How to Re-Engineer Paper Back Into Wood




Introduction: How to Re-Engineer Paper Back Into Wood

About: Architecture and Environmental Design Student at California Polytechnic State University

Recycling vs Upcycling.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person produces about 4.38 pounds of waste per day. Multiply that by the 300 million consumers in the US and we're left with about 250 million tons of waste every year, and only about a third of that gets thrown into the blue bin.

But let's face it, the recycling system in the United States is not perfect. While recycling paper saves money and energy, it also creates a dastardly new substance. Paper inks, cleaning chemicals, adhesives, clays, and dyes are filtered out of the paper fibers and collected into one giant pudding known as paper sludge. Few commercially viable uses exist for this sludge, so companies find loopholes and slip the poisonous substance back into the landfill.

After paper is used, it can be stored and then laminated into Paperwood. This new product can be milled and used as building material for another life. Once it is finished, It can be recycled again into paper because it was laminated with water-based adhesive. This cycle continues outside of the landfill and is a self sustaining material that can be made from the stuff we throw away everyday.

So let's turn that pile of paper into something beautiful....

What you'll need:

- Lots of paper

- Wooden dowel

- Water based adhesive

- Paint tray

- Roller brush

- Bandsaw

Step 1: Gather Your Paper

Try to find paper of the same dimensions because as you start to laminate your paper-log, you don't want random pieces of papers sticking out of your roll.

Look for paper with colors, images, text, and anything interesting in order to add beautiful grain lines to your Paperwood. I used sketches, drawings, diagrams, and renderings from my old architecture projects. Architecture studios create a ton of paper waste.

You can use lined paper, graphed paper, magazines, news paper and packaging. You can even select a specific set of papers to tell a story with your upcycled Paperwood, like I did with my architectural drawings.

Step 2: Laminate Your Paper-Log

This is the most important step (and the most tedious).

I used 8.5"x11" and 11"x17" sheets. The common dimension of 11" was the length of the paper-log.

It is best to find a wooden dowel with a large radius. It is harder to laminate papers around a tighter circle.

Let's begin.

- Prepare a work station (this could get messy).

- Pour a few ounces of your adhesive into the paint tray. I used Palmetto's water based LamiBond

- Start by attaching one edge of your first sheet to the dowel (in my case, this was the 11"). Make sure that the edge is perfectly straight, or else the paper will roll at an angle and create future problems.

- Coat one side of the paper with adhesive (doesn't matter which side) using the roller brush.

- Slowly roll the paper tightly around the dowel, making sure it is straight. Use your fingers to press out and air bubbles and pockets of adhesive build-up.

- Continue this process in 10-20 page intervals. The adhesive must dry so that the layers don't shift when you apply pressure.

This will take a while. I am currently designing a machine that will make the laminating process go much quicker, but for now you must do it by hand.

Step 3: Milling Your Paper-Log

Now that you have your paper-log, it's time to transform it into usable material.

Start by making straight cuts on either side of the dowel, getting as close as possible. Cut your log into sections, and square off the edges.

You should now have several usable pieces of Paperwood. I even used the scraps to make small chips showcasing that beautiful Paperwood grain.

You can cut it, sand it, and finish it; just like natural wood.

Step 4: Create Something New

There are countless way for you to show off your new material.

I cut and welded steel from an old desk, cut glass out of an old window from a demolished house, and upcycled my way to a beautiful new nightstand. This project was entered in the Vellum Furniture Design Competition in San Luis Obispo in 2015.

What will you do with your Paperwood?

Papercraft Contest 2017

First Prize in the
Papercraft Contest 2017



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63 Discussions

how did you make it dry? used some sort of furnace?


Question 4 months ago

great idea!! 10 to 20 layers at a time aye? how long does it take to dry? and how many pass did you do to get a log you shown?

Hi, great project! I'm making a butterfly garden and have been trying to find a good material to be the perimeter of the garden. This seems like a good lumber replacement, but I was wondering how durable it is. Do you think that this material will hold up under weather, plants, and dirt? Thank you for the idea!

