Paper Technology: Report from the Manufactory

The paper machine was born at the turn of the 18th – 19th centuries and became one of the great inventions of the era of the industrial revolution. This machine, and at the same time a roll (mill for grinding cellulose raw materials) made paper a mass product, significantly cheaper it, gave it standard quality, but ... they deprived of the man-madeness, that is, the quality inherent in paper from the 2nd century BC, when ancient Chinese thought for the first time in history to cast sheets of cotton fibers. However, the tradition of hand-made paper was not interrupted, but found, as they say now, its “niche”. Now, handmade paper is used mainly for decorative purposes: it serves as a material for exclusive stationery, business cards, letterheads, envelopes, scrolls and so on. And of course, anyone who is attracted to the gallant era can describe their “wonderful moment” not on the tablet screen, but on a sheet of writing paper like the one that was always at hand with Alexander Sergeyevich himself.

Rivet Jeans

In general, handmade paper is in demand, even if not on the scale that standard products of pulp and paper mills. But where and how is it made? To answer this question, “PM” went to a small Moscow workshop - this is where paper is made in ancient Chinese. Well, or almost in ancient Chinese.

The uniqueness of handmade paper can consist not only in a special relief or watermarks, but also in the most unexpected impregnations, which is quite allowed by the technology. “Once, on the order of a tobacco company, we made paper in which tobacco leaves were to be interspersed, ” recalls Dmitry Andriyankin. - The issue was resolved with the help of several blocks of the cheapest cigarettes from a neighboring stall. They gutted the cigarettes, mixed the tobacco in a tub with the raw materials, and ... the customer was satisfied. ” “Blotches can be very different - threads, fibers, Christmas tree needles and dried flowers. - says Elena Mahotkina. “Lately, eco-style has come into fashion, and living seeds of flowers are rolled up on paper, which can then be sprouted.”

Where to start a story about man-made paper, if not with raw materials? The paper is based on plant fibers, consisting of cellulose. Cellulose is the main structural material of the plant world, a polysaccharide (that is, a polymer from the remains of beta-glucose molecules), which forms cell membranes. All this means that paper can be made from everything that contains plant fibers: from wood, bark, cake from seeds, herbaceous plants, but also from cotton and linen fabrics. Well, out of paper, of course. “When the company began, ” says Dmitry Andriyankin, Paperman technologist, “making paper from various rags, worn socks and old jeans was popular here. Jeans are an excellent raw material, only before you send them to the roll, you need to carefully cut off all the metal rivets, otherwise the knives that cut the metal begin to publish a terrible rattle. There was no need to tint the resulting mass - it immediately turned blue, the same paper came out. Now, as a raw material, we most often use ordinary office writing paper - we grind it, and then from the resulting mass we make sheets with the parameters that are required by the customer. ” When it’s not even waste paper that goes into the grinding mill, but snow-white, brand-new paper from freshly printed bundles, it looks strange, although with your mind, of course, you understand that you still have to collect and clean the waste paper somewhere, but with natural sources of cellulose like wood tinker additionally. Business is business.

Technique for manual labor. In the photo - a frame for the ebb of the sheet.

Knives and nets

Dry raw materials enter the above-mentioned roll. Here it mixes with water, and the rows of knives fixed on the shaft dissolve and cut the fibers. By adjusting the gap between the knives, you can change the size of the grinding fractions. Fine grinding gives soft paper, and coarse - vice versa. Here, by the way, differences with the ancient Chinese at the Paperman company begin. Until the 18th century, raw materials were obtained by grinding it manually in stupas. Well, in our days, the roll itself is already outdated - in paper-making industries, flow-through grinding devices with conical working tools are used.

Raw Material Grinding Machine

The mass obtained in the role is sent to a large vat, where the preparation of raw materials continues. At this stage, dyes and binders such as glue are added to it (so that ink does not spread on the paper, like on a blotter). Then the fun begins - the actual creation of paper. The sheet is born on a small metal mesh stretched over a rectangular wooden frame. With a frame, the master scoops up raw materials that have been previously transferred to another vat and diluted with water. The more water, the thinner and lighter the paper comes out. Water flows through small holes in the grid, and a thin layer of fibers remains on the surface. This is already a sheet to which, while it is still raw and loose, you can give the desired texture. If a watermark is required, use a specially prepared mesh for the frame. A pattern is extruded onto the mesh, convexly facing the sheet. In places of bulges, the paper will turn out thinner and it will be better to let light through - alternating dark and light areas visible in the light will create a watermark pattern. At the same time, until the sheet is dry, the paper is given the specified texture, that is, a certain decorative relief is applied to the surface.

