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!
- 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
- 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
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
Step 2: 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.
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.
Step 3: 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.
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.
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.
Step 4: 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.
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.
After that, slowly lift up the mold. The paper pulp will remain attached to the blanket, and you can now reuse your frame.
Step 5: 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 :( )
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).
Step 6: 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!
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