I’ve started transforming some of my kozo fibre (general term for the inner bark of mulberry trees) into sheets of paper. I cut some up and left other bits as long strands. I purchased this as per the photo below and know little about it. It’s probably been bleached, maybe treated in some way but I’m not experienced enough with this product to know. It’s time to use it.
I’ve only used the Hollander Beater owned by Primrose Paper Arts (PPA) once, and that was several years ago, so this was another learning experience.
Top left shows the machine in action once the cut fibre has been gradually added to the water. On the right longer fibres are being separated and dropped in with the rest. As the fibre is worked by the ‘water wheel’ and it breaks down you see less of the individual strands and the water appears to be milky (bottom left). This is a result of the fibres softening, separating and turning onto pulp. The fibres over my fingers give an indication of what’s happening as the process continues.
Once this was complete the machine was drained, the fibre and some water put in a bucket and I brought it home. I set up a workstation ready to pull sheets.
I wanted A4 sheets, usually easily achieved, but the fibre clogged the mesh. It went down onto the couching cloths but pulled away again, tearing. It stuck to the mold. Huge air bubbles formed between the pulp and the cloths. It seemed like the fibre wrapped itself onto the mold and decided to stay there – in part, at least.
The A5 mold has a much denser mesh, about double the larger one. I tried that. Worked perfectly. Obviously there’s some subtlety here I haven’t learned about this fibre yet but, hey, I was getting sheets of paper so went with it.
The sheets are very fine, as can be seen from the photo where you can see the couching cloth through it. Once I had my post (pile of alternate sheets and cloths) complete I put it in my book press.
PPA has a fabulous press with a tray around it to catch water as it’s forced out when pressure is applied. I don’t have that so I piled towels below, above and around my stack and they absorbed the excess. Once removed from the press I rolled the sheets onto every available flat surface I could find (washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, vanity top …) and removed the cloths.
On a normal day these would take about 12-14 hours to dry but the temperature was high and I watched as some sheets dried in a few minutes in front of my eyes. How did I know they were dry? Well because it happened so fast they curled up away from the surface and ended up looking like poppadoms!!
Luckily only 6 sheets did this and the rest were carefully peeled from their surfaces once dry and have remained beautifully flat.
So 17 sheets, around 30-40gsm, perfectly usable, and 6 poppadoms which I’ll try ironing.