26 August 2007

Making Paper Part One

Some of the schools I’ve attended and several of the companies I've worked for don't recycle their paper. There must be a way to make use of this free resource. Rather than discarding, could I turn trash into profit?

There are many online resources that provide an explanation of how to turn used paper into new paper. I've listed the ones I used at the bottom of this post.

I began my papermaking journey by researching solely on the internet. Some websites merely detailed the process in writing. Others had pictures of the process.

A brief description of the process:
1. Tear up paper and put into a bucket to soak overnight.
2. Grind into pulp using a blender.
3. Pour pulp into a tub with more water.
4. Stir to ensure even distribution of pulp in tub.
5. Take a frame with mesh screening attached and dip into pulp water.
6. Let water drain from pulp and then gently transfer off of screen and onto wet cloth.
7. Add another wet cloth to the top of paper then lay paper-cloth-paper-cloth until you’ve got a good sized pile.
8. Next put the pile in between two boards and press out the water.
9. Allow water to drain overnight.
10. Remove paper from cloth and allow to air dry.
11. Dry paper will likely not have dried smooth, so once dry, further weight can be applied to straighten and smooth.

These were the tools that I would require.
Item Purpose
Mesh screening for capturing the pulp.
A frame for hold the mesh tight.
An extra frame for smooth edged paper.
Old paper 'cause you can't create something from nothing, and all that jazz.
A bucket to soak torn paper in.
A blender for breaking down the soaked paper into pulp.
A tub for suspending the pulp.
Cloth for putting the wet paper onto.
Two boards to press out the water.

I needed two picture frames.

I decided to make them. Simply purchasing them from a thrift shop would certainly have been simpler and have lead more immediately to the end product. However, if I made a picture frame, I'd learn about making frames as well as making paper.

Two projects in one. How could I resist?

How to make a picture frame.
You're going to need a saw. Don't have a saw? Some home improvement stores will cut wood to length for you. Of course if you're planning to make several frames of varying dimensions, or anticipate having a need for a saw in the future, you may be better off purchasing a saw. Possibly a cheap one. . .

So, I bought a cheap saw. The saw came attached to an angle guide. This was very useful as I tend to be unable to cut straight lines.

The directions I read for building a picture frame seemed pretty straightforward. (wikihow) So I didn't write down any of it before going to the hardware store. I managed to get nails, glue, saw with attached angle guide, sandpaper, and the wood. Once I began I realized another trip to the hardware store would be needed, as I'd neglected the stain. I also intended in the second trip to get a different sort of nail (u shaped) as the ones (wall panel) I was using weren't the best for the job. I did manage to get the stain, but forgot about the nails. And so made do with what I had gotten previously.

Frames are a challenge to clamp. Especially if you don't have a clamp. After I made the frames I came across asite selling corner clamps pretty cheaply. However before I found that site, I was looking at band clamps. It seemed like a straightforward concept. And one that I could implement at no cost. Just take a flexible belt and wrap it tightly around the perimeter of the frame. Then wait for the glue to dry. To my surprise it worked well.

The following day, on a whim, I visited the library and thought I'd look up paper making for kicks. I was astonished to find eight books on papermaking. Three of these were awesome enough to take home. One of them pointed out that a much simpler frame can be used. Old picture frames are nice if you happen to have them lying about. However if not, you can just take the wood cut to length without angles, add glue and screw them together on the ends. Apparently this will make a frame that is sufficiently sturdy. I'll try this next time.

Once the picture frames were made I stapled the screening to one of them. I'm just using porch screening. The cheapest the hardware store carried. I used staples from an office stapler.

Paper and Bucket
I've torn up paper from junk mail and placed into bucket with water.

The Blender
My blender recently died. I've been hesitant to purchase a new one. I was considering using a mortar and pestle when a workmate, who was heading back to India, kindly left me her blender. Thanks Vani! Problem solved.

I've cleared out a plastic tub of the right size for the project. It was designed for under the bed storage so it isn't too deep.

Cloth was easily attained from the scraps/remnants section of the local fabric store. I selected a few different types of fabrics, so I'll be able to see what effects they have upon the completed paper.

The two boards for pressing out water will be coming from an old press-board bookshelf I'm no longer using.

Resources Online papermaking resources
Papermaking- Government site
For Kids
Papermaking Supplies
Photo Guide

11 August 2007

You are So Smart.

I am humbled by the intelligence of others.

You are so smart. Your intelligence and potential for learning is limitless.

Stupid People
The few instances of true stupidity or lack of intelligence I have seen in life, have come from closed minds. A friend in high school had a grandmother the same age as my father. This woman looked as though she were 20 years older than my father. Her only activity was watching TV. That's it. TV.

I had a conversation with her. It wasn't memorable. She died about a year after I met her.

I've met a couple older women in much the same situation. Their kids grow up and leave. The husband dies. And then what? Perhaps TV is the easy option. They've been told their entire lives that their purpose is to raise their children and take care of their husband. Perhaps learning new things and enjoying life on their own simply doesn't occur to them.

As a precursor to making friends I like telling people that I make soap. I can always tell what sort of person I'm dealing with by their reaction.

