(almost) Automatic Paper Recycler




This is an instructable where i will show you how to make an almost completely automatic paper recycling machine. It recycles old paper into new paper. It also uses recycled materials such as cardboard and drink bottles. It cannot be completely automatic because different types of paper take longer to process than others, so you just control a bunch of different switches. But it will do all the hard work for you. Please read through the entire instructable before you buy the parts. You might use different parts, and they can vary depending on what you have and need. The other cool thing about it is that you can put sparkles or glitter in the paper before it's done and have creative designs.
 I am a middle school student who made this out of discarded and found materials, and I constructed it all on my own in my garage -- so you can do it, too.
I will have more pictures of the paper and possibly a video soon...... I've just been really busy lately but i have a lot more because finals are coming up... :(

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Step 1: Get Yer Parts

You obviously need parts to do anything or make anything. You need circuit boards for a computer, for a car, or anything else. It's the same with this. There are a lot of parts that you need, but luckily most of them are cheap or you can find by dumpster diving. Hopefully you can find all the parts. or you could improvise.

1) Many 1 x 4  planks of wood. You really need a lot as the entire frame is made from these. You can usually find them in the trash, and if they are stuck together in a crate, just pull them apart. That's what I did. If you can't find any in the trash, just buy a lot. They don't have to be that strong. You should get at least two that are slightly more than 5 ft in length, (about 1.5 m) or around there. Along with that, get a flat length of wood. doesn't have to be that thick. but make sure it can carry a bit of weight.

2) Many wood screws. I don't think anyone will be throwing away any of these, so you can just buy a box of 100 for 3 to 5 bucks. You wont quite use 100, but just in case... I used 1 1/2 inch length. (3.81 cm)

3) A paper shredder. If you don't have one, you can buy a cheap one, find one in the trash (you might need to fix it) or rip up the paper yourself.

4) a wooden dowel. Get a pretty long one, about 4 feet. (1.5m) I used 1/2 inch thick. (1.27cm)

5) The parts for the mixer
5a) an old cd that can be cut up
5b) a gatorade bottle (The big kind, or a two-liter coke or sprite bottle)
5c) a powerful motor (a note: make sure you have a way to hook up the motor to the cd, to make the cd spin.)
5d) batteries to power the motor (or if it's plug-in, a power outlet) It's hard to make it water-proof

5f) If you have a blender (the lighter the better) that you can use, use that instead of all that other stuff. It's specifically made for that, so it would be better. You can get one at goodwill or salvation army or whatever for cheap. The basic action it will be doing is stirring up wet paper, and chopping it into mush.
Remember, it has to be able to tip over to empty everything out.

6) a few powerful gearboxes (make sure they turn slow) that will tip over (like pouring) parts of the recycler to empty the paper into the next area. I would get three. One a bit more powerful than the others, one a bit faster, and the other in between.

7) a turkey roaster. big enough and deep enough to hold all the pulp (shredded paper) By turkey roaster I mean the cheap tin ones that you can buy at the supermarket for a buck, not the expensive thick ones.

8) some sort of water tank. I used an old laundry detergent tank that had this little button on it that when you press it, the detergent (or water, whatever is in it, would come out.) Tide detergent bottle, to be exact.

9) cardboard and tape.

10) window screen, with small holes. Get about 8 ft by 1 ft or more (2.5 m by 30.5 cm)

11) three feet (91.44 cm)of 1" diameter (2.54cm) pipe, for the rollers to make the paper smooth.

12) A way to turn the pipe (one gearbox)

13) 2 dpdt switches to switch the motors one way or the other. (center-off)
(you might need more or less, depending on what you have.)

14) 1 on/off switch
(you might need more, depending on what you have.)

15) wire

16) various other parts that i'll explain later

1) Drill with drill bits (make sure you have 1/2 in.) (1.27 cm)

2) a saw to cut the wood.

3) a permanent marker, to mark on things.

4) wire cutter and stripper

5) you also might need an x-acto knife

6) a ruler

7) a hot glue gun or other waterproof glue

8) a hacksaw to cut pipe

9) It might be useful to have a level.

Step 2: Paper Shredder Mount and Base

Remember that each part on the machine has to be higher than the part after it, so that the pulp and stuff can move without too much trouble. So, the first part, the paper shredder, has to be the highest.  I had a board sticking up on either side of the paper shredder to keep it from moving side to side. underneath it, I had a platform built out of 4 boards, with a space in the middle of the boards. So, the shredder was sitting on the platform with two boards sticking up on either side of it to keep it from moving. Now I should probably show you how to make it.

