Experiments!

The other day after class I decided that I wanted to try some small scale papermaking on my own. So, I did! Here’s what happened.

I started with a pile of junk mail. I tore it up, and let it sit in a pot of water overnight.

The next day I boiled it for a while, then I shredded it some more with my fingers. A blender would have been the perfect tool to really get it pulped, but I don’t even have a blender for food let alone for paper! So I spent about an hour playing with mushy paper. It was fun, relaxing, and wet! My apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, so playing with water is fantastic! Don’t worry, I was very careful not to spill any!

After it was in tiny little pieces I boiled it again to try and break it up even more.

It got good and foamy. There’s actually a nice ring of paper around the top of the pot from where the pulp settled! While it cooled I assembled the rest of my equipment. I used two cheap picture frames and part of an old t-shirt. My couching station consisted of some felts and a towel. And my vat was a Tupperware container from Walmart.

I tied and taped the shirt to the frame:

After everything had cooled off a bit I dumped my pulp into my “vat” and added water.

And then it was time to make some paper! I dipped the mold in the vat, did the vatman’s shake, and bam! I had some paper.

And then I tried to couch it…

Yeah, that didn’t work so well. I guess there’s a reason you need real felts! So I dried it a little with my hair dryer, hung it up in my shower to dry, and then peeled it off. Didn’t work wonderfully, but given the experience I have (next to none) and the money I spent (about $6) it went really well!

This sheet didn’t go so well:

There’s a reason they say doctors and papermakers can both bury their mistakes 😉

I tried a few different things to dry the sheets I made… I pressed them under a pile of books, I hung them up for a while, and I took them out in the sun for a while.

I left them out in my living room overnight, and by the time I woke up they were perfectly dry! I’m pleased with how they turned out. As you can tell from the pictures, there are still a lot of big chunks of the original paper in them. I was surprised at just how much my soak, tear, boil, repeat method worked! There were a lot of small fibers that filled in the gaps between the big chunks. The paper is soft, but it’s strong enough to shake around and play with without breaking. Here are a few pictures of the final result:

They aren’t the most perfect or the most beautiful pieces of paper, but I think they have something interesting and unique about them, and I’m excited to try to make some more! Next time I’ll probably make sure to have some better tools!

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Paper

I’m currently in the middle of taking a two week intensive special collections class devoted entirely to paper. It’s so much fun and I’ve already learned so much! Paper isn’t something I typically thought about before this class, but now I’m probably going to think about it all the time. It seems that the classes I take here are completely changing my worldview!

So today my class was lucky enough to go to a house that has a small paper mill set up in the garage! We got to make paper and see how it was done properly, instead of just hearing about it. It was such a great experience, and as soon as I have the money/space I’m totally going to make some of my own paper!

Before I get into the actual papermaking process, there are some things you should know about paper. Paper is anything made of matted fibers. The quality of the paper will be changed depending on what you do to the fibers and what you mix in with them before making the paper. You can make paper out of ANYTHING with fibers. The guy who owned the equipment we worked with was in the middle of making paper out of the plants in his yard. That’s right, he took the scraps from when he was gardening last year, and this year he’s making them into paper. How fantastic is that? You can make paper out of dryer lint (although it won’t be very strong since the fibers are so small!) or out of flowers, or even vegetables! Get the point? You can make paper from anything.

Today we made two different kinds of paper: Western style and Japanese style. I’ll go through each one separately so you don’t get confused!

Japanese Style Paper

The first thing you need to make Japanese style paper is the Kozo plant. You soak the plant in water and then remove the outer bark and beat it with a either a special tool, or a stick. You know, whatever you have around that’s good for beating! We used fibers that were already beaten and ready to go, but the unbeaten plant looks something like this:

We were lucky enough to use fibers that were grown in Japan and beaten by a master Japanese paper maker! After the fibers are beaten you put them in the vat (a large tub) with a formation aid. Traditionally the Japanese use the root of the hyacinth plant and call it the Tororo Aoi, but we used some kind of synthetic substitute. The formation helps the paper form and makes it so you can write on the paper without the ink feathering.

