How Paper Is Made

Discover how paper is made and explore the paper making process. Learn how important it is to manage the trees used in paper making effectively.

Lots of craft ideas use paper, here you can find out more about how paper is made.

It was not until the mid 1800's that we had the technology available to be able to make paper from wood.
Before then paper was made from animal skins or plant fibers. Rags and used paper can be broken down and recycled to make new paper.

Most of the paper we use today is made from wood pulp. Hard wood trees take longer to grow but make a better quality paper than the pulp from softwood trees. In most writing papers the pulp from both type of trees are mixed together. The fibers in wood are very strong and are held together with a natural binder called lignin.

More About Paper

Introduction to Paper Making

Paper is such a common commodity that we hardly ever think about it. Can you imagine a world where paper had not been invented. Without paper and the means to easily record major events and everyday life we would not have evolved as we are today.

The great advances in science and technology are mainly due to the fact that we can write down our findings and share them with others. After death the written word can still be read and the works of great minds can continue to shape and influence us.

Making Paper From Wood

Most of our paper that we use today is made from wood pulp. Trees can take a long time to grow and just cutting them down to use to make paper without replanting can have some serious consequences.

Trees are a necessary part of the ecological balance on our planet.

Animals including humans breath in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen.

Tree Farm in Oregon

Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution], via Wikimedia Common

They also provide shelter from the elements for many wild creatures and they protect the ground from erosion. 

Although our woods and forests are diminishing to make room for our ever expanding population in paper making trees are grown purely for the purpose of making paper. Tree farms are carefully managed and as trees are cut down more are planted. Waste wood and wood chips from saw mills can also be used.

Making Wood Pulp


A pulp is made by soaking the wood in water to separate all the individual fibers.

The pulp is put onto wire screens to drain away most of the water, more water is removed by using special rollers that absorb water.

The pulp is then dried even more using hot rollers that eventually remove all the excess water.

Paper making equipment
Wookey Hole caves

By Rodw (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The binder lignin still sticks to the individual fibres though as some of it remains and doesn't get washed away.

As the water is removed the fibres stick together again in a flat sheet. The paper pulp can then be bleached to create a white paper.

Paper can be finished in many ways, it can be bleached, dyed or have a thin layer of clay spread over it's surface.

Recycling Paper


The paper making process does cause some weakening to those really strong wood fibers. They are cut up in the process of making the wood chips.

Although paper can be recycled it has to be put through the same process as making paper from wood, the process causes the wood fibers to become weaker. 

It also has to have the ink removed and this chemical process can weaken the fibers even more.  Recycled paper does not make very strong paper so it is often mixed with new wood pulp.

References

Tappi, Paper University, 2001. How is Paper Made [online]
Available at: http://www.tappi.org/paperu/all_about_paper/papermade.htm [Accessed on 7 August 2012]

Wikipedia, 2012, Paper. [online]
Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper
[Accessed on 7 August 2012]

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