Papermakers need fiber, water, and some sort of sieve or screen. Papermaking methods and styles of screens abound. Screens might be made from cloth, bamboo, bronze, nylon mesh, hardware cloth, or heat shrinking polypropylene to name a few. Whatever material is used, papermaking screens all achieve the same purpose, which is capturing fibers while letting water drain through.
Components of the Papermaking Mold
Arnold Grummer called the papermaking screen the ‘essential tool of the papermaker.’ The surface of the screen can produce different paper textures. For example, think of handmade paper with a laid finish versus a woven finish. Laid paper forms on a metal screen of wires laid closely together. Woven paper forms on a screen made of woven metal, cloth, or synthetic material.
A papermaker might use a mould and deckle, a set that comes with a screen attached to a support called the ‘mould’, and a fitted frame on top to gather fibers called the ‘deckle’. Some papermakers use a loose screen sandwiched between a support and deckle called a handmold. Among these styles are many variations.
Arnold Grummer came up with tin can papermaking as an easy way to make paper with household items. A fiberglass window screen serves as the papermaking screen, and a tin can open on both ends is the deckle. Clever!
Paper Art and Paper Industry
Look at the modern papermaking machine and you see similarities to the hand papermaking process using water, fiber and a screen. On a paper machine, wet pulp deposits onto a forming fabric. Forming fabric serves the same purpose as a screen used by a hand papermaker. It retains the fiber while letting water drain through. In the early days of industrial papermaking the screen was called machine wire, made from metal wires woven on a loom.
Today, forming fabric is woven on high speed, state of the art looms with synthetic threads and weaving patterns designed to produce different kinds of paper. Synthetic screen brought huge savings to the paper industry with screening that lasts longer and is easier to keep clean than metal.
HERE’S A SURPRISE!
Arnold Grummer’s handmolds come with screens made from forming fabric designed for the paper machine! Hand papermakers benefit by using this special screen. The synthetic weave is tight, meaning more fibers make it into a sheet and fewer get lost to the vat. The surface of a handmade sheet will be smooth. The couching process is easy and nearly foolproof because the screen is designed to ‘let go’ of a mat of fibers. The benefits of durability and cleanliness transfer as well.
Arnold Grummer’s special screens offer something unique to hand papermakers. Screens from Arnold Grummer’s are easy to use, clean, and reuse, time and time again. Even if you’ve never made paper, ‘… you can make a great sheet of paper on your very first try!’, just like Arnold promised.