Indian Handmade Papers
One ton of traditional Indian handmade paper, produced from cotton rag waste, saves an estimated 277 Eucalyptus or 462 bamboo trees that would be required to make the same quantity of conventional mill made paper.
The basic steps of recycled handmade paper being utilised by Indian Handmade Papers are described below.
SORTING & DUSTING
The waste cotton rags and natural fibres such as flower petals or grasses must be sorted by hand to remove foreign materials like plastics, dust, stalks and bark etc. that would contaminate the pulp, and cause imperfections in the paper.
The sorted cotton rags are put through a mechanised rag chopper that cuts the rags into small uniform sized pieces.
Beating is the most important step in the handmade paper making process. The chopped rags are converted into a fine pulp and mixed with water. When making coloured and or textured papers, the dyes and or textured materials like straw, hemp, grass, silk and jute fibres etc., are added during this process. The resulting pulp is ready for sheet formation.
Dipping is the traditional method. In this method the pulp is transferred from the beater into a masonry trough or vat. Depending on the thickness of the paper required, the pulp is diluted by mixing it with water. The mould, made of a wooden frame with a wire mesh or a bamboo stick mat, is dipped by hand into the pulp. The frame is then shaken side to side horizontally (this gives the fibre a cross linking pattern and strength - a unique characteristic of handmade paper) and lifted out of the vat. A sheet of pulp is formed over the mould. This method requires a skilled operator and is physically demanding.
The wet paper sheet is then transferred onto a cloth/felt piece of fabric, a couch, which acts as an interleaf separating the wet sheets
A manual press then squeezes out the excess water from the sheets of paper. This compresses the pulp adding strength to the fibre and facilitating the drying process.
Each sheet of paper is dried in the open air. For coloured papers drying is in the shade and although slower, is preferred in order to obtain uniform colour on both sides of the sheet
PACKAGING, CLEANING AND SIZING
The sheets are then inspected for unwanted foreign matter. Small particles and dirt are removed manually with a sharp instrument. The cleaned sheets may then be coated with starch in order to make them blot-free.
Each sheet of handmade paper is placed between metallic plates and passed through spring loaded rollers in a calendaring machine. This smooths the paper and also enhances the gloss.
At this point the sheets of paper are cut to different sizes. However, typically, the sheets are machine cut to a standard 22"x30" or 56x76 cm. size and then packed for shipment.