Of course you know what paper looks like and how it feels, but it is not so likely that you know what it is and how it is made; but paper making is an art so old, so wonderful and so useful, that you ought to make enough to know all about it.
Paper is made by chemical and mechanical processes from rags, straw or wood into thin sheets. These materials are formed of fibers made up of what chemists call cellulose64 and this substance is in turn composed of C6H10O5, that is 6 atoms of carbon, 10 atoms of hydrogen and 5 atoms of oxygen.
Whatever material you use to make the paper of it must be converted into a pulp first. Cotton or linen makes the best paper -this is called rag paper - because these materials are nearly pure cellulose to begin with.
To make a little paper take about a pound of white cotton or linen rags and cut them up into little bits; boil them in a solution of caustic soda for a couple of hours, to get out all the dirt and grease, and stir them often.
64 Cellulose forms the ground-work of all vegetable tissues whether they are the tender shoots of a fern or the hard wood of trees.
Next wash out the dirty water that has resulted from boiling them and then the cotton or linen must be broken up and beaten until the fibers are separated. You can do this by putting the fabrics into a chopping bowl, wetting it down with clean water and then using a pair of chopping knives on them until the fibers are cut fine, and you must change the water often. In paper mills a rag engine, as it is called, is used to wash and break up the rags.
Fig. 70. A Frame For Paper Making
Make half-a-dozen frames of wood 1/4i inch thick and 1/2 an inch wide, and about 5 x 8 inches on the sides; and cover these with brass wire netting having about 20 wires to the inch as shown in Fig. 70. School slate frames are good for this purpose.
Now spread a thin layer of pulp on the wire netting of each frame, or mold, and set them to one side to dry. When you have all the molds filled and the pulp is dry turn each frame upside down on a sheet of blotting paper and lay another sheet of blotting paper over the paper you are making.
In this way pile up the blotting paper and the paper in the making and then put them under pressure; this you can do by placing the pile between two smooth 1 inch thick boards and screwing them together with a couple of wood clamps.65 After an hour or so you can take the clamps from the pile and separate the sheets of paper from the blotting paper.
Next place the paper between sheets of oil board,66 make a pile of them and screw them up between the wood clamps again good and tight and leave them there over night; then hang up each sheet of paper by a corner with a clip and let it dry.
When the sheets are dry take them down and lay them carefully in a pile for sizing. Make the sizing by dissolving gelatine in hot water until it is about as thick as milk with the cream in it.
Pour the sizing into a shallow dish or, better, a photographic tray; lay each sheet, first one side and then the other, on the sizing and be careful to wet it evenly all over. Put the sized paper between the sheets of oil board again, make a pile of them, screw on the wood clamps, let them stay under pressure for half a day and, finally when you take them out let them dry slowly and you will have a hand made paper that you have made with your own hands.
65 A description of these clamps will be found in Chapter I.
66 This is a heavy oiled paper and you can buy it at a painter's supply store, or of C. B. Hewitt and Bros., 48 Beekman St., New York City.