This information is reprinted from the Beginner Topics column of Hand Papermaking Newsletter #62 (April, 2003).

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Drying on Fiberglass Screening

There were good reasons why Japanese farmers made their beautiful papers in the winter. The water ran to them over frozen ground with little sediment, and the air was crisp and dry. If you live in the northern hemisphere (and if you hurry!) you will be able to take advantage of the latter of these favorable conditions--dry air.

Drying paper is a function of allowing the moisture in the sheet to return to the surrounding air. This exchange is best accomplished in conditions of low humidity. Pressing is often the first step in the process. But in Nepal, for instance, pressing is not a part of the process.

For this article, it seems appropriate to discuss techniques that require less equipment, i.e., no press. Handmade papers such as the milkweed fiber sheets discussed in the last issue, or other plant fiber sheets, or even recycled paper sheets, would all lend themselves to the drying method described below. Traditionally this drying method would be done with a separate mould or screen for each sheet. The sheets would be formed and the moulds left in the sun to dry (as in Nepal). Beginning papermakers are often pleased to own even one good mould. So this is an adaptation that utilizes just one mould.

Begin by cutting fiberglass screening slightly larger than the surface of the mould. Cut as many pieces as you plan to make sheets of paper. Cover the surface of the mould with a cut piece and clamp it down with the deckle. Dip this into the pulp and form the sheet. After it has drained lift the fiberglass with the formed sheet off the supporting mould. Hang it up to dry. It is also possible to tack the fiberglass screening and sheet of paper to a plywood board to assure a flat sheet.

When the drying is complete, gently pull the screening from the paper and reuse the screen. If the slight texture left by the screen is undesirable, the dry sheet of paper may be gently rubbed with a bone folder or smooth stone to burnish the surface and remove the pattern.

Drying affects the finished surface of the paper in many ways. The type of fiber and the system of processing the fiber influence the final drying methods used. For example, sheets made with long-beaten, high-shrinkage abaca will barely hold to a drying surface and will resemble a potato chip if left to dry on a flat surface. However, that same sheet wrapped over an armature with some methyl cellulose glue will dry with the flat, tight surface of a drum.

There are many ways to dry paper. The method described above is one of the easiest. Remember to do it on a dry day. For additional information consult Helen Hiebert’s The Papermaker's Companion.

Copyright 2003 Hand Papermaking, Inc.