The first step is to cut two 1 by 4s. They have to be the same length, and remember, these have to b the tallest. Set those aside. Now, flip your shredder upside-down. Cut four 1 by 4s. two should be the length of the shredder, and the other two the width. Arrange them so that the longer boards are on the shredder, and the shorter ones are on top of the longer ones. Move them so that the space where the paper comes out is uncovered, so the little bits of paper can come out. Screw this together.
Make it so that the long boards are above the platform a bit. These have to be on either side of the paper shredder. Screw everything together, using lots of screws, anywhere where the wood is touching. There should now be a platform with a space in the middle that is supporting all the weight of the shredder, while the two long boards keep it from moving around. The longer part of the long boards will attach to the base, while the shorter parts of the longer board are facing up, where the shredder is. It is a table with two boards sticking up on either side. This is a bit confusing, so look at the pictures.

Now put  a crosspiece in between the legs of the mount.

Step 3: Base

The base is really easy to make.

It is simply the two longest boards with to pieces of wood on either end.  Basically, a rectangle of wood.
This is what holds everything in line. Everything is screwed onto this.
Now.... hopefully the paper shredder is the widest component you have compared to the blender or the water jug. 
The two legs on the paper shredder mount determine the amount of space in between each board. 
line up the two long boards underneath the two legs of the paper shredder mount.
Cut two pieces of wood that go to the outer edge of these two boards.
screw these to the long boards.
You should now have a rectangle comprised of four pieces of wood.
the longer boards will be on the bottom.
Screw the paper shredder mount to the top of the longer boards. 
your done

Step 4: Water Tank Table

Super easy. You need to make, basically, a table for that water tank. here is where you need (obviously) your water tank, 1 by 4 boards, screws, the flat piece of wood, and, if you don't enjoy personal labor, a drill to screw everything in. I sure don't.
Cut the thinner piece of wood to a size a bit longer than the width of your base, and a bit thinner than your water tank, so that whatever liquid comes out can go over the edge. each edge. I cut my 1 by 4 boards a bit to long, but here's the height I cut out: 2 ft. (61cm) That turned out to be a bit too tall, so the water that came out splashed too much. So cut yours shorter. Probably about 1.5 ft (45 cm)  It might be different for you. Screw the boards into the base, about 1.5 ft (45 cm) from the front edge of the base (paper shredder end) You do want to leave a good amount of space in between, as there will be another section in between.Then screw the thinner board onto the two boards sticking up from the base. Basically, you want to make a table. For your water tank. On the base.

Step 5: Mixer (hydrapulper)

Remember how I said that you would have to have a way to chop and stir up all the paper? If not, then go look again. You will need: the bottle, the powerful motor, an old c.d. or A food processor or blender. I got a cheap food processor for 5 bucks at goodwill.The one with the gatorade bottle and c.d. is really hard to waterproof, so I don't recommend it. I know because I tried to make one, then tested my waterproofing ability, which wasn't (isn't) good. There was water leaking out everywhere. But, if you still try to make it, I can tell you exactly how. But I can't tell you how to mount it. Because I didn't. For either one you will need the 1 by 4 boards.
First I will tell you how I made the blender/food processor mount, etc. This is what I did for my specific food processor. First, I cut four boards so that they would go around the sides of the food processor, preventing it from moving side to side anywhere. If possible, make it a bit snug.
But then I had the problem of it moving up and down. Well, that was pretty easy for me. On the bottom, I simply screwed in a board that went lengthwise, screwed into the boards on each side. The top was a bit trickier since most of it was the bowl. But there was one small flat surface, so I took advantage of that. I attached (screwed in) a board to one of the four boards around the side of the paper shredder, the back one since that was where the flat surface is. This board was vertical. I cut the board so that it extended slightly above that flat part. Then I screwed in a smaller section of board that pressed against that flat part. This board was horizontal. Basically, they made a right angle. Well, that turned out to work perfectly as I could not take it out without unscrewing something That part was easy enough.
This was the really hard part for me. My really powerful gearbox had no mounting holes and had a really weird drive end, it was something like a bunch of flat, long pegs sticking up in a circle shape, something like that. This was hard. I thought of cutting a piece of wood that would have a circle with notches sticking out to go in between the peg things, but I couldn't get the cuts right.
So I finally made a circle of wood that I could wedge into the circle of pegs, but it didn't really stay. So I thought and thought. Finally, I drilled holes in every other peg thing and stuck nails through them and into the wood circle, Then screwed the circle to the mount of the food processor. The nails were huge so they didn't fit in all the way. But that actually worked perfectly fine. So now I had the food processor in its mount with the gearbox attached.
Now I had to figure out how to mount everything. So I cut two boards to the size so that the bowl of the food processor would be slightly to the side but below the level of the bottom of the paper shredder. (you should actually have it almost directly below, but the nozzle of the water jug has to be right above it.) I drilled a hole in the food processor mount for the dowel, and then in another piece of wood that would hold it up. Then i stuck a short length of the wooden dowel into these holes. On the other side, I mounted the gearbox to a board of the same length.  Screw the board with the gearbox on, supporting the blender. Screw in the other board after sticking the dowel into the hole.  This way, the food processor can move side to side in midair. It should tilt side to side along the length of the base. This way it can pour into the next section.

