April 2, 2008

HOW TO: Make Paper from Junk Mail

Like everyone, I get a TON of junk mail. And despite my calls to company's telling them I want off their catalog mailing lists, I still get a lot of mail that goes straight into the recycling bin - incentive checks from credit cards, sale fliers, you know you get them too. Well in celebration of Earth Day, here's a great way to re-use a lot of that un-wanted mail to make new paper!

What you'll need:
-old magazines, letters, junk mail
(no newspaper, the consistency will be just terrible, try to keep it to letters and
things printed on white paper for the best results)
-blender or food processor
-screen, deckle and mold, or i've even done it with a silkscreen, though the weight of the paper on a silk screen over time will warp it, and you won't be able to use to that way again
-iron (maybe?)
-bathtub or large container, large enough for your screen and some space to get the water to mix around

Just take your stack of paper and either shred it or rip it up into small pieces - the smaller the better really as this will be the base for your pulp and you'll be able to pull thinner sheets with finer pulp.

After it's all shredded up into small 1" pieces, set it in a bucket of water and let soak overnight to break down the paper a bit. Drain the excess water, and now it''s time for the blender! Blend the rough cut pulp with water about 1 part pulp to 4 parts water. At this time you can add in any food coloring (or hey, try natural dyes, boil some onion skins and add that to your pulp, you'll get a nice muted color and keeping in the actual skins will create some nice contrast in the final paper)

Put all this great pulp into a large vat, big enough for you to dredge your screen through - I couldn't ever find a container big enough for my screen, so everything goes into a nice clean bath tub with the drain closed. And I add more water to the pulp. Now once that is all set, take your screen and let it sink to the bottom, and swirl around the pulp in the water so it is even. Line up the deckle on top, and while the pulp is still swirling around lift up the screen, allowing all the water to pass through the screen, leaving a nice film of pulp on the top - the deckle helps keep the sheet forming evenly. You can experiment with different thickness of paper, depending on how diluted you made the pulp.

Now this is the tricky part, getting that sheet off the screen! You can use some absorbant felt (and CHEAP too!) and stack that with some newsprint to help soak up some of the water and in one quick motion put the screen - paper sheet down - directly on to the felt. Stack another sheet of felt and newspaper and felt again, pull another sheet and stack that on top as well. As the stack get bigger, you can try squeezing more water out by laying heay books on top or putting the sheets in between two boards and a clamp, and really squeeze that water out.

Drying time for the sheets really depends on how much water you got squeezed out initially and how moist the air is etc. Once the sheet are completely dry, if they curl up a little, you can always put them under a towel and iron them a bit to straighten them out. HAVE FUN!

I use it as gift wrap mostly because it tends to bleed when written on or drawn on. To protect against this you need to size it so that any ink on it doesn't bleed out. Have fun adding stuff and creating your very own custom paper!

I'll be offering this recycled paper in my supply shop at KimmSupplies.Etsy.com as an Earth Day / Spring special

HEY MiraArtz.etsy.com - let me know what I missed in this do-it-at-home tutorial you did this for a living!



Iris said...

Great post, very useful!

Anonymous said...

TIP: if you add a little bit of glue to your diluted pulp (like elmers or mod podge) you can write on the paper without your ink bleeding. also, a plastic cement mixing tub (about $5 at home depot) is a great alternative to the bathtub!

KimmChi said...

Molly - that's a great tip! Thanks

Unknown said...

This is such a great idea. I have been shredding much of it for security reasons. This would be more fun!

bshorr said...

what a great idea - thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

great article! i want to try this...