Introduction: How to Make Papyrus Paper
Aren't you tired of seeing people with e-readers and tablets? Do you think that paper books are just too modern? Do parchment and vellum not seem authentic enough? Well this is the Instructable for you! Using this tutorial, you will learn how to take the Papyrus plant and turn it into good ol' Egyptian-style papyrus paper!
- Papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus)
- Plastic bucket
- Hand planer
- Paper towels
- Old dish cloth
- 2 Wooden boards
- Bench Vice
- Rolling Pin
This tutorial uses sharp tools. Use extreme caution. I am not responsible for any injuries you sustain.
Step 1: Harvesting and Preparation
First off, you need to get yourself a genuine Papyrus plant. Luckily, the Lowes hardware store near my house recently started to sell papyrus. You can also get it from the internet if you can't find it in your area.
Before you harvest the stalks, I recommend giving the plant a nice soak about 60 minutes prior. This will make sure that the stalks are firm and won't crumple. Try to cut as close to the base as possible. How much you harvest is up to you and how big of a piece of paper you want to make. Since I was thinking of making a small sheet, i figured the 4 biggest stalks would be enough. Cut off the tops.
Step 2: Making the Strips
Make sure that the hand planer (usually for woodworking) has a very sharp blade. The sharper the blade, the easier the cutting. Place the planer upside down and secure it in a bench vice. Place the blade of the planer to about 2 mm. You don't have to be exact, so long as you get a strip of papyrus that will not break due to being too thin.
This next part requires extreme caution.
Now, using a lot of caution, take the end of the stalk and hold it flat on the planer. Since the stalk of papyrus is triangular, you can cut it a few different ways (picture 3). Gently push the stalk onto the blade. Keep pushing the stalk until you reach the end. You may need to hold down the top of the stalk as you are cutting it to keep the strip even. Keep stripping the stalk until there is only a small amount of papyrus left. Don't worry about getting as many strips out of the stalk as possible. Your fingers will thank you.
Now take your strips and peel off the green bark (picture 5). You can do this with your fingers, or carefully with an exacto knife.
Picture 3 from Wikipedia. "Papyrus sheet" by Aethralis - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papyrus_sheet.svg#mediaviewer/File:Papyrus_sheet.svg
Step 3: Soaking the Strips
I forgot to take a picture of soaking the strips, but I think you get the picture. Once your strips are de-barked, soak them in a tub/bucket of water for 3 days. This step is essential because it activates the natural glue in the plant which makes this paper possible! While I didn't notice any smell or mold, you can change the water daily.
Step 4: Laying Out the Strips
After 3 days of soaking, the natural glue in the papyrus is ready. Lay out some paper towels and put some of the papyrus strips on it. Place another layer of paper towels on top of this and use the rolling pin to squeeze out the water. Repeat this for all the strips.
Now for the fun part. Papyrus has a distinct look because of it's layout pattern (picture 2). There is no need to weave the strips together because of the natural glue. For the bottom, place the strips all going one direction while overlapping about 1/3 of the strip. Repeat the process for the top layer, but facing perpendicular to the bottom layer.
Overlapping the strips is important because the strips shrink as they dry. I did not overlap enough, and so my paper has some small square gaps.
Picture 2 is from Wikipedia. "Papyrus sheet" by Aethralis - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papyrus_sheet.svg#mediaviewer/File:Papyrus_sheet.svg
Step 5: Compress and Dry
Take two wooden boards that are roughly as big or bigger than your papyrus sheet. On each board, put an old dish cloth followed by some paper towels (3-4 sheets). Place your papyrus in between both sheets to make yourself a nice papyrus sandwich! Using clamps, or a giant vice if you have one, clamp it down tight.
The drying process now will take about a week. You should replace the paper towels every day. Patience is the key here.
Step 6: The Big Reveal!
WOW! Look at that perfect square! Just kidding, my sheet had a lot of overhang so I decided to snip it off. As I mentioned before, I did not overlap the strips enough, so I ended up with holes in my paper. Oh well.
Step 7: Smoothing and Writing!
When your papyrus is finished drying, you'll notice that it isn't very smooth. So, in keeping with old school tradition, used a smooth rock to polish the paper. To do this, take the rock and rub it against the paper along the grain (in the direction of the strips). Do this until you think it is smooth enough to write on.
Now you can write on your newly made papyrus paper! I recommend using some sort of dip ink pen. I think that gel pens are probably the most "modern" you can use without tearing up the paper.
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