Introduction: Plantable Creations - Paper Making

With spring here and a excess amount of paper around waiting to be recycled, we decided to produce our own stationary cards that could be planted by the recipient, after reading, so they could be enjoyed for years to come.

Step 1: Designing the Papermaking Tray

We began by designing the tray we would be forming our sheets of paper in. We knew the final size we wanted to achieve for our paper so we started by drawing out the paper size. We were going to make stationary cards that laying flat measured 8.5" by 5.5". The material we were making the frames from was 1x2 pine (1.5" by 0.75"). By adding the 1.5" to each side of the card we came up with our dimensions for the tray. We determined we would need four pieces of wood 8.5" long and four pieces of wood 11.5" long. To assemble the frame we decided to use simple lap joints on the corners. To do this, used a table saw with a dado blade installed and made multiple passes until we reached the desired length on each piece.

Step 2: Assembling the Tray

The goal is to create two parts of the paper forming tray. To assemble the tray we used a combination of water proof glue, 0.625" 18-gauge brad nails, and T50 staples. We glued and nailed the corners of each tray and waited for each assembly to dry. After everything was dry we attached fiberglass window screen to one of the trays and trimmed the excess off.

Step 3: Pulping the Paper

We decided to use paper from the recycling bins all over our building to make our new paper. To first break down the sheets of paper, we used a paper shredder. We then pulped the paper by putting the shredded paper and water in a blender. The blender was run until the mixture looked fairly broken down and uniform. We then transferred the mix to a large tub (large enough to move our trays around in) with a few inches of water in it. The water is necessary to help disperse the pulp throughout the tray and make the flow into the tray easier.

As a side note, we had a few pieces red paper (and light blue) in our mix and it turned everything pink! For our purposed it was okay, but be careful what's in your mix if you don't want any colors.

Step 4: Forming the Paper

To get the best most uniform quality paper you can, it is important to take your time with this step. We started by placing the two trays together. The tray with the screen goes on the bottom with the screen facing up. Holding the trays together, we dipped the trays in the pulp mixture and let a small amount of the mixture to flow onto the screen completely covering it. It wasn't necessary, or beneficial, to completely submerge the trays into the mix. When the screen was covered we raised is slightly and sprinkled flower seeds on the surface, before letting all the water run through. We tried adding the seeds after the water drained off but found they didn't "stick" as well.

We decided to use perennials because the life cycle of the plant is longer and the actual seed sizes are generally smaller making it easier to embed in the paper.

Step 5: Remove the Moisture

After most of the excess water has drained through the screen, we removed the top half of the tray. The idea is to have a layer of damp pulp that is just under 0.25"-thick. We then laid a piece of felt on top of the pulp. The felts purpose is to help adsorb excess moisture and give the paper a uniform texture.

Step 6: Pressing the Pulp

We used a couple of scrap boards to support the paper. After laying one of or boards on the felt we flipped everything over. Now that the screen was on top we were able to lift the tray off. Again we laid felt on the surface and another board. Once everything was sandwiched together we used a couple of large clamps to squeeze the pulp. This helped to again remove moisture and flatten / thin out the newly formed paper.

Step 7: The End Result

After the water quit dripping out, we removed the clamps and laid the paper flat and waited for it to dry. There were a couple of issues we identified that we wanted to make sure we addressed for the whole process. We knew we needed water to form the paper but water would also started the seed germination process. We had to dry the paper quickly. We also knew that we wouldn't be able to use heat to dry the paper. We determined that using fans to blow cool air across the surface of the paper was our best solution. When the paper was dry, we placed it under a board in a dark area for a couple of days to prevent early germination. Once we were certain everything was dry, we used some of the different papers we had produced to make a simple stationary greeting card that can be planted once the recipient reads it, instead of throwing it away.

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