The science of making paper is very simple and the process is the same whether it is a commercial chip mill, a recycled paper processor, or students using a blender and screens.
Paper is a mat held together by tiny strands of plant material, called fibers. When the fibers are pressed together, they overlap, giving paper its form and structure. The source of fiber is cellulose, the major building block of all plant cells. Cellulose is broken down into individual fibers by beating and mixing with water, creating slurry. The water is drained out, leaving an interwoven mass of fibers, pulp, in a thin sheet. The fibers are pressed together on a screen and when dry, the new sheet of paper is ready for use.
Don’t worry too much about exact measurements or doing it “right”. Experiment and have fun! It is very hard to fail when making paper.
Inventory your materials and make sure you have everything you need before starting.
Materials Provided in Kit (see Lending Library to borrow kit)
- Blender, extension cord
- 2 large coffee cans
- 2 small coffee cans
- 2 circles of hardware cloth
- 6 screens (8.5×11)
- 3 sponges
- 3 cups (for kids to sort their paper pieces into)
- 2 plastic containers to wring sponges into
- 1 gallon water bottle
- Paper Recycling DVD
- Paper: wrapping paper, newsprint, school papers, any paper from the recycling bin will work. Each student will use about the equivalent of an 8.5″ x 11ot; sheet, shredded or torn into pieces. Colored paper added to white paper makes interesting combinations.
- Newspaper: one section per student.
- Water to fill the blender. Water collected in the process can be recycled or you may replenish with fresh water as needed.
- Parent helpers: at least one and more if making paper with 20 or more.
These materials will make basic paper.
- Place circular hardware cloth over the large can’s open end.
- Place a screen on top of the hardware cloth.
- Put the tin can with both ends cut out over the window screen.
- Have kids tear paper into small pieces into the plastic cup. (Kids can be choosing and tearing paper while waiting their turn at the blender)
- Place paper pieces in the blender.
- Add about 1-1/2 cups of water. Put lid on and run the blender for about 30 seconds. What looks like a paper milk shake is actually slurry.
- Pour the slurry into the top of the smaller can. Hold can firmly while pouring.
- Let all the water drain into the bottom can.
- When no more water is draining through, raise the top can straight up and off. The circle of paper pulp on the screen is your new sheet of paper.
- If you are adding decorative bits (colored confetti, seeds, glitter, etc,) gently place them into the pulp now.
- Place another screen on top of the pulp.
- Using a sponge, press down on top of the screen soaking up as much water as you can. Squeeze the water out of the sponge (into the white containers) as you go. Repeat until the sponge removes little or no more water.
- Peel off the top window screen and lay the new sheet, inverted, on top of a section of newspaper.
- Press the sponge on top of the screen again with as much force as possible. Apply pressure over the entire sheet.
- Peel off the remaining window screen carefully, leaving the new sheet on the newspaper.
- Have student write their name on the newsprint, and lay to dry.
- Optional Iron Drying: If you wish, use an iron to quick dry the paper. Be sure to place a thin cloth on top of the new sheet before applying heat. Use top heat on your iron and move iron slowly but steadily so that all parts of the sheet dry at the same rate. DO NOT ALLOW STUDENTS TO IRON
- Rinse pulp from blender, screens, cans, and water containers.
- Dry all components.
- Let sponges air dry overnight before packing.
- Inventory to assure all components are packed into the storage tub.
Use confetti, seeds, glitter, and cookie cutters for extra creativity. Make up batches of different colors of pulp ahead of time. Store in ice cream pails with lids for later use as follows:
After pouring a base color pulp on the screen, Press different colors of pulp into the circle making a free form picture
- Use cookie cutters to form pulp into shapes
- Cut out words, glitter, shapes, confetti, pine needles, seeds, ideas are endless!
To learn more about the history of papermaking, check out this informative webpage.