  1. Most will say,'That's silly, you can buy soap in stores.'
  2. Some will say,'That's interesting, thanks for telling me in such detail, all about it.' (These folks will often back a way slowly in an attempt to escape my story telling grasp.)
  3. Some will say,'Neat, can I buy some?'
  4. A select few, will say, 'My god, I had no idea such things were possible. Please show me how!'

Group four will become friends. Group three will usually become my repeat customers. Group two are potential customers but usually only just so I'll leave them alone. Those of group one are essentially lost souls.

Those in group one often think of themselves as 'dumb'. People who think of themselves as 'dumb' make their thoughts reality. They do what any dumb person would do. Stop learning, stop thinking.

Smart People
I've had the opportunity to work with some truly remarkable individuals. They are awesome. They are always questioning always curious. I was surprised to learn that many of them barely have high school degrees.

I feel at times, as though, they with their lack of education have more curiosity and freedom of thought than I with my four year degree. As I was preparing this post Meredith sent me a blog entry from violentacres.com about how college turns you into cog ready for the corporate machine. Just like all your fellow cogs (um, students?).

Education or Stupification
As a young child you knew how to think. You were always puzzling things out. Why/how do birds fly? How fast/far can I run? Will the ball bounce if I drop it? Can gerbils swim?

We are all of us scientist from birth. Our instinct is to find out on our own. Catch the bird! Run till we drop! Drop the ball! Drown the gerbil!

In school we learn of many useful tools for experimentation. Scientific papers, statistical analysis, microscopes, periodic tables, equations, geometry, etcetera, etcetera. We also learn that nearly every question we had, has already been thought of. There are often even formula that describe their function. We are told there is no need to learn on your own. It has all been done. Here are the formula and here are the proofs. Just memorize them and take the test. We are taught direct experimentation and discovery is useless. We were taught to instead rely on 'common knowledge'.

Hope on the Horizon
But which do you remember better? The soft brittle feel of feathers on a birds wings as you attempted to unlock the mysteries of flight or lift equations?

Keep learning. Keep thinking. Keep questioning. Question others, question yourself.

Drop a ball and see if gravity is still working! Go on, run till you drop!

04 August 2007

The Purple Shamrock

Wood-sorrel is in the genus Oxalis. While it does grow in the woods, wood-sorrel also grows in gardens as weeds and tends to find its way to many other cracks and crevices. Many Oxalis have a spring loaded seedpod. When ripe the seedpod will fling its seeds in all directions at the slightest touch.

I was first introduced to this genus by my father. He taught me that biting into the shamrock shaped leaves will yield an acidic almost citric flavor. It is from this flavor that the genus gets it's name. The acidic bite is caused by oxalic acid.

Dad told me, that in the new American frontier, pioneers would use large amounts of Wood-sorrel in their cooking. Unfortunately, too much of the wood-sorrel caused health problems. I've always wondered exactly what happened. I decided to do some research and find out.

The Research Internet only . . .
Oxalic acid binds with calcium. Long-term consumption of large amounts of oxalic acid can cause kidney stones and calcium deficiencies.

Dietary sources of oxalic acid include rhubarb (which is why we don't eat rhubarb leaves), spinach, chocolate, and tea. Source.

Some of the more useful species in this genus are the Oca and Scurvy-grass sorrel. Oca produces an underground tuber that is edible and a staple in some regions of the world. Scurvy-grass sorrel is high in vitamin C, and was used by sailors to fend off scurvy.

In Summation
Care must be shone when using members from the genus Oxalis as food. Especially if you have digestive problems. And as with everything, moderation.

With that in mind:
My Purple Oxalis rocks! It is called a Purple Shamrock by some. This is one of the species with tubers or bulbs. I've seen it go through several 'resting states' only to revive looking just fine. It doesn't mind too much when I forget to water it; it always comes back to life. :)


Wood-sorrel is quite good as tea. I have found the Purple Oxalis to make an excellent tea as well. I always use freshly cut leaves.
Boil a cup of water.
Cut three stems.
Rinse leaves and chop. Then put into mug.
Once water is ready, pour over leaves.
Let seep 30 seconds.
Add honey or green tea to taste.

The purple oxalis adds visual interest and taste to salads.
Start with a bagged salad of mixed baby greens.
Cut and rinse the oxalis leaves.
Separate the three leaflets and scatter over the salad.
Dress with Oil and Vinegar, Salt & Pepper.

A Substitute
When lemons are in short supply, wood-sorrel can make an interesting substitution. This recipe comes from wildfoodplants.com
Oxalis Cooler 1 quart water
1/2 cup Oxalis leaf/stem/flowers/seedpods
1 T agave nectar or honey
dash of salt
Mix all ingredients in a blender. If possible, let sit overnight in refrigerator and enjoy!
The only change I'd make is to filter out any pulp with a muslin cloth.

Pressed Plants
While tri-foliate leaves of wood-sorrel make an attractive pressed plant, my Purple Oxalis is truly vivid.

These pressings can be glued to paper and turned into bookmarks and stationary.

Give it a try!