Papermaking is the process of making paper, a substance which is used for writing and packaging.
In papermaking a dilute suspension of fibers in water is drained through a screen, so that a mat of randomly interwoven fibers is laid down. Water is removed from this mat of fibers by pressing and drying to make paper. Most paper is made from wood pulp, but other fiber sources such as cotton and rag textiles may be used.
Making Paper by Hand
Papermaking involves making a dilute suspension of fibers in water and allowing this suspension to drain through a screen so that a mat of randomly interwoven fibers is laid down. Water is removed from this mat of fibers by pressing and drying, the result of which is paper.
First the fibers are suspended in water to form a slurry in a large bucket or vat. The mold is a wire screen in a wooden frame similar to an old window screen, called a deckle, which is used to scoop some of the slurry out of the vat. The slurry in the screen mold is sloshed around the mold until it forms a uniform thin coating. The fibers are allowed to settle and the water to drain. When the fibers have stabilized in place but are still damp, they are turned out onto a felt sheet which was generally made of an animal wool or fur, and then the screen mold may be reused. Layers of paper and felt build up in a pile then a weight is placed on top to press out excess water and keep the paper fibers flat and tight. The sheets are then removed from the pile and hung or laid out to dry.
In an industrial setting, when the paper pages are dry, they are run between rollers, called calendared, to produce a harder writing surface. Papers may be sized with gelatin to bind the fibres into the sheet.
The wooden frame is called a "deckle". The deckle leaves the edges of the paper slightly irregular and wavy, called "deckle edges", one of the indications that the paper was made by hand. The impressions in paper caused by the wires in the screen that run sideways are called "laid lines" and the impressions made, usually from top to bottom, by the wires holding the sideways wires together are called "chain lines". Watermarks are created by weaving a design into the wires in the mold.