Awesome! thanks i just had this question if you could make wood out of paper like plywood and decided to google it. Found exactly what i wanted to know. I'll be trying this for sure! :)

Congrats on the first prize in the paper contest. Well deserved.

Ingenious! Excellent idea. The finished tabletop is beautiful.

I am thinking of making a coffee table with this method. Is the paperwood strong enough to use as the frame and legs of a table?

Wow, this is the most exciting thing I have learned in a long time. Will have to give it a try. Great job!

it would have been nice if there was a vid, I am a little confused on this.

JohnC430, oh how you make it sound so easy. Once upon a time I could have done the work myself, but alas I am in a wheelchair now and no one to help. I have to hire someone to fix what I can no longer manage. I know the $400 was way too much but I did get the rest of the sheet of board that he charged me for. Haven't called him again and never will. Thanks for your help though. Have a nice day.

Is there anyone on here who can help me solve this? I have a problem with my wooden floor in my trailer. When I had to remove part of my carpet due to mold I noticed that the floor underneath is made of what looks like sawdust and glue pressed into sheets of wood. Well this so called flooring is disintegrating. There are piles of sawdust coming out of it like little anthills. Does anyone know if there is a way to stop this process or am I going to have to replace all the flooring?

5 replies

Unfortunately the "ant hills" might be a sign of termites which could I am sorry to say be a bigger issue than just bad flooring if not addressed. Regarding the flooring you probably can't save particle board but you should be able to just replace it no? Good luck I feel for you as I know exactly how you feel with things stacking up.

Thanks Jason. No termites, had 3 different companies check. Everyone please never use Terminex, guy told me I had them, put a lot of pressure on me to sign up and even showed me pics of wood supposedly falling from my floor, under the trailer. Wood can't fall through plastic without it tearing, and wasn't any plastic in the pic. Wasn't even a trailer, it was a house and wood was in a very neat pile with nice clean cuts from a saw. He was here all of 10 min.

Next two guys took an hour to check everything and no signs anywhere. Boy was I glad.

It will cost a fortune to replace this floor. Had a small section 2'x3' repaired a few years ago and I had to pay over $4oo. We're talking about a master bedroom, bath and large closet.

First off... $400 to replace a piece of 2'x3' is a complete rip-off. you can cut out the defective parts with a saw and replace it with fresh waterproof plywood. just place the 4x8 plywood sheet (from your local lumber yard) on the floor and cut around it. Rip out of dig out the old defective layer and place the new sheet in its place then do the next one. the waterproof plywood may not be cheap but will certainly cost less than $400.for the whole area

Sounds like particle board. I don't think you have much of a choice, you'll have to replace it.

Thanks ClayOgre. I think I am going to cry, insurance won't cover it. This stuff looks like sawdust, no big pieces of wood chips or shavings. I was hoping I could just spray something on it to hold it together a few more years. Who ever said bad luck comes in threes was soooooo wrong. Mine has been coming for months, one thing after another. Thanks again!

WOW ! Never in all my days would I have thought that was possible !

This is dope dawg! Nice project, for a challenge, try building something complex, like a Pine box Rasberry Pi computer out of "PaperWood" Dawg.

The 'wood grain' effect looks very attractive. Discussions in other comments about structural strength made me think of paper maché which can be very strong for it's weight but it doesn't produce those intriguing patterns.

How much weight does your dried glue add? The traditional flour/starch glue of paper maché, once dry, is very light.

Some of the sample photos have irregular shapes that don't appear to have originated from a paper 'log' being cross-cut. How did you come up with them?

I'm going to have to try this out. Thanks.

BTW, What are all the curious white sculptures in the office from? They don't appear 'architectural'.

Thank you for sharing!

So I saw your instructable and it inspired me. I wood turner and I thought the layers might look cool so quickly made one to test it out. Instead of cutting into it I just wrapped the layers on the tube and then turned it. Very dramatic (doesn't look like wood but that is actually a good thing in this instance). Anyway thought you might like to see the resulting test.