So, you’ve got your vat full of furnish (or “stuff” as the very technical papermakers call it :p) what else do you need? Well, you need a paper mold! The Japanese mold is typically made of bamboo (ours was made of wood and mesh) and is called a sugeta. The su is the screen part, and the geta is the wooden frame part. Here’s a picture of a more traditional one than the one we used!

So once you have your furnish in the vat you agitate it either with a tool or your fingers. We used our fingers because it was nice and hot out and the water felt good! The formation aid makes the furnish feel different than normal water… It’s heavier and slimier, almost like you mixed in egg whites. You take the mold and put it straight down vertically into the vat, and then bring it up at an angle. After that you shake it a few times up and down until the fibers begin to settle. The kozo fibers are very fine and much longer than western fibers, and it’s just beautiful to watch them settle! With Japanese papermaking you are dip the mold into the vat as many times as you want and make as thick or thin a sheet of paper as you want! I dipped mine in three times and it turned out pretty nice!

After creating the sheet we took the screen (su) out of the mold (geta) and used a home rigged air suction system to dry the paper a little. We then peeled the sheet off the the screen and put in on a board. Once on the board we used a brush to clear out any air bubbles and flatten it. I was actually kind of surprised at just how strong the matted fibers were when I peeled the sheet off the screen! It wasn’t super-strong, and I could have easily torn the page, but I also didn’t have to be super careful as I walked across the garage.

This is my sheet of paper! Isn’t it beautiful? The Kozo paper is a beautiful tanish color and you can clearly see the long fibers in it. Sorry for the slightly blurry picture! The papermakers showed us some dried pieces and they were not only beautiful, but soft! They almost felt like fabric.

Our papers were being dried in the garage, but traditionally they’re dried outside more like this:

Western Style Paper

Ok, so on to Western paper! Western paper is similar to Japanese paper, but the mold is different and you also don’t use the formation aid. This means that you need to size the paper so you can write it, but that’s whole story and we didn’t do that.

A Western Style paper mold is similar to the sugeta, but the screen is attached to the mold instead of a completely separate piece. The top part of the mold comes off, and is called a deckle. Here’s a picture I found online to give you more an idea…

The furnish for western style paper is different from the Japanese style. Before wood pulp was used, papermakers used cotton and linen fibers, usually from old rags. Ours was mostly made up of lintels, a kind of cotton fiber you can buy partially beaten. In order to beat them more you need to boil them up and put them into a beater. Smaller papermakers use a blender, but we got to see a small Hollander Beater! I forgot to take a picture of the one we saw, but this one is pretty similar:

Ok, so you beat your pulp and make it into furnish and you’re ready to go! You dip the mold in and then you do the “vatman’s shake” which is a fun little series of shakes to get the fibers to lay different ways and mesh together nicely. After carefully taking off the deckle and draining some of the excess water you couch (pronounced coo-ch) the paper onto the post. Here’s my paper!

The paper is a gray color, and a lot thicker than the Japanese paper. Couching it was fun!

Here’s a picture of the vat and post from the papermakers yard-stuff paper!

You couch the paper onto felts. The felts soak up some of the water, and prevent the post form becoming just a giant block of paper! It also usually gives them a nice texture 🙂

Once you have a large enough post you need to press it. This can be done by putting a lot of pressure on it with either a mechanical press or even just having a lot of people stand on some boards. This gets out a lot of the excess water and really forms the paper and mats the fibers together tightly. After drying you’ve got a perfectly usable piece of paper! The papermaker was going to dry ours for us and get them to us before class ends next week, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep my paper!

Papermaking is messy, wet, and very fun and relaxing. It’s calming to dip the mold into the vat, and it’s so awesome to be able to look at the final product and say ” I did that”. Here you can see the fibers that dried on my hand after I made my paper:

So, dear readers, that is how paper is made! There is so much about paper that I never knew that I’m finding is important. I’m so excited to be taking this class and learning about it! Despite moving towards a paperless world, paper is still a vitally important part of our society. Knowing about paper and its properties will hopefully help me repair books and take care them for future generations. Later this summer I’m taking letterpress printing, and in the fall I’m taking Bookbinding, so by the time I graduate I should know all about how to make a book!

Anyone who has any questions feel free to ask me! I don’t know a lot, but by being in this class I probably know more than most people about paper!

