so I tilted the paper slightly.

The hotter the coffee or tea, and the darker, the darker your stain will be. I use a french press and very little water to make coffee.

Pour the coffee/tea into the pan to create a small puddle that touches the bottom of your paper. It will soak and wick upward into the paper stack. The longer you leave it in the coffee, the deeper the stain will wick into the paper. You can also dribble a bit over the top, to create a smaller stain along the edge.

When your stack dries, all of the pieces will have a similar stain.

Step 4: Fold, Spindle, Mutilate

To finish your pieces, fold them up, crinkle, rip, punch, cut, or add other disfigurements. Most of these things can be done in small stacks or quickly in succession. I sealed my envelopes before aging them and then opened them after to further rough up the top edge, then folded them in half and gave each one a bit of a crinkle.