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Pulp fiction - how to make recycled paper

You will need:

  • two frames, one with a mesh covering. You can either buy a paper making kit from your local craft shop or you can make your own by following the instructions below.
  • plastic sheets to protect tables
  • plenty of shredded or ripped up paper or ripped up egg boxes. A paper shredder will make this easier but it is not essential
  • potato masher or liquidiser (you must get permission from the owner of the liquidiser before you use it and if you are under 12 you will need to be supervised by an adult)
  • washing up bowl or a large, clean cat litter tray
  • water and a jug in which to transport this
  • 15 - 20 J-cloths (or similar)
  • 2 sponges
  • newspaper or computer paper (that's already been used on one side)

Making the frames

If you decide to do this yourself, you will need:

  • 4 x 21cm lengths of wood (approx. 1cm x 2cm thick)
  • 4x 15cm lengths of wood (approx. 1cm x 2cm thick)
  • staple gun and staples
  • A4 sized nylon tight weave net curtain or aluminium car repair mesh (available in set sizes from most car shops)
  • gaffer tape
  • wood varnish or wood stain (optional)

1. Take two of the 21cm and two of the 15cm lengths of timber and arrange these into an A5 sized rectangular frame. If you have time to varnish or stain the wood to seal it, your frames will last longer.

2. Ask an adult to staple the strips of wood together using 3 - 5 staples per join on each side.

3. Cut a piece of net curtain or aluminium mesh to fit over the frame. Use the staple gun to attach the net to the frame so that it is stretched tightly.

4. Protect the place where the net is attached by covering the frame with gaffer tape.

5. Repeat steps 1 & 2 to make another frame but do not cover this one in nylon or aluminium mesh.

Making the pulp

1. Shred or rip the paper or card into bits and soak these in warm water for at least a few hours. The longer you can do this for the better so, if possible, leave it to soak overnight.

2. Either half-fill the liquidiser with water and add one or two handfuls of soaked paper in the liquidiser with water and blend for a few minutes, or mash the soaked paper with a potato masher until it looks like thick soup.

Making the paper

1. Set out the equipment as shown in the diagram below.

2. Pour water into the bowl or tray so that it is between ½ and ¾ full. Add 2 or 3 handfuls of the paper pulp. If you want, you could also add a small amount of paint to colour the finished paper. An alternative is to add leaves and dried flowers. Then, use your hands to swirl the mixture together.

3. Place the mesh frame on the table with the mesh facing upwards. Put the open frame on top of the mesh and hold the sides of the frames together.

4. Scoop the paper pulp into the frame by holding the frame over the tray with the front tipping downwards and moving it down and forwards into the water. Then hold the frame under the water and move it gently backwards and forwards.

5. Lift the frame straight up and out of the water. Count to ten whilst you let the water drain into the tray.

6. Remove the open frame and turn the mesh frame upside down onto the pile of J-cloths. Do not put your fingers on the mesh or you will make a hole in the new paper sheet. Press down on the mesh with a sponge to wipe up the excess water.

7. Lift and remove the frame.

8. Place a piece of newspaper on top of the recycled paper and turn the whole pile upside down. Leave the paper on top of the J-cloths and peg these on to a washing line.

9. Leave your paper to dry. The time this takes will depend on the weather and time of year and on the thickness of the paper you have made - thicker paper will take longer to dry than thinner paper.

10. When dry, peel the recycled paper off the newspaper.

Once you've done this once, you could try experimenting with different types of pulp, for example from cardboard, egg boxes, newspaper, and coloured paper.


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