EDIT:

My friend Jess is in my class and she got some good pictures of the set up for those of you who are interested! http://argyleincident.blogspot.com/2010/05/papermaking.html

Bloggyblog blog

Why hello there blog, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’m back in Illinois, which means I’ll probably have a lot more time on my hands, which means more blog entries! So, look forward to that!

Today started the first of my summer classes. This one is a 2 week intensive Special Collections class on paper! I am super excited about it, and I’ve already learned a lot! Apparently the Japanese make more paper for more things than all other cultures in the world combined! Papyrus isn’t actually paper, and despite what you might think, paper is still important! Also, my professor sounds like Christopher Walken, so that’s kind of amazing. I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks of revolving my life around paper!

While I was home Steve and I visited DC! It was so awesome, and I loved seeing so many famous places and things. If you want to see my pictures this link should hopefully work for you…. Highlights for me were Lincoln’s hat, the giant squid, the Wright brother’s plane and the Washington Monument.

Songs…

….. I would like to see them do on Glee:

When My Boy Walks Down the Street — Magnetic Fields

Reno Dakota — Magnetic Fields

A Mans Gotta Do — Dr. Horrible

Frankly Mr. Shankly — The Smiths (They should probably add a Mr. Shankly character… He would fit in perfectly!)

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now — The Smiths

Emily makes a pizza

So um…. sorry about the lack of posting this week! I’ve been home, and busy with things like commencement! I am so glad I walked in the ceremony– I feel like a REAL college grad now, not just some dumb kid who has a piece of paper somewhere with the words BA in English on it. Steve did a wonderful post about it, complete with pictures! So check that out.

Now on to the real topic of the day! That would be pizza. Usually Steve is the one in the relationship who makes the pizzas, and I stick to baking. But last night I wanted to let him relax a bit, so I made the pizza! Usually we stick to a few familiar dough recipes (ahem, my mother’s) but I found an interesting looking on on Budget Confessions so I tried that out. Overall, it was pretty good, just a little too salty.

For those of you too lazy to click on the link, the recipe calls for

Ingredients (for one 16-inch pizza):
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose white flour, plus some for dusting
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

Because I am poor and lazy, I used regular salt and regular pepper. The recipe didn’t really say how much pepper to put in, so I just shook it a few times over the flour before mixing. Steve and I are big fans of whole wheat, so I used 1 1/4 cups wheat and 2 cups of white flour.

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Apparently I fail at making pictures and words go together nicely on wordpress… so for now I’m going to give up, and just type down here! As you can see from the pictures, we had a delicious pizza! I’m a big fan of crust, and Steve isn’t, so my side had a lot more crust than his! The best part about making pizza at home is that you can tailor it specifically to the people who are going to eat it. I prebaked the crust, and afterwards it looked (and smelled!) even better than before.

While it was prebaking I assembled the ingredients, such as the jars of sauce above and a yummy tomato! The Tallarico’s, which is Steve’s favorite, ended up being bad so I just used the other can. On top of that went plenty of cheese, tomato (on my side) and more garlic,some more garlic, basil, oregano, and a little paprika! And in to the oven it went!

After about 13 minutes in the over out came our pizza! It was very good (says the cook!) It was a little too salty for us, so if either of us use this recipe again we’ll probably put less salt in. I really liked adding the garlic powder directly into the crust! I think it ended up with a stronger garlic flavor because of it, which is of course always a good thing in my book!

So there you go dear readers, I made a pizza! Hopefully I’ll remember not to neglect this blog while I’m home for the next two weeks!

Adventures in Solitude aka the needlessly long and personal entry

Today is a day of solitude, and of work. Like every weekend, I’ve locked myself in my apartment with a pile of homework and books (never enough books). I’m in the middle of a ten page paper and an infinitely long library building program and I just need to think about something else for a while, so it’s time to blog.

