Tuesday, 6 September 2011

It's that radio time again!

I'm back on BBC Radio Devon this afternoon at 3.30, and thought it might be fun to talk about making paper. Here's how to do it...

Until the industrialization of the nineteenth century, all paper was handmade one sheet at a time. Paper is actually an ancient Egyptian word derived from papyrus, which was a flat woven sheet made from strips of the papyrus plant, however paper was not invented by the Egyptians, but rather by the Chinese, and to this day some of the most beautiful paper still comes from China.

Making paper at home is all about recycling, taking old newspapers, utility bills (nothing is more satisfying than putting a bill into a blender and blitzing it) and turning them into crisp new sheets ready to be used. In fact, both in the UK and America, around 70% of the material used to make all the paper each year comes from recycling. Paper manufactures collect old newspapers and magazines and subject them to a simple process that can be recreated in any kitchen, though the process is a little soggy – so it’s ideal for children then! But it’s not just wood and recycling that can be used to make paper, and more industrious makers use rags, cotton, even elephant dung, though quite how many people involved in self sufficiency would have an elephant is questionable.

How to make paper
First you need some equipment, most of which is easy to find around the home, the only exception is likely to be a deckle. A deckle is the frame in which the paper is made. You can buy them from craft shops and online, and if you are going to turn this into a small business, then it’s worth the investment. But if you are only going to make a few odd sheets then it’s cheaper to make your own.

To make a deckle, take an old picture frame (boot fairs and recycling centres are ideal for finding old pictures), the inside measurement of which is just a little bigger then the piece of paper you want to create, but smaller than a washing-up bowl. While you are out, the other thing you need to source is some tightly packed mesh the same size as the frame, the ideal is the gauze used in a screen door or the fine mesh for windows on a chicken house to keep the flies out. Take the glass, picture and backing out from the frame and cut the gauze so it fits snugly into the frame and staple or pin it in place. That’s the deckle.

For an even quicker version, get a coat hanger and bend it into a rough square, run a stocking over the top right down to the foot and tie a piece of string at the top where the hook is so the stocking is tight as a drum. This works well as a one off, but is unlikely to last any longer than that.

In addition to this, you will also need a washing-up bowl, lots of scrap paper, letters and bills work best. Avoid shiny magazines and although newspapers work well, the ink does come through so you may need to add a little bleach to your pulp solution. Two tea towels, blender, rolling pin and a clothes iron.

To prepare the paper, either shred and rip the lengths into strips, or tare it into coin size pieces. Half fill the bowl with warm water and soak the ripped up paper for about an hour, then drain through a colander. Take out the blender and half fill it with water, and add a little of the pulped paper, taking care not to add too much in one go as it will just clump. Blend it until it is completely smooth without any lumps, adding more pulp little by little.

Meanwhile, rinse out the washing-up bowl and half fill it again with warm water. Slide in your deckle so it rests on the bottom and add a spray of laundry starch to help stiffen the paper. When the blending of your pulp is complete, pour it into the water and swish it around so it settles evenly and blend some more until you are happy that the amount in the bowl will create a single sheet. Swish the whole lot once more and let it settle (shake the deckle a little if you feel it is still not landing evenly), then carefully lift out the frame and rest it over the bowl to drain. When it has stopped dripping, gently press down with the tips of your fingers to help squeeze out any excess moisture.

Lay a clean tea towel over the deckle and place a plate on top of that, then twist the whole thing over the same way you would turn out a sponge. Remove the deckle and the plate so the tea towel is resting on a flat surface with the sheet of paper in the middle. Lay the other tea towel over the top and with a rolling pin roll the paper sandwich to clear as much water as possible, take the top tea towel away and let the paper dry for a good couple of hours. Don’t let it dry out completely, just until it’s mostly dry, and then iron it with a medium to low heat iron still with the tea towel as a backing. Leave it for twelve hours, and then peel it away from the tea towel. Again leave it for twelve hours, and there you have it, homemade paper.

If you are an incurable romantic and want to use your homemade paper to write a love letter, add a couple of petals or leaves for a girl, straw or herbs for a man, into your pulp at the blending stage after the pulp has been zapped and smooth.

Homemade greeting cards
In the UK alone it is estimated that a billion pounds each year is spent sending cards.
There are masses and masses of cards available, but none of them compare with a handmade card as any parent will testify the first time their little one hands them a card they have made themselves. Sending a homemade card says so much more than one bought from a shop.

Of course the best way would be to attach a sheet of your homemade paper to the front of a card so it sits in the middle and write you message on that.

Taken from my book - The Self Sufficiency Bible - Hundreds of ways to become self sufficient

Also check out our website www.hiddenvalleypigs.co.uk