Handmade paper

About handmade paper

Technically speaking, handmade paper is paper made by hand using a mould (a frame covered with a flat, rigid screen or flexible screen). Handmade paper is a layer of entwined fibers and held together by the natural bonding properties of cellulose fibers. The mould is covered by a flat frame called a deckle, to contain the run-off of wet pulp, dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibers evenly and drained of its excess water. The wet mat of fibers remaining in the newly formed sheet is then dried against blankets & may be hot pressed, cold pressed, or air-dried.

Handmade paper is traditionally made using various plant fibers, cotton rags or recycled paper. To add texture and mottling effect in the paper, various other fibres are added, e.g. jute, wool, hamp, silk, or straw particles. Each fiber has its own physical properties and lends a peculiar characteristic to the paper. Handmade paper can be classified primarily by the sheet making process.

History of handmade paper

Being one of the most ancient traditional industries, handmade paper manufacturing traces its roots from China through the Mid-East to Europe. Its invention in China dates back to fifth century AD. However, Indians are credited to have used paper made from cellulose fibers even during 3rd Century B.C. The leaves of palm trees were the medium of writing in India in the olden times. 'Papyrus' made from similar named reed that grew on the banks of Nile river in Egypt was stated to have been the medium of communication of Egypt.

Manufacturing

The equipment used to transform the raw materials into paper has been improved by modern technology but the process and principles remain virtually unchanged. The possibilities for what can be accomplished with handmade paper and paper pulp are limitless. Like many crafts, which have enjoyed a revival, modern papermaking does not necessarily end with the production of a utilitarian item. Handpaper making is an energetic creative outlet and paper pulp has become not only a vehicle, but also an artistic medium in itself. Just one of the beautiful aspects of handmade paper is that no tree needs to be harvested to make it.

Manufacturing process:

  1. SORTING & DUSTING The cotton rag (raw material) is sorted by hand to remove unwanted materials, variation in color and dust.
  2. RAG CHOPPING The sorted material is chopped into small uniform sized pieces for making the pulp.
  3. BEATING The hollander pulps the chopped rags in water. Inert chemicals are added to give the paper the desired color, physical properties and consistency.
  4. SHEET FORMATION
    1. Option 1 (for thin/fine paper). DIPPING: The pulp is diluted with water and put into a masonry trough or vat. The lifting mould is then dipped into the trough, shaken evenly and lifted out with the pulp on it.
    2. Option 2 LIFTING: A fixed measure of pulp is poured evenly onto a mould, which is clamped between two wooden deckles (frames) in a water tank. The mould is then raised mechanically to drain excess water.
  5. COUCHING The wet paper is transferred on a cloth/felt sheet, building up a stack of interleaved sheets.
  6. PRESSING A hydraulic press is used to squeeze out excess water from the sheets. This improves the physical properties of the paper and facilitates drying.
  7. DRYING The sheets are hang dried to remove moisture.
  8. CLEANING & SIZING Small dirt particles are removed manually with pincers. The cleaned sheets are coated with starch to further improve the physical properties of the paper.
  9. CALENDERING The sheets are placed between metallic plates and passed through spring loaded rollers in a calendering machine. This smoothens them and enhances the gloss. This process is also used to get different surface textures.
  10. CUTTING The sheet till this point has the natural deckle edge. To make the paper workable it is cut in standard size of 22"x30" or 56X76cms.

Handmade paper by its character shall always have minor variation in shade, thickness and density embellishments in each lot.

Why use handmade paper?

Handmade paper has the advantage of being 100% wood free which makes it the most eco-friendly form of paper around. It is also 100% recycled. Handmade paper is excellent for writing as well as printing. It has greater tensile, bursting, tearing and double-fold strength compared to conventional paper. Apart from all this it looks great, handmade paper is fashionable, it's up market, its classy!

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