Lastly devise a funnel So all the shredded paper will go into the food processor. You could just make one out of cardboard. A good design would be to make a square triangle funnel to catch the shavings from the shredder, which then has the bottom of a milk jug down at the bottom so no water gets on the cardboard. You might even be able to make a funnel so that you do not have to take off the top to put in more water or paper. Maybe you could have the cardboard and milk jug setup that will fit snugly over the bowl of the food processor but have the right size hole so paper can go in but pulp can't really get out because the hole is in an area where the pulp doesn't splash up, i don't know.


                                                          Failed hydrapulper

Now I will tell you how to make the mixer the really-hard-to-waterproof-way. First get your gatorade bottle and cut it near the bottom. It doesn't really matter how far. I cut it about 1.5 in. (3.80 cm) from the bottom. First, drill a hole for the axle of your motor in the center of the bottom of the bottle. This is the part where all the water leaked out. Make sure that the axle can move freely. Then drill two holes for the mounting screws.
Now find out how to attach the c.d. to the motor to make it spin. I drilled the center of a large, flat gear so that I could hammer the gear onto the axle of the motor, and it wouldn't move. then I drilled 4 holes through the c.d. and gear in the same places and put four tapping screws through the holes. now, if you have the assembly already on the axle of the motor, pry it off. stick the axle of the motor through the hole., then screw the mounting screws through the other two holes. Put on the gear on the axle of the motor again, so the c.d. and gear are in the bottle while the motor is out. Hot glue all openings closed, then line up the top part of the bottle with the lower part of the bottle and hot glue that together to make a water proof seal. Cut off the top of the bottle to have a wide, round opening.
This is as far as i got until I tested the waterproof factor, which wasn't good. I had no idea how to water proof the hole that the axle of the motor came into, so I abandoned that and bought a food processor because I didn't have very much time left. Again, I do not recommend this because of the water issue.

Step 6: Filterer

You need a big turkey roaster, the wooden dowel, a powerful gearbox and a way to make the dowel spin. First, cut out a piece of the dowel that is a good bit longer than the width of the Turkey roster (shorter side). This way you can attach a gear to the end and still have a board in between. The second step is to make sure you have a gear that will mesh properly with the gear on the gearbox. Put that on to make sure it fits. Take it off. Then you need to glue or carefully screw the dowel to the bottom of the turkey roster. Cut two boards so that are lower than the blender, so the pulp can pour from the blender into the turkey roaster. Drill two holes that the dowels can fit in that are at the same height. Put back on the gear on the end of the dowel, with the gear on the outside.
Now you need to mount the gearbox. I had to mount mine at a right angle to the board that the gear was next to. (remember, the gear has to be on the outside.) So I cut a board that I could mount the gearbox onto, while the gears were still meshing. Basically, find a way to mount the gearbox to something so it can mesh with the gear on the dowel. The basic purpose of this is to rock back and forth (the turkey roaster) so that some heavier parts sink to the bottom like paperclips, and then to even out the paper when it goes onto the next part. Just look at the pictures.

Step 7: Rollers

the rollers are the weakness of this project.
most of the time the paper will come out unevenly, and will fall apart the second it leaves the rollers. 
I plan on upgrading this as soon as possible.

