By: Kiana Tahiri
The earliest found fragments of paper date back to China in the second century BC. It is believed that a man by the name of Ts’ai Lun collected bark from a mulberry tree, pounded the fibers and created a sheet of paper out of its pulp. Later, the quality of paper was improved with fibers such as cotton, hemp, and old fish nets. Paper soon spread to the rest of the world with the help of the silk road. During this time, people only transcribed on silk or bamboo however, this was very expensive and unpractical. Bamboo would take up so much room on the silk road and silk was very expensive and only a few could afford it. Paper became the perfect substitute and quickly spread with the help of the silk road.
More fibers were used to make paper and it had spread to Korea. In the 6th century, Koreans made paper out of mulberry, bamboo, rice straw, seaweed, and rattan. After this, paper making was soon introduced to Japan by a Korean monk. Other fibers that were used to make early paper included hemp, linen, and cotton.
Currently, paper can be made from a plethora of plants and the natural fibers. In order to make paper from plants, the first step is to harvest the plant materials and cut them into ½ inch to one inch pieces. Next, they need to be cooked down with an alkaline substance such as soda ash and water. This dissolves any unwanted starches and sugars. Often times, it will also turn the concoction into a black paste. It is recommended to use a 2:5 ratio when cooking soda ash and plant materials. Bring this concoction to a boil and then simmer for up to two hours. The plant material will be ready when it separates along the grain. Next, the water from the pulp will need to be strained. Cheesecloth bags work perfectly for this. Sometimes, pulp will need to be rinsed out a few times with water in order to get all of the dirty residue out. After this, the pulp must be blended with hot water in order to separate and smooth out the fibers. Fill up a blender ¾ of the way up and add the ball of pulp. Finally, the last step to finish the plant based pulp is to add a thickening agent such as formation aid. Formation aid makes pulp thicker and makes it adhere to the water. This will also preserve the plant pulp so that it will not go bad. After this, the pulp is finished and ready for making sheets of paper!
In conclusion, paper making is a sacred art. Through paper, so much history has been transcribed and kept through the ages. Paper was made more available through the silk road and was used more than silk because of it’s inexpensive materials. I am happy that there are still people making paper and practicing this ancient process.
"Hand Papermaking with Plants (Illustrated Infographic)." Paperslurry. N.p., 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
Within papermaking there is a lot of equipment – you got your vats, your molds, deckles, buckets, hoses, presses, dryer boxes, blotters, etc, etc, etc. But above all the beater is king. Without someway to break down the fiber you got nothing.
After all most of the items are pretty common place. Take some water, a blender two old picture frames and some old window screen and you can pretty much make paper. Problem is that it will be kind of lump and bumpy, not hold up real well, be hard to write or draw on, and generally not perform for anything than being able to view it as a piece of paper that you made. Begging question – if it doesn’t function the way we ask paper to function than is it really even paper? Regards of its paperness we must look at the reason why.
The reason paper turn out so poorly when made using a is because the paper that comes from a blender is chopped while the paper that comes from a beater is macerated. The action of macerating elongates the fibers allowing them to flow together creating a strong woven hydrogen bond while also being able to compress down into a flat even sheet, and the way to do this is with a beater.
Since around 1673CE (Library of Congress) western papermaking has been reliant on the design of one tool for its papermaking – The Hollander Beater. This oval trough with a cogged wheel and a bed plates does a fantastic job on macerating fibers of all kinds. The issue with it is accessibility. The market for these machines is pretty limited and they are built to last so new Hollander Beaters are made to order and run you somewhere in the ballpark of $10,000. That right there is a pretty heafty sum of money to come up with on the front of starting a new papermaking studio, and to my mind is the main prevention of papermaking expanding within the arts.
I became interested because it would seem to me that in the age of the Do-it-Yourself movement, wiki-how and youtube fix it videos, we could come up with a solution to this problem. I got to wondering if papermaking has been around since 105 CE (Asunción 9) but the Hollander Beater didn’t come on the scene until around 1673CE how was the paper being beaten for for other 1500 year? Maybe this could be a clue into how to make a beater that is more affordable and still produces the same product. Here you will find a survey of different paper beating machines and methods.
Hand Beating – In the beginning there was hand beating. The Chinese made paper from rags, finishing nets, mulberry tree bark, nettles, and hemp that were softened with lime and fermented before crushing and grinding them by hand to a pulp using a hand mortar. (Asunción 14)
Though a very early and possibly considered rough, primitive method some of the most beautiful papers are still made today using a similar process. For many fibers like Kozo or Gampii a cooking in caustic solution followed by a hand beating with mallets or wooden paddles is used. From afar someone seeing the rhythmic beating of wet pulp with a piece of wood may even seem slightly barbaric. However, after the suspending in water and pulling a sheet it creates some of the must beautiful and delicate paper often with slight wispy hairs suspended within.
