Making Paper the Easy Way!

To finish out our study of Ancient China we made our own paper. I was determined to do this as easily and inexpensively as possible. Virtually every set of instructions I found on the internet required the use of a deckle or, at the very least, a picture frame.

This did not fit my definition of cheap and easy, so we experimented and found a couple of ways that worked just fine, as long as you don’t require a perfectly square result. Even if you did, you could always trim the edges with an Exacto knife!

This activity is great to do outdoors, as it can be a bit messy. I am putting a second option at the bottom of this post, for those who want to go even cheaper and even easier and skip purchasing screen or using any real paper at all!

Here is what you will need:

Window screen (I bought the cheapest, and paid about $6 for an entire roll)
scissors
scraps of torn paper (paper towels, kleenex, cardstock, computer paper, index cards, construction paper, newspaper, magazines)
a blender
a rolling pin
water
some towels
a sponge
a mixing bowl
a bin slightly larger than the dimensions of the finished paper
embellishments, if you prefer, such as glitter or leaves

Step One:

I gave each child a 5 quart ice cream bucket and laid out a stack of different kinds of paper. Each child took whatever paper he wanted and tore it into shreds. I asked them to tear up about 4 to 6 cups of paper each, or about half a bucket full. This yielded about 2 or 3 pieces of finished paper per child.

While the kids are shredding paper, have an adult cut several squares of screen (about 3 or 4 per child). The screen should be the size you want your paper to end up. My squares were a little less than 8″ x 11″. I did not bother to measure, just eyeballed it. I purchased the cheapest screen, which was made of aluminum. The edges were a bit sharp when cut, so tell the children to be careful. It was definitely sharp enough to scratch skin. For a little more money you could buy nylon screen.

Step Two:

Add enough water to cover the paper.

Before blending

Step Three:

We tried a method that did not require a blender, but it seemed like it was taking a very long time for the paper to really turn into pulp. We decided to use the blender after all.

I poured one bucket of pulp into the blender and pulsed on liquify a few times until it was the consistency of very thick oatmeal. This took seconds, as opposed to the hours it may have taken without…and I am not convinced it would ever have become the right consistency on its own!

After a few pulses in the blender

Step Four:

Pour the thick pulp into the bin where the paper will be made. I used a square bin that normally holds toys. A baby bathtub would do, or a dishpan…anything that is slightly larger than the paper will be when finished.

Step Five:

Add enough water to get the mixture to the consistency of thin oatmeal…about 2 parts water to one part pulp. This is called a slurry.

Mix the slurry around a bit with your hands.

Step Six:

Dip a piece of screen into the slurry mixture. Swirl it around until you have a layer of pulp on the screen. You can scoop some on with your hands if you need to.

Then pull the screen up out of the water, letting all the water drain off while keeping the pulp on the screen.

This would be a bit easier with a deckle, but more expensive. And making the deckle is much more difficult than just doing without.

All in all, we did not find it very difficult at all to lift the flexible screen and drain the water without dumping the pulp.

Step Seven:

After you’ve drained off most of the water, lay the square of screen on a folded towel. If you want to add embellishments, such as leaves, do so now. Press the leaves into the pulp. You may need to scoop up a bit of extra pulp and press gently around the leaf to cement it in place. My children chose to embellish their paper with printed soldiers from Junior General. I tore out the soldiers and soaked them for a few seconds in the slurry before pressing them into the pulp on the screen.

Step Eight:

Cover the pulp with another piece of screen. Press down on the top screen with a sponge to absorb more water. Wring the sponge out as needed until much of the water is absorbed.

Step Nine:

Cover the top screen with a second towel. Roll back and forth over the towel with a rolling pin in order to extract even more water.

Step Ten:

Remove the top towel. Pick up the two screens, with the pulp in between, and flip it over. Remove the top screen and lay the paper out to dry on the bottom screen, preferably in the sun if it is a nice day.

OPTION #2: If you don’t have any screen, or you don’t want to use a blender

We tried another recipe from Bella Online. She suggested using dryer lint and a deckle made from a plastic lid. The dryer lint was simple to use and did not require the aid of a blender…but we thought it was a bit gross, as our dryer lint seems to have lots of hair mixed in, LOL, which you could see in the finished paper.

The plastic lid worked great, though. I took the lid of a 5 gallon ice cream bucket and poked a bunch of holes in it.

Stick it into the slurry (just like the instructions for using a screen) and slide it around until it is covered with pulp. Pull it out of the water and drain off as much as you can.

You can then cover it with a screen and proceed with step 8. If you chose not to purchase any screen at all, I think you could easily use this method with a butter tub lid or ice cream container lid and some towels. Just drain as much water as possible from the lid, and use the towel and rolling pin method to extract the rest of the water. Turn the paper out of the lid gently to dry. I had to start peeling at the edge, but after that it came off easily.

Comments

  1. Hi Molly!

    this looks like a great project, one we might have to try! One thing, though, I was confused about using a 5 gallon bucket, and then I realized you meant a 5 Qt bucket. That makes more sense 😉

  2. Oops! We love ice cream, but even we would have a hard time getting through a 5 gallon bucket, LOL!

  3. Great pictures. Thank you for the submission to the Homeschool History Buffs carnival. What’s on the agenda for history projects next year? : )

  4. Now that is just the neatest project! What a great mom you are to get involved — even using your blender, gasp — in such a messy project. I love these kinds of things!

  5. I’ve often wanted to try out paper-making, but all the instructions seem to call for a blender..something we’ve never bought because it’ll never get used for anything else (we’re not shake or smoothie drinkers) — I wonder how a hand mixer would work out…

    Looks really neat! 😀

Speak Your Mind

*