Thursday, April 26, 2012

Papermaking part 2 – milkweed & recycled zerkall

The milkweed experiments demonstrated that the woody stems, if they were to be of any use, needed mascerating. There were plenty of desirable long, bast fibers in the milkweed pulp but they were too long, they needed to be shorter. The solution as exemplified everywhere is to used a Hollander beater or, in this case the kitchen blender.


To pulp the woody stems the blender was run for longer than was necessary and chopped the bast fibers too short. In future I will not use the woody stems and devise a less harsh method of pulping (the fibers were first beaten with claw hammers).

100% milkweed paper
Nevertheless the milkweed pulp made an attractive paper.

I have accumulated many offcuts of paper over the years, including at least two tons of German Zerkall mould made – an acid free paper whose "standard furnish is composed of a mix of cotton fibre and high alpha cellulose" – and decided it was time to recycle. Transforming the Zerkall into pulp in the food blender yielded a neutral white base to which I added some of the finer milkweed fibers. 
Milkweed & Zerkall paper


The results were at once more paper like than the first experiments – magic. These pieces of paper are formed on a 4 x 3 inch piece of fly screen and couched onto plywood, glass or rigid insulation to dry in the sun. The fly screen leaves a distinctive mesh pattern on the "wire side" of the paper.




The plywood yielded the smoothest surface. The glass (of the greenhouse) was not clean and the paper stuck. All the sheets possessed a characteristic "rattle" when dry, the thinner the sheet, the more pronounced.


The paper seems quite durable and a fold test (creased and folding 100 times) showed only slight degradation of the surface along the fold. Rubbing did not raise any fibers. Tear strength was not very good, which is not surprising as the fibers were too short as a result of too aggressive blending.


Next experiments will try different plants.

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