How many times have you wished you could do something useful with your old bank statements? Is there no better place for your filled up Post-it Notes than the bin?

Well here's the answer. Be cheap, environmentally friendly AND look really groovy whenever you need to write a letter. Make your own paper!

  1. Collect all unwanted paper. It should be gum free, should not be glossy, and of fairly high quality (not newspapers for example). The more colourful the better.
  2. Tear the equivalent of about nine sheets of A4 into small pieces, of about half an inch square.
  3. Soak the pieces overnight.
  4. Take about a golf ball sized chunk and blend it in a food processor with half a litre of warm water till it's quite runny (but don't over do it!).
  5. Repeat 4. until all has been blended.
  6. Fill a big bowl half full of water. Put about a dessert spoon of PVA glue in and stir. Add a cup full of paper pulp into the bowl and stir.
  7. Get some small holed mesh and slide it in the bowl sideways. Then turn it flat so that the pulp sits on it. Carefully take it out and put it on a towel (pulp side up).
  8. Place a J-cloth over it. Then put something hard (like a flat piece of wood) over it too and stand on it for ten seconds! After doing this the paper should peel off on the cloth.
  9. After a few sheets have been made put more pulp in the water and more glue and then repeat steps 7. and 8. You should be able to make about 12 sheets of A5 paper.
  10. Leave to dry over night before peeling the paper off the cloth. Voila!

Make a Screen

Build two frames out of wood. The interior dimensions should be a half inch to an inch larger in every dimension than the desired dimensions of the paper -- you're going to want a little room to trim if you don't like the tattered edges of the paper when it comes off the screen. Onto one frame, nail or staple a screen. The screen should be a relatively tight weave (mine has about 1/2 mm holes); my screen has a plastic mesh, but metal might work. Make sure the nails or staples are as flush as possible with the frame, since the two frames should come together with as small a gap as possible between them.

Prepare the Paper

I don't agree with the above writeup: I found newspaper-grade paper to work fine. I started two nights ago with an old phone book, a bunch of assembly programming assignments from last quarter on ultra white printer paper, a couple old Seattle Weeklies, and a pizza box (without the greasy liner). I tore everything up into chunks, separated all the colored pages out of the Weekly (and threw them into the recycle bin), and put them into a bucket. Filled the thing with water, put it the corner for a day or so, and went on to...

Gathering Materials

  • First, you'll need to find a blender that you do not care about. I found mine at Value Village for six bucks. Why a cheap junk blender? Two reasons.
    1. You're going to be putting paper, full of ink and (possibly) bleach and dyes, into this blender, getting pulp all over it, and generally making a complete mess out of it. While it's possible to clean all of this off, it's generally easiest to kind of clean it up and call it the "paper blender."
    2. You're going to torture the hell out of this thing. Leaving it on full bore for minutes at a time with little resistance on the blade is going to be a regular occurence. This tends to burn through motors, so buying cheap and torturing is a lot easier than buying new and being careful.

  • Second, you need at least one big tub for the pulp. Big meaning at least 4 inches on a side larger than your screen. You want a lot of room to maneuver your screen in and out.

  • Thirdly, find some neat stuff to put into your paper. String is nice, and helps strengthen the paper. Leaves, flowers, and feathers can go in, if you like that sort of thing. Interesting bits of paper can be cool. For the paper I made this afternoon, I used string, some spent tea leaves (which made the paper smell like Murchie's Japan Green Sencha ... very nice), and some stuff I had cut out of the old phone book. Anything that is as flat as the paper will probably work.

  • Fourth, get the following:
    • Pieces of felt slightly larger than your target paper size
    • Some cotton towels with as little pattern in the cloth as possible
    • An iron
    • A sponge

Making the Paper

The travels of one sheet...

  1. First, fill your blender half full of not-ice-cold water, drop some pieces of the soaked paper in (tear it up into little chunks first), and start it blending. When the mixture is smooth (hard to describe, but you'll get a feel for how long to blend it as you make more paper), you can dump it into your tub. If the mixture binds up in the blender and doesn't go down into the blades, add more water. Add between 3 and 4 times as much water as pulp to the tub (so about 2 to 2 and a half full blenders of water will do). Some pulp requires more, some requires less.

  2. At this point, you can add some of that "neat stuff" that you want integrated throughout the paper (like string or strips of paper).

  3. Fit your screen assembly together so the two frames sandwich the screen. Slide it into the pulp / water slurry with the non-screened frame up.

