This information is reprinted from the For Beginners column of Hand Papermaking Newsletter #36 (October, 1996).

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Safety

While papermaking in general is among the safest of crafts, there are a few considerations that will help avoid accidents and injury. As in all endeavors, a neglect of common sense is the biggest safety hazard. For example, it should be obvious that allowing fingers to dangle near Hollander beater blades can have severe consequences. The following observations cover less drastic concerns, but they are important nonetheless.

Since the papermaking process involves large amounts of water, be cautious of slippery surfaces and electrical hazards. Wear rubber-soled shoes and take care to avoid splashing water near extension cords or electrical outlets.

Additional concerns arise once you start adding things to the water. Some plants cause skin irritation. When using alkaline soda ash (safer than lye) to break down plant materials, avoid skin and eye contact. Add alkali to the water, not the other way around. Use stainless steel or enamel containers and utensils for cooking--never aluminum. Use of chlorine bleach as a lightener will not only degrade fibers, but is not as safe as hydrogen peroxide (3% solution). Some pigments can also be hazardous. Wearing gloves or skin-barrier cream and goggles is prudent when using any chemical additive.

Having protected your skin and eyes, don't neglect your ears and nose. Earplugs will bring the sound of a noisy beater down to tolerable levels. A mask will help filter airborne pigments or harmful vapors when an alkali solution is on the stove. Cook in a well-ventilated area.

Finally, read any manufacturers' precautions--Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available upon request. You might also consider purchasing a reference book on safety in the arts. And, don't forget common sense.

Copyright 1996 Hand Papermaking, Inc.