Make two boards so that the rollers will be below the roaster when it's tilted over. Cut a hole in two boards so the pipe can easily roll but still be below the turkey roaster. Then cut two more boards, about 2 inches taller, and cut two holes in each so the other pieces of 1-ft pipe can easily roll. Screw in the boards so the screen is under tension. So now there should be one pipe next to the roaster with two farther away, with the screen looping around the bottom pipe and one pipe near the turkey roaster. You need to attach screen on a pipe that is going to be touching any of the the paper because the paper tends to stick to it.
Attach the gearbox to the lower pipe that is farther away so that it can turn. The two rollers at the end are what squishes the paper flat. One more note is that the paper will not come out extremely thin, the reason for this is that in real recycling plants, they use some nasty chemicals to help thin it out.

Step 8: Wire It Up

wire the gearbox on the food processor and on the turkey roaster in the circuit shown below with a d.p.d.t. switch. That way they can reverse direction. When the switch is in one position, the positive of the battery is matched up to the positive of the motor; same with the negative. When the switch is in the other position, the positive of the battery is connected to the negative of the motor and vice versa, which makes it switch direction.
wire the gearbox on the screen with a simple on/off switch. Just to make move in one direction. You might need to attach a d.p.d.t. switch here, too, if you want to make it roll back and forth over the paper like a rolling pin. Attach all the batteries to everything and you will be ready to go.

Step 9: Operation

Many people have asked me how you operate it, tilting everything back and forth, making parts move, etc. The first step is to tilt the food processor so it is under the funnel that is attached to the bottom of the shredder. Then start shredding the paper. Tilt it over to the water table so the water can pour in until it's about half-full. Shred up that paper until it's mush. if you still have some extr paper that you want to get shredded, put it in now. If you want to add color to the paper, put in that colored construction paper or ink. With the d.p.d.t switch, tilt the turkey roaster over so it can catch the mush from the processor. If the mush doesn't all come out, you probably need more water.
While it's in the turkey roaster, swish it back and forth, and add in anything that you don't want to get crushed and chopped up, like dried flowers or strips of paper (the strips of paper are really cool!) See if you can drain some of the water by tilting it over a bit to let the water out, then pour the gook all onto the screen, trying to keep it even. If you want, you can leave it on the screen in a big pile for a while to let it dry a bit.
Then put it through the rollers. Be really careful when it comes out, as it will still be wet. Smooth out any rough spots with a bit more pipe and some screen. Let it dry for a long time, and there, you have new recycled paper with your designs! (more of everything to come!)

Step 10: Last Words

There are many improvements you could make to this instructable. One thing that I actually had to do was reinforce the turkey roaster, since it bent too much without a board on the bottom. Cut a board as long as the roaster. Drill or cut a space so the dowel can fit in, then screw it to the bottom of the turkey roaster.
Maybe you should make the shredder mount a bit higher than I did, so your parts can pour at the steepest angle.
You could definitely improve the rollers. You might be able to extend the loop of screen past that last pipe, looped around a last roller that is further down the base so the paper could sit there and dry instead of coming out of the rollers and falling on the ground all wet and delicate. You might be able to somehow think of a way to put a heating element inside the pipe. I also think the way the pipes are turned could be improved; a better way to attach a gearbox. When you attach the screen to the pipe with glue or something it would come out a bit uneven. You could try putting a roller above the higher pipe that is on the end and looping screen through it like a vertical conveyor belt. This would help the paper come out a bit more even, and the screen would dry faster.
Please give me ideas!  I want to make this better!
As a last note, be creative. Putting in strips of paper in the turkey roaster gets a really cool effect. Sawdust makes it look kind of old. Add color with construction paper. Dribbling ink on the paper might look cool. Boiling water (at least pretty hot) will dry faster because it will evaporate. Try everything. And HAVE FUN!!!

Please leave a comment with improvements I could make!

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    23 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    sorry I don't have more pictures or the video- i've had no time. ill start in the next two weeks when school gets out, hopefully earlier


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I had no idea how creative and smart you are. I sure hope you WIN big!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I'm looking forward to seeing some more creative designs and the video. Great work, Frankenboom! I'm voing now.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is very promising. It has great potential.


    10 years ago on Step 10

    very impressive - i'd like to see more paper samples, like the sawdust with the old look...

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great job. Very imaginative, very green. One more vote for Frankenboom.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    How impressive! It is wonderful to have such an innovative environmental technologist around here. Things are looking up!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! I am so impressed! I'm glad you solved the problem of not having a circular saw or jigsaw.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I think Frankenboom should win the Nobel Prize, at least.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I saw the paper Frankenboom made with this recycler and it was VERY impressive. Would make beautiful stationary!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea! This must be the GREENEST instructable out there!