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Recycling Paper

Selecting material for recycling and making pulp

Almost any paper can be recycled. Avoid newsprint and plastic coated paper. Shiny junk mail and magazines give a pleasant grey paper with coloured flecks. Computer paper, photocopy paper and envelopes are good to make paper from. The paper can be coloured with special paper dyes or pigments or with coloured papers, eg tissue paper, wrapping paper and coloured copy papers.

Once you have selected paper for recycling, tear it into 3 - 5 cm squares and soak in warm water for between two hours and two days. The longer the paper is soaked the easier it is to break up. A loosely packed bucket of torn paper will make about half a bucket of pulp. The paper can be pulped with a metal paint stirrer attached to a drill, with a blender or food processor or in a non automatic washing machine. The paper is sufficiently pulped when there are no large pieces of paper in the mixture, the fineness of the pulp is a matter of personal choice.

Making the Paper

Equipment Required


Put warm water into your vat to a depth of about 8 cm. Add about 3 cups of pulp and mix well. Hold the deckle onto the mould and lower into the vat vertically, move to horizontal and slowly lift through the water shaking from side to side and back and forth. When most of the water has drained through tilt to one comer to drain some more then remove the deckle. Invert the mould onto a very wet felt resting on the wet sponge. Rock back and forth and rock the mould off the felt leaving the sheet of paper on the felt. Put another wet felt on top of the paper and repeat the process. Ten to twelve sheets can be made at one time by placing a felt between each sheet. The sponge is then removed and the paper is pressed between two boards for an hour or overnight. Once pressed the paper can be hung to dry on the felts. When it is dry the paper will peel easily from the felt but should be pressed lightly between dry boards or under books. Different shapes can be made by using different deckles. Some mould and deckle sets come with an envelope deckle which has the corners blocked. An embroidery hoop can be used as a deckle to make circular sheets of paper.

I am often asked by people how to get started so thought I'd include something here

To get started you need some basic equipment.

You need something to make your pulp with. Do you want to recycle or make paper from local plants? The latter takes a lot more time and is more difficult. I would strongly suggest you start with recycling and source some good quality paper to recycle. I get a lot of my raw material from our state library and gallery and now a picture framer who does archival framing. You could also get some good quality offcuts from a printer. Top of the range for pulp making is a Hollander beater which costs more than $5000US. Next for quantity pulp making is an old fashioned washing machine, one that doesn't pump the water in and out of the machine during the cycle. I use an old Hoover Twin Tub which has an agitator in the wall and I bucket the pulp out when it is done. It takes about 30 minutes. Next option is a drill with a metal paint stirrer attached and finally a blender for small quantities.

For making the paper you need moulds and deckles. I make my own from Western red cedar and stainless steel mesh. You will need at least two.

Finally you need a press. Top of the range is an hydraulic press, then a screw press. You can use a car jack either under the car or in a special frame or you can put your paper between two boards and clamp them together with G-clamps.


&Copy 2021 Gail Stiffe