Thursday, 26 June 2014

Traditional Papermakers

Mould-Made Paper

The earliest papers were hand-made by dipping a rigid wooden frame with a fine wire mesh into a vat of ground up cellulose (cotton or wood) fibres and water. The fibres in the resulting sheet would be arranged in a random fashion. This would mean there were no significant differences in properties of the sheet, in the long or short direction, and the sheet would be very strong and stable.

Cotton Pulp

At St Cuthberts Mill our cylinder mould machine is one of only six producing artists paper, and the second widest in the world. It replicates the hand-made process but in a continuous operation. The resultant sheet has only slight differences between the long and short direction. This means exceptional sheet stability.

We have a cylinder around which there are 3-joined wire mesh frames. These lift the fibres from the vat to form a sheet that is joined to the next sheet and therefore continues down the machine. This strip of paper then passes through natural woolen felts that both add surface texture and remove water from the sheet.

St Cuthberts Mill Mould Machine - making paper

The paper passes through a number of cylinders full of steam that dry the sheet. This dry paper then passes through a bath where any surface sizing (e.g. Gelatine) can be added. If it is going to be a smooth paper it will pass through the calenders (hot press) after final drying. The paper then proceeds to the reel up where it rolls up on a cardboard core.

Deckle Edges

In the case of four deckled edged sheets this reel of paper is then split and inspected by hand, in a department called the 'Salle'. We have photos dating from the Edwardian era that show very little has changed!

Mould-made paper machines produce paper very slowly and that is why it is often more expensive, but it is a far superior product. Machine-made or Fourdrinier machines produce larger quantities of cheaper paper at high speed using lower quality pulp, which show marked differences in properties between the long and short direction of the sheet. 

You can see our paper being made at or at

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