Looking for a fun summer project? How about a family-friendly paper making activity! Paper making is a fun and interactive way to engage children in thinking about the paper recycling process and issues of waste reduction. This hands-on project demonstrates how used and discarded paper can be recycled into ‘new’ paper in order to conserve trees and save space in landfills. This is a great activity to do with children, but is fun for all ages and can be done in big groups or just one-on-one. At the end of this rewarding project, each person will be able to make, decorate, and bring home their own hand-made piece of paper!
If you are interested in making paper in your own home, we recommend having a few tools and materials on hand. For this activity you will need:
- Shredded or torn paper
- Roughly 3 gallons of water
- A wide, shallow basin
- Piece of cardboard or clean construction paper
Once you have assembled these materials, you are ready to start making paper! Be sure to set aside at least 30 minutes for this activity, and see below for step-by-step instructions.
Step 1: Prepare Your Materials! Make sure that you have assembled all necessary tools and materials, and that you have a clean space to perform the activity. You will want to fill the basin with water at this point in time (about halfway full).
Step 2: Shred or Tear Paper. Newspaper is a great option for this, but any non-waxed paper product will do perfectly! Be sure to remove any plastic or staples, especially if you’re using junk mail. If you have a paper shredder on hand, this facilitates the process, but tearing the paper into small pieces also works well. You’ll be putting this paper in the blender, so the work you put into this step makes Step 3 easier!
Step 3: Blend Equal Parts Paper and Water. This is an inexact science, but our ‘tried and true’ method is to place equal parts shredded paper and water into a clean blender. Fill the blender with the mixture until it’s about half full. Run the blender on a lower setting to begin, increasing the speed until the pulp looks smooth and well-blended. The ideal consistency is soupy, and resembles watery oatmeal.
Step 4: Add Pulp to Basin: By adding the blended pulp to the water in the basin, you will create the slurry that is used to actually make the paper. The amount of pulp you add will determine the thickness of the paper. The ideal consistency is, again, watery oatmeal. You want to strike a balance between having enough pulp to fully cover your deckle/screen in the next steps, but you don’t want the slurry to be so thick that your paper takes more than a day to dry. So, experiment a bit! You can always add more water.
Step 5: Place the Mold/Frame on the Deckle/Screen. The Mold/Frame will determine the shape of your paper.
Step 6: Submerge the Deckle/Screen in the Pulp Slurry. Place your Deckle/Screen (keeping the Mold/Frame on top) into the pulp slurry, screen-side down. Lightly move it side-to-side, as though sifting for gold, until the pulp on top of the screen lies fairly level and uniformly flat.
Step 7: Lift the Deckle/Screen from the Basin. Slowly lift up the Deckle/Screen until it is above the water, and let it drain over the basin. Once most of the water has drained from the pulp, you will see the beginnings of your new, recycled piece of paper! If the paper is very thick, remove some of the pulp from the top. If you would like it to be thicker, add some more pulp to the slurry in the basin, and try Step 6 again.
Step 8: Time to Sponge! After your paper looks to be desired thickness, you’ll need to remove the extra remaining water from the pulp. Very gently use a sponge to press out as much water as possible from the paper. This will likely have to be done a few times, and just remember to wring out your sponge every once in a while.
Step 9: Remove the Paper from the Screen: Now that you’ve sponged off most of the excess water from your paper, it’s time to transfer it to a surface on which it can fully dry over the next 24 hours. First, remove the Mold/Frame from the Deckle/Screen. Next, place a clean piece of cardboard or construction paper on top of the paper, making sure that it lies flat on against the Deckle/Screen. Then, with one hand holding the cardboard/construction paper flat against the Deckle/Screen, flip it upside down to transfer your recycled paper onto the piece of cardboard/construction paper.
Step 10: Leave it out to dry! Once your hand-made paper has been transferred, find a safe place to leave it out to dry. Drying times vary dependent on the paper thickness, but we recommend to allow your paper to dry for at least 24 hours.
- If you want to get more creative with this project, you can also decorate your recycled paper! We like to use compostable materials, like dried flowers or seeds. That way, you have a beautiful piece of paper that can also be A) composted after use or B) given as a gift that can be planted!
- This can be a messy project – having a smock, apron, or old t-shirt on hand might be helpful in keeping surfaces and clothing clean!
- If you want to make more paper, just repeat Steps 2, 3, and 4 to make more pulp slurry!
For video instructions, watch our paper making segment on Mass Appeal!
For more ideas, check out all of our Creative Reuse blogs!