The sheet just formed on the frame is still fragile and loose, because it is wet. First of all, it is placed between felt mats, and then a “sandwich” of raw paper and felt is put under pressure. So from the sheet before drying, most of the moisture is removed. Handmade sheets have all the necessary qualities: they are durable, you can write and print on them.

Letter on the skin of a caiman

Dmitry Andriyankin is making cream-colored paper before our eyes, with the texture of the fabric - just the kind on which, perhaps, it was written during the time of Pushkin. It allows water to drain a little from the frame, and then with a quick confident movement shifts the sheet to a special table with a slightly curved surface. There is already a sheet of felt on the table, and on it is an ordinary woven cloth, where, in fact, the newborn sheet is laid. On top of it lay another same rag, then a new sheet of felt. When a whole sandwich of five or six sheets with pads of felt and fabric is recruited, it is sent under the press (of course, electric, and not manual, like the ancient Chinese). The press squeezes water to facilitate paper drying. Along the way, the pattern of the fabric that fits the sheets on both sides is transferred to the paper.


How to make paper at home

As a source material, it is best to take paper scraps, for example, shredded in a “shredder”. Instead of a roll, a kitchen blender is quite suitable - there we will pour a little water and put paper raw materials.

When water and paper reach a thick porridge consistency, you can add some colored paper (for tinting) and chop the mixture with a blender.

Then move the mixture to a wide tank-like container. The width of the container should be less than the width of the frame with the grid with which we will draw the sheet. As a frame, you can use the insert in the window with a mosquito net, or you can make the frame yourself from wood and metal mesh (or tightly stretched mesh fabric).

In the bath, we dilute the raw materials with water. There we mix a spoonful of starch and a little PVA glue. You can pour in a mixture of decorative blotches - the same dried flower.

We scoop the raw materials onto the frame, then, after the water drains, quickly turn the raw sheet onto a spread fabric (such as flannel). On top we put another cloth absorbing water and press, for example, with a tray on which we put the load. Wring out the water and dry. The sheet is ready.

If you need a more complex texture of the paper, you have to resort to a special metal cliche. “Once a customer wished to see the relief of a caiman skin on paper, ” recalls Elena Mahotkina from Paperman. “I had to find a high-quality image of the skin, draw it in a vector editor and cut the cliché.”

The workplace of the master, "scooping" sheets. Turbid liquid in a tub is a mixture of water and fibers. Next to the stand is a frame for forming a sheet. Closer to us is a table on which a sheet is laid out.

The last stage of work on the sheet is drying. To do this, there is a pair of professional drum glossers in the workshop (the Chinese did without them), like those who worked in the digital era in a photo studio. It takes several minutes to dry the paper, and only then you can see firsthand and to the touch how much the handmade paper is more pleasant and “soulful” of its office, ancestral white as chalk. The sheet has smooth but fleecy edges. In principle, they can be cut, but it is the absence of traces of machine cutting that gives the paper a special vintage flavor.

The last stage of paper making is drying. For drying, drum glosses are used - before these were in the darkroom. The sheet is pressed against the drum using a web. A regular sheet of writing paper dries 3-5 minutes.

Hand-made paper nevertheless has all the properties of ordinary paper produced industrially. For the manufacture of envelopes and other complex products on a crucible press, the sheets are cut down and, if necessary, scored (scoring - making furrows under a crease on thick paper). Also on this paper printing is possible with all types of printing technologies. Difficulties can arise only if the sheet has too pronounced relief.

The current methods of making paper by hand are practically no different from the old technologies. In some Asian countries, for example, in Vietnam, villagers still make paper in a artisanal way. And they also put flowers in it.

Everything in the world, even handmade paper, of course, is best obtained by professionals. However, if it is almost impossible to make a microprocessor or a high-quality electric motor at home, you can try making paper at home (see the sidebar on the previous page), and most likely, the result will please you and your household.

The article “Paper Casting Technique” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 6, June 2012).

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