Learn How to Make Recycled Paper
Trees are made up of cellulose fibers that are held together with a glue-like substance called lignin. This makes trees strong enough to use for building houses and furniture. When wood is cooked, the cellulose is separated from the lignin to make wood pulp. This pulp is made into paper.
In ancient times, people wrote on animal skins, bones and clay tablets. Around 3500 BC, the Egyptians wrote on a woven mat of reeds called papyrus, which is where the word paper comes from. Around 2,000 years ago, the Chinese discovered that they could make a thin paste of mulberry bark, hemp and rags and let it dry into a sheet in the sun. Many types of paper are now made from wood.
The modern day method of making paper is as follows: Logs are chipped into small pieces of wood. These chips are cooked with chemicals that dissolve the glue-like lignin holding the wood fibers together. This process leaves a pulp made of cellulose fibers and lots of water. Then, the pulp is put on a screen to let the water drain away. The fibers remain to form a sheet of paper that is dried and put on a roll. When we recycle paper we use the wood pulp/cellulose over and over again.
NOTE: Making recycled paper can be a bit messy, but fun. Have appropriate supervision because the process involves using an electric blender and a utility blade and/or scissors.
Step 1—Making Your Deckle
DeckleA deckle is the frame and screen that the paper pulp will be made on. It allows the fibers that make the paper to collect on the surface of the screen and the water to drain through.
To make your deckle you will need to get an adult to help you.
First, take the aluminum pie pans and draw a circle or square, depending on what shaped pans you have (circle in circle, square in square), 1 1/2″ to 2″ from the edge in the bottom of each pan. Then using the utility blade or scissors, cut out the circle or square.
Place your pie pan on top of the square-foot of fiberglass screen and trace the shape of the outside of the pan in the middle of the screen with a dark coloured pen (lay newspaper on your working surface so that you do not get ink on the counter!). Draw four tabs on the square or circle that extend to the edge of the screen. Cut out the tabbed circle or square.
Layer the screen between the two pie pans and use the clothespins to hold everything together at the site of the tabs.
Step 2—Making The Slurry
SlurrySlurry is the paper pulp and water mixture. It might remind you of dirty old oatmeal.
To make the slurry you will need to get an adult to help you.
First, tear a section of newspaper into roughly one inch pieces. Place one cup of the torn newspaper into the blender with two cups of water. Put the lid on the blender and turn it on high. Let the blender run until all of the paper disappears and it appears as if you have a purple-grey, pulpy mixture (again, it may remind you of dirty old oatmeal).
Place about four inches of water into the kitchen sink (with the drain plugged) or large plastic tub/container. Add the slurry mixture to the water in the sink or container.
You may notice that the suspended paper fibers in the water that make up the slurry feel soft. If you look really closely at other paper fibers in paper products such as tissue or toilet paper (pull the paper apart a little), you may notice that the fibers look similar!
Step 3—Making The Paper
Making PaperMix up the slurry and water mixture in the sink or container really well. You can use your hands! NOTE: You will need to mix the slurry each time you make a new piece of paper.
Hold your deckle with both hands on the pie pan edges and scoop it down towards the bottom of the sink or container at a slight angle. Slowly lift the deckle out of the water allowing the water to drain out (back into the sink or container) for about a minute. You should have a thin layer of paper fibers settling on the surface of the fiberglass screen framed by the edges you cut out of the pans. NOTE: You do not want to have it too thick (more than 1/4 inch) or too thin (you can see the screen in patches) on the screen of your deckle or the paper will be difficult to work with. You can run your finger along the bottom of the screen to help get the water off.
Set your deckle down on a piece of newspaper and open your deckle by removing the clothes pins and top pan from the stack. Carefully lift the fiberglass screen with the paper on it by the tabs and move it to a flat piece of newspaper. You can press a piece of newspaper over the paper (you can use a rolling pin to press if you desire), or press a piece of blotting paper over the paper and use a sponge to eliminate some of the extra water. NOTE: You do not want to dry the paper too much while it is still on the fiberglass screen or between newspaper or blotting paper as it will stick.
Gently peel the paper off the deckle screen and place it on a piece of newspaper to dry.
Once your paper is dry, you can use it! You can write on it, draw on it, put a leaf print on it (see Leaf Prints,) fold it, etc.
In the picture above, you can see the paper on the screen of the deckle.
You can experiment further by adding a cupful of colored construction paper blended in the same manner of the newspaper to your slurry to make colored paper. You can also add colored threads, glitter, small leaves, etc. to the slurry to make the paper more interesting.
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What you need...
A kitchen sink with a good drain plug or a large plastic tub/container
Four clothes pins
Two 9″ aluminum pie pans (square or round)
One square foot of fiberglass screen
A marking pen
Scissors or a utility knife
A sponge and blotting paper
Colored construction paper