  4. Slowly draw the screen up out of the slurry, holding the frames tightly against each other. Once the frame is out of the liquid, gently shake it first to your left and right, then away and towards you. What you are doing in this motion is to knit the fibers together, like kneading bread. The key word here is gentle: you don't want to rip holes in the very delicate piece of paper / pulp. If you do, scrape the pulp off the screen and try again. Once this is done, hold the frame assembly at a slight angle so the excess water drains off.

  5. At this point, remove the non-screened frame. You should have a sheet of pulp a lot thicker than you'd like the paper to be. Don't worry, the iron will take care of this. You can add anything you'd like to appear on the surface of the paper right now.

  6. Lay a sheet of felt down on a table or counter, and in one motion flip the screen over onto the felt. Get a sponge, and press down on the screen, soaking up the excess water from the pulp. Now very gently pull one edge of the screen away from the counter. You should flick the screen with the other hand if the pulp sticks to the screen.

  7. Shazam. A very wet piece of paper. Lay a towel over it, set the iron to the highest setting, and iron the crap out of the thing until it stops steaming. (or at least stops steaming a whole lot) Use some moderate pressure, because you want to both get the water out of the paper and flatten it.

  8. Gently pull the towel off the paper. It may stick a little bit, so be very careful here. If it sticks a lot (like, doesn't come off the towel), put it back down and keep ironing.

  9. Once that's cooled off a bit, set it aside (perhaps on a towel in front of an open window, or hanging up or something). Do another piece.

Pitfalls and Other Info

  • My paper breaks to pieces when I do anything to it! You may have too much water in your slurry, making the paper very thin. Try making some more pulp and adding it to the tub.

  • My paper is curling and buckling as it dries! Sandwich the dry paper between damp (not sopping wet) towels, and iron it again.

  • I want my paper to be strong but thin! Experiment with different types of paper to make your pulp. Cardboard and grocery bags have very long fiber length in order to increase strength; these long fibers may aid you on your quest for stronger paper.

  • I want to dye my paper! Use your imagination. Vegetables and fruits can make dyes (use anything that stains your clothing); just be sure to strain them well or you might have seeds in your paper. On the non-natural tip, a few scraps of colored tissue paper like the stuff you find in gift bags work really well. Just add it to the pulp as you blend it.

  • This takes too damned long! Get a friend. One person working the screen while the other irons makes the whole process move a lot faster.

Here’s my question: Why stick with just paper fibers to make your paper? Paper can be made out of just about anything. (But beware, some things work much better than others do.) For example, the first paper I ever made was with banana peels. Have a banana split party or just eat a bunch of bananas at once. Just be sure to save the peels.

  • Use a spoon to scrape out the insides of 3-4 medium sized banana peels. Be sure to scrape out all usable material, but also be careful not to dig into the actual skin of the peel.
  • Put the pulp into a blender with about a liter of warm water and blend for about one minute on medium speed.
  • Strain the mixture to get rid of most of the water. Place the pulp that’s left on a cutting board or any other type of smooth, hard surface. *
  • Using your hands, and any other desired tools, spread the pulp evenly across the surface. The thinner you can get it, the better.
  • Use a sponge to remove as much water as possible from the piece of paper by pressing it on the top of the pulp. Wring out the sponge and repeat as many times as necessary. This also helps to flatten the sheet.
  • If you want to get a thinner piece of paper, place the sheet between squares of fabric and use a rolling pin to press the paper.
  • At this point, you may, if you wish, use an iron to help dry the paper, being careful not to burn it. The paper may also be left out in the air to dry. Watch it carefully to be sure that it does not curl. If it does, place the sheet between fabric squares and put a few heavy books on top of it.

The paper will be dark brown in color and therefore not very good material to write on. However, it does have an interesting texture, especially if allowed to curl during the drying process. Feel free to experiment with different materials lying around the home. (I would suggest staying away from grass. It simply does not hold together well.) These homemade papers are great to use in scrapbooks, homemade cards, and many other places instead of regular store bought paper.

*At this point, you could also use flamingweasel’s technique with the frames and screen and probably get thinner, more professional looking sheet of paper. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making a screen/don’t have the materials/don’t have the time/don’t have the money, etc. the above method works quite well, but yields a thicker, less even piece of paper. This is not a bad thing, and personally, I think it adds a bit of charm to my new creation.

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