We’re coming to graduation season, and I never spent any time reflecting last December when it was my graduation time, so I think it’s time to do that now. I still can’t believe that I’m done with college, and that Millersville is a thing of the past. Now that so many of my friends from there are finishing up, it’s really hitting me that we’re done. How can we be done? Weren’t we scared freshman awkwardly introducing ourselves yesterday? My three and a half years of college were truly the best years of my life, and they went by far too quickly! Going out into the world is a scary thing, and I already miss the security of being an undergrad with careers and adult life pleasantly in the future, not peering around the corner!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m planning on walking in Millersville’s Spring graduation with Steve and Shayna and everyone else who is graduating. Mine was canceled, and I want a graduation ceremony, goddamnit! But honestly, I didn’t realize how much it mattered to me until after it was canceled. I worked hard to graduate in three and a half years, and I feel like I was seriously cheated out of a major milestone because of some snow. It isn’t going to be nearly the same walking in the spring, and I’m going to feel like a phoney the whole time, but at least I’ll get something, right? I’m not going to get a graduation ceremony from GSLIS because a) I’m graduating in December and U of I is smart enough to not get our hopes up about having a winter ceremony and b) I’m transferring to LEEP so I’ll be living God knows where, but not Illinois, come December.

Sometimes I’m still not sure why I moved here. Shortly before I left Steve made a list for me, and I hung it on my wall to remind me that I was making the right decision. I don’t regret moving here, and my experiences here have really taught me a lot about myself… but going home is just going to be so wonderful. What have I learned about myself, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore. I’ve always been afraid of the dark, for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and the upstairs hallway light was out I would refuse to be the first one to go up the stairs. I slept with the lights on frequently, and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was always SO scary. I was terrified of the trees in our backyard–I was convinced there were velociraptors and vampires who moved in whenever it was dark. When I first moved here I always slept with at least one light on (and a few sources of illumination close at hand in case the power went out!). I’m glad to say that somehow three and a half months of living alone has cured me of my fear of the dark! Hooray!

I’m not so afraid of sharp objects. When I was about five my sister Rachael somehow got ahold of a butcher knife and thought it would be fun to chase me around with it. Ever since, I’ve been terrified of sharp objects. I’m still not super comfortable with them, and if I see you walking around unsafely with a sharp object I’ll probably leave the room, but at least now I’m more comfortable handling them myself.

I’m even more terrified of heights. This is one of those fears that gets worse as I get older. As a kid I would perch on our swingset and read for hours, now walking down a poorly constructed staircase can make me a little shaky. On our Library Buildings field trip we visited the Regenstien Library and they have the worst floating staircase there. Seriously, it’s made of that horrible slippery marble material, there are huge gaps on either side and in between the stairs. It was almost enough to make me ask to use the elevator!

On a more positive note, I’ve learned that I do, after all, like people. I’ve had my fair share of experiences of people I thought I could trust turning out to be people I could not trust, so by the time I graduated I was more than a little jaded. Maybe it’s all the time I spend alone, or maybe it’s the infamous midwestern friendliness, but I really like people here. It’s the second time in my life that I actually feel like part of a community (the first one being the good ole Murmurs crowd.) and I loooove it. We also spend a lot of time talking about the community, and how to interact and help, which makes me so excited to get out into the field and do something! Librarians/future librarians are so awesome.

Let’s talk about the future now, shall we? I’m so excited/scared about where things are going, depending on the day and how many of my professors have told me how impossible it will be to find a job. I’m incredibly bitter about the lack of graduate assistantships here—they got rid of all but about 8 of them. And then there are horrible professors who text during class and have 6 digit salaries. If this recession has taught me anything it’s that life is not fair.

But let’s talk about the good things now! There are a lot of things I’m really excited to do. I really want to start baking/cooking more again. I was really getting into it last year, but I can’t stand it now that I’m living alone. It’s depressing cooking for one! I like having someone there to tell me that yes, I am a food genius and my cookies are the best on the planet. I’ve been reading an obnoxious number of food blogs lately, and you better believe that come fall I’m going to trying out some new recipes!

I’m also excited to be more healthy! I’ve been attempting to run more often, and I’m hoping to get into a regular routine with that over the summer. I’ve decided to try and cut as many processed foods out of my diet as I can. I’ve been reading a lot about how they can really hurt not just your physical but mental health, and I’m hoping that by making some changes I’ll be a happier, healthier person! I don’t think I can cut them all out of my diet, but I think at this point every little thing helps, right? We’ll see.

Well, now that you’ve probably read more about me than you ever cared to, I’m going to go try to get some work done. Expect a more interesting post tomorrow about the research I’ve been doing on community archives!

PS: Did you know that Steve has a blog now? You should probably read it.