Plant Fibers That Can Be Processed By Hand Beating or In a Blender...and make great paper by themselves
by Catherine Nash
There are as many recipes as there are papermakers! Many who are more experienced have learned to judge the stages of fiber processing by eye and feel. Once you have been making paper from plants you will gain a sense, as well. Keep in mind if you are experimenting with an unknown fiber start with the mildest caustic first. Try soda ash before lye (caustic soda).
Remember to always add the caustic to the water, not the other way around, slowly shaking the granules into the liquid. Do not just dump it in. If you add water to the caustic it can explode in your face. One of the best ways to know how much caustic to add is to use pH test strips to measure the pH of the alkali in the cooking water. It should be about 11. This method can be used with green or dry plant fibers. After cooking, rinse completely (sometimes it may take up to 8 changes of water) until the water is clear or the pH is neutral (between 6 and 7), or until fiber doesn't feel slimy.
Please note that there is a big difference between how hand pounding separates the fibers and the way a blender cuts the fiber shorter and shorter. If it is at all possible, choose to process the pulp by hand beating, resorting to a blender if necessary.
Many papermakers vary the length of time of blending to allow for fibers of different lengths in the vat. Many different results can come from the same hand-beaten or blended pulp as you vary sheet-forming techniques, pressing methods, and how you dry the final sheet. Generally, the stronger the press, the stronger the paper. Restraint drying (brushing the pressed sheet onto a board, Formica, or glass) controls the shrinkage of the fiber and also gives you stronger results.
By all means, EXPERIMENT! And have fun!
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41 plants suggested by 6 papermakers.