Making paper has been on our list of things to do for some years. We have a couple of books on the process ready for when we’re ready. We almost got started last year when we were in the Guardiana River – all that fresh water rushing past one way or the other with the tides had us in the mood. The photographs in our books show hosepipes and sluice rooms so we’ve believed that fresh water is the one thing we’ll need a lot of. We never did try papermaking in the Guardiana … we waited until a couple of weeks ago and then gave it a whirl.
We have a bag of paper we’ve collected to recycle for the pulp: we want quality paper so were not going to recycle newsprint (or loo roll!). One afternoon we sat in the sun on the back deck and tore our paper into little bits, put them in a bucket, added some water and left it to soak over night. Undeterred that we have no blender (let alone a Hollander beater) we sharpened a paint mixer, the kind designed for an electric drill and the next day we started to beat the paper mix. Very little happened to the bits of paper and the short story is that it took 2 weeks of soaking, daily beating with a variety of Heath-Robinsonia, pounding with a lump of wood and incantation before we reckoned it was pulpy enough to try out. And you know those swags of cake mix that sometimes festoon the kitchen cupboards if the electric beaters are still turning as you pull them from the bowl? Yes, well … other boaters kept gazing at our rigging, no doubt looking for the flock of well-fed seagulls that must be resting there. The significance of hosepipes and sluices became a reality.
We gathered our newly constructed mould and deckle, our couching cloths and after a quick refresh of ‘how-to’ from the book we were off. It was surprisingly easy. Within half an hour we had 10 sheets layered in their cloths and squeezed between boards to drain off the water. We put the pile under some weights overnight and the next morning laid out the cloths individually on the deck. After a while we peeled the cloths off the paper and laid each hand-made sheet in the sun. The thicker sheets took a bit longer to dry; they all puckered round the edges. A run-over with a hot iron should sort that out.
The result is a medium-textured, pale grey paper enhanced with teak sanding dust, dried paint flakes from a previous use of the bucket and cat hair. It is very good to draw on.