Japanese Stamper – Not surprisingly following hand paper beating came a tool that would beat paper in a similar way but without the laborious work. Though in Japanese papermaking the beating is really secondary to the preparation of the fiber in the cooking and washing stages. “Fiber selection, cooking and washing are the most crucial preparatory steps in Japanese papermaking” “Minor variations in cooking and washing can produce very different papers even from the same fiber” (Barrett 35) While there are many variations based on area, mill and the papermaker the general process is “boiling the fiber in a strong alkali solution to dissolve most of the lignin, pectin, waxes, and gums, leaving primarily cellulose fiber and hemicelluloses.” (Barrett 36) After that the fiber is put into clean water and meticulously inspected – picking out and removing small bits of left over bark or imperfections until the fiber is a consistent tone. Following the cleaning the fiber is ready to be beaten. “The fiber is twisted into thread and woven into tight patches of cloth” “millions of long straight fibers, all laying closely together” “The fibers stand loosely together in the bark…ready to come apart” (Barrett 44) after this the fiber is beaten for only around 30 minutes. The beater itself was invented in “1920’s to substitute for hand beating” (Barrett 46) The stamper beater consists of a metal shaft with a hardwood striker mounted to the bottom, that can travel freely vertically as well as rotates. It is bolted into a sturdy wooden frame and powered by an electric motor that when running raises and lowers the striking part of the machine into a small basin at the bottom where the fiber is kept. For final processing a Naginata beater is often used (Barrett 46)
Naginata Beater – The Naginata beater came on the scene after the invention of the stamping beater. In the use of the stamper the purpose is not to chop, cut or macerate the fiber. The goal is rather to separate the fibers from each other. After stamping the fiber is put into the Naginata to “tease” the fibers apart. The Naginata looks very much like a western Hollander beater, an ovular trough with a mechanical apparatus that the fiber and water passes through. Unlike the the Hollander the roll and the bedplate have been removed. In there place is a series of curved dull knife like thanes attached to a rotating horizontal shaft and powered by an electric motor. These curved “blades” are what gives the Naginata its name, originally coming from the the name for the curved halberd used in battle. While the Naginata is running for about 20 minutes or so depending on the fiber the dull blades chop at the water and fiber freeing the strands of fiber from each other and separated them from each other – suspended in the water and ready for sheet forming (Barrett)
Western Stamper – Before the invention of the Hollander beater in the western world the use of the western style paper stamper was the main tool of the papermaking industry. The stamper normally consisted of 3 or more hammer like heads that would land their blow inside of a rounded bottom stone trough. Often metal was used at the bottom of the trough to increase longevity. The head of the hammer that came in contact with the bottom of the trough would be outfitted with a gridding of nails or sometimes a custom cast plate or head – similar in appearance to the bed plate of a Hollander beater. The arm of the hammer attached to a pivot point that would allow the hammer to raise and fall. The force causing the raising and falling of the hammer was powered by a rotating shaft outfitted with pegs interspersed so that the hammers would raise and fall in separate timing from each other. This shaft would often be powered by water and a mill running alongside of the building the beater was housed in. Prior to beating rags, where were the primary source of paper, was cooked or most often retted (rotted). The fiber was then poured into the trough and processed –typically taking around 3-5 days. “The behavior of the pulp under the hammers perfectly fits the various descriptions made in the 18th century. When a hammer is raised, it creates a depression which draws in the pulp expelled by the drop of the neighboring hammer.” (Moulin à papier)
601 Production LTD, Traditional Paper Making Process, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lltkdyE1OG0, May 25, 2012
Asunción, Josep. The Complete Book of Papermaking. Lark Books, 2003
Avi Michael, Chancery Papermaking, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-PmfdV_cZU, May 28, 2003
Barrett, T., “European Papermaking Techniques 1300–1800.” Paper through Time: Nondestructive Analysis of 14th- through 19th-Century Papers. The University of Iowa. Last modified July 14, 2014. http://paper.lib.uiowa.edu /european.php.
Barrett, Timothy. Japanese Papermaking. John Weatherhill Inc., 1983
Library of Congress. Papermaking Art and Craft. Vinmar Lithography Company, 1968
Moulin à papier. http://www.moulinduverger.com/papier-main/article-42.php. 2006
sararingler, Kozo Beating, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgXZLkwJqZ0, July 16, 2009
stampochpress, Handmade papermaking and handcasting type, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MTb7Nt9jNY, November 7, 2007