It is universally known that paper comes from trees; ask a 5-year-old and they would give the answer in a matter of moments. Ask them once more about how trees come to be the pages we write on. See tilted heads and little frowns? Worry not, not all adults are aware of the papermaking process either.
However, this article can help. Here’s a step-by-step process of how a tree is crafted into paper.
Step 1: Grab the Log
First things first, a tree must be cut down in order to obtain its log which is the raw material needed to make paper. Softwood coniferous trees are most commonly used and specific examples include spruce or birch. These types of trees are utilized due to them having longer cellulose fibers that add to the strength of the paper. Approximately 8333 sheets of paper can be made from a single tree. Quite surprising, is it not?
Step 2: Produce Pulp
Once the logs are set, they are fed into a machine called the ‘debarker’ which removes the bark from the log itself. The ‘wood pulp’ is then chopped and minced into tiny pieces to produce the pulp that we require. This can be done chemically or mechanically with machinery, but either way, the wood pulp will be ground into plant fibers once finished. Onwards, the cleaning and bleaching of the ‘pulp’ can begin.
Step 3: Cleanse & Bleach
No doubt, the pulp will include debris, dirt, and other microorganisms from when they used to be trees that stood in the middle of forests. To remove these impurities, chemicals such as epichlorohydrin and melamine are used. Once discarded, the pulp is then bleached. Different chemicals are applied depending on the preferences of the manufacturer or brand and this includes various colors, textures, brightness, and thickness of the paper.
Step 4: Papermaking
Once bleached, the pulp is ready for paper formation. An ingredient necessary for this step is water, using a 100:1 ratio (100 liters of water is needed for every kg of paper). Water is then mixed with the bleached pulp, creating a suspension that is poured onto a wire screen or frame. This further involves compressing and flattening the pulp collected on the frame to give it its structure. When flattened using machinery, the water is drained away and after, recycled which leaves the cellulose fibers remaining on the frame to bond and form the paper.
Step 5: Finalization
Although 90% of the water is drained in the process prior, the papers are dried using air dryers and heat rollers to ensure they are indeed parched. Following this, the paper is sized. One everyone is familiar with is, of course, the standard A4.
The paper is then packaged and ready to be distributed for office uses, school uses or to make books and novels we all adore.
An astonishing element is that machinery isn’t really required for papermaking. True, it is used in big-scale manufacturing, but only to speed up the process and improve efficiency. Nevertheless, the point is, you can do this at home!
Here are a few quick tricks to make recycled paper.
Since we’re making recycled paper, chopping down a tree will not be on our list. What you can do is collect your old homework or worksheets from previous years and shred them to form a pulp. Carry out step 4 and if you’re feeling it, feel free to add coffee to the pulp mixture to provide your recycled paper a vintage look, perfect for scrapbooking.
Et voila! Not only did you learn about the papermaking process, but you also mastered how to do it yourself. And now go ahead, you have some old papers to find.