Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Make Your Own Paper

I am excited to report that my paper-making adventure was a total success! The great news—it's not really that hard. It's actually pretty fun and a great activity for both kids and adults. The longest part of the process was building my own mold and deckle (see instructions below) but after that's done, the rest is a snap.

How to Make Your Own Paper

Materials used:

  • Mold and deckle (see instructions below)
  • Paper slurry (see instructions below)
  • Dish tub or similarly sized plastic bin filled with about 3 inches of warm water.
  • 4 small sheets of light-weight, absorbent fabric. Note: your paper will be textured if you use textured fabric. I used textured dishtowels but pillow cases or scraps of an old set of sheets would work really well for a smooth finish. 
  • Sponge

1. Dump the paper slurry into the dish tub. This is the stage where you can sprinkle flower petals, leaves, or other embellishments into the slurry.
2. Take the mold and deckle in your hands. The mold should be screen side up with the deckle flush on top. Dip the mold and deckle into the dish tub, scooping the paper slurry as you go. You may need to use your hands to continue to scoop the slurry into the mold and deckle.

3. Once you have a thin layer of slurry coating the mold, slowly lifted the mold and deckle out of the tub. There will be a suction effect as you do so, further flattening the wet-leaf to the mold.

4. Remove the deckle from the mold.

5. Place a sheet of fabric on top of the mold and gently flip it over onto a flat surface so the fabric is now underneath the mold.
6. Use a sponge to soak up some of the water.

7. Slowly remove the mold from the wet-leaf ("wet-leaf" is the official name for the wet paper you have just made).

8. Leave the wet-leaf on the fabric and leave it to dry completely (about two hours). Once your handmade paper is dry, slowly remove the fabric and admire your work!

Making the mold and deckle

These two pieces are essentially flat wooden frames—one is empty (deckle) and one has a screen mesh attached to it (mold). If you already own two identical flat wooden frames, by all means use those. Just make sure the frames are flat so that they lie flush when placed on top of one another. You can also buy a pre-made mold and deckle at most craft stores. However, in the true handmade spirit, I constructed my own mold and deckle with wood pieces cut by my friendly hardware store salesperson.

Materials used:

  • 1” x 7’ flat wood, cut into 4 pieces of 9-inch lengths and 4 pieces of 12-inch lengths. The dimensions are totally up to you but I recommend sticking to something manageable, especially because the wet-leaf tears easily.
  • Wood glue
  • Sandpaper
  • 1.5” (approx.) finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Screen mesh
  • Scissors to cut the screen mesh (if you buy a screen made with metal, you will need stronger sheers or wire cutters)
  • Staple gun
  • Polyurethane varnish

1. Sand any rough edges of the wood until smooth
2. Using wood glue, assemble your frames. You can hold the pieces in place with clamps or heavy objects like bookends.
3. After the glue has dried, finish each frame with a nail at each joint of the frame.

4. Apply 1-2 coats polyurethane varnish to the frames and let dry for about 6 hours.
5. Cut the screen mesh to fit the outside dimensions of one of the frames. Place the mesh on top of the frame and affix with a staple gun. Start in the corners and then staple all around, pulling the mesh until it is taut all around.

Making the paper slurry

Materials used:

  • Water
  • Blender
  • Scrap paper - newspaper, construction paper, even junk mail! Do not use any coated stock or magazine paper. It won’t break up well enough to blend with the other paper fibers.

Fill the blender about ¾ full with warm water. Tear sheets of scrap paper and soak them in the blender for about 5 minutes. To make (4) 7.5” x 12” sheets of paper, I used the equivalent of 1.5 sheets of newspaper. Specifically, I used (4) 5” x 5” squares of colored construction scrap paper and 1 sheet of blank newspaper. Blend to a pulp, about 15 seconds. Note: Sometimes bleach is used to whiten printed newspaper.


  1. oh my gosh, amazing! just one more thing i didn't know could be a DIY, thanks for sharing, gotta try this.

  2. Thanks! I can't wait to do more of it once it's a little warmer outside. Due to my lack of workspace, it's an easier outdoor activity :)


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