Paper, SCA Life

It Starts with Research

There is a Laurel Prize Tournament coming up and I decided that my research into this new endeavor would be a good entry.  I want to be clear, my model making skills, or lack thereof, are not part of the display.  The display is to help you visualize the process.  So, yes most of the model is purchased.  I even thought about buying the LEGO medieval water wheel setup instead.  Anyway, just follow me along here.

Here is my medieval water mill plant.  Through the doors, carts would bring the raw materials in, rags, castoffs from the textile industry, bones and hide, etc.

Here is a better view of the wheel.

The water wheel drives a shaft that trips a series of hammers to break the cloth into fibers.  There may also be some processing with lime or chalk, depending on the needs.  The mill would use a source of clear water for this, a spring perhaps, not the river or stream driving the wheel.

The mascerated fibers are put in a vat with more water.  A vatman pulls sheets of paper out of the vat with a mould and deckle.  There is skill here.  The vatman needs to know when there is too much material or not enough on the mold.  There is a small jiggle that needs to be done to make sure the fibers are evenly spread and to help start the “lock.”   Handmade papers in this fashion should basically have no “grain.”  Grain is caused by the mechanical process that modern papers are made.  The constant shaking causes the fibers to align.  Handmade papers should not have this issue.

After the paper has drained for a little bit (a few minutes only), a coucher takes the mould and “couches” the sheet on to a post.  Felt is spaced between the papers. The felt helps wick away some moisture but primarily is there to give support to the paper.  This stack is called a post.  When the post is big enough, it will be taken to a screw press to expel more of the water out of the post.  Ideally, there is a 3 person crew.  The vatman pulls the sheet, one coucher takes the mould when ready to couch that sheet, a third coucher gives the vatman a fresh mould.  Each coucher is moving between vat and post.  When the post is ready, all three people will move it into position and operate the press.

I don’t have a model of a screw press.  But once the paper has sat in the press for a while (many hours, maybe a day or more), the post is taken out.  The sheets are carefully separated from the felts and hung to dry.  Other methods of paper making would dry in different ways.  The Indians would stick the paper to a hot stone wall to dry.  The Japanese and Chinese had easel-like racks.  Europeans like the drying loft method.  Paper is hung from thin strands of horsehair in a warm loft to finish drying.

Here is everyone working together.

After drying in the loft, the job isn’t done.  The paper might then be polished to close up the pores.  These was done with warm stones, warm glass, or eventually, a glazier hammer.  Supposedly, an experienced glazier could do 6 reams per day.  Assuming measurements are the same, that is 3000 sheets per day.  The paper might be sized.  A thin layer of glue or gelatin (or depending on the culture, starch or clay) is spread over the sheet and then more drying.  

After all of the drying, the paper can be sold. It might be sold as is, or cut to size as a customer requests. 

I have now a papermaking kit and in the near future will start. 


Froderick goes to Boar’s Head 2018


Froderick goes to RUM 2018


What’s my style?

I have been thinking about my clothing.  So instead of screaming into the void, I will write stuff out here where no one will see it 🙂 (hopefully someone will).

Until college or so, I dressed pretty well.  Part of that obviously was my parents.  But I wore little kid suits and stuff and I assume I enjoyed it.

I didn’t own a part of jeans until college.

Since I generally wore khaki’s and button downs, I learned to iron.  That stuff wasn’t going to stay wrinkle free on its own.  Not in the 80’s.

Since college, my wardrobe has gotten much more casual.  When I started working, it was still khakis and button downs.  Then more jeans.  Then khakis and button downs but a colored t-shirt under it.  These days, it is khakis with a colored polos with my company logo on it.  Jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap on weekends (non SCA ones, anyway).  This version is easy and cheap.  Very little decisions.  But I feel the need to do more again but not sure if I can afford it.

I could go back to khakis, button down and colored t-shirt.  I own all that stuff. So that would be easy.

I want to do something a bit eclectic.  I own some very nice suits.  I have zero reason to ever wear them.  I like English cut jackets.  Double breasted is a plus.

So my current thoughts are: khakis or neutral pants, bow tie, button down, jacket (preferrably English cut).  For shoes, I used to wear dock shoes all the time.  Now I wear Keens.  Something like a derby shoe looks nice to me.  I want something that looks good but is a mix of serious and silly.  A mix of formal and casual.  I should have been a history professor.  I could look like that all the time.

I don’t mind normal ties.  Just like regular ones, not the super skinny ones or the stupid wide ones.  I don’t like the modern “skinny” suits either.

Not a big fan of “hats”.  Or I should say, I kind of am a fan but they are not necessary.   I wear a ball cap on the weekends so I don’t have to mess with my hair at all. For every day wear, I would prefer not to have hat head.

The big issue is what I want v what looks good.  I have no idea if something looks good on me.  And truthfully, I don’t look at myself that often.  So I don’t really care all that much.  But I want others to think I look sharp.

Then there is where to get this stuff for a reasonable price.  In an ideal world, I would have a tailor and anything I had would be properly fitted.  Can’t afford that.

Anyway, just some rambling thoughts.  If you have thoughts on my thoughts (and know me well enough), drop a line 🙂



Words on Paper

I got several books on the history of paper now and on paper making.  Of course Dard Hunter’s book is in there and I will devour them all as soon as I may.

But I finally had some thoughts on why I want to chase this rabbit.

Paper is central to my professional life.  There is not a single workday that I am not deciding what paper something should be printed on, figuring out what the paper market is doing, exploring paper options, etc.  I am pretty good at feeling a sheet of paper and knowing what it is.  I have looked at this idea before but didn’t pursue it.  So why now?

One, I do like looking at how the medieval process was and trying to see what we can do it get close.  Unfortunately, most of my other “hobbies” aren’t very medieval.  I make cordials.  But since I can’t distill, and cordials, as we know them, as actually pretty late in period.  I use modern liquors in modern mason jars.  I make vinegars.  The process is probably similar to how it would be insofar that it a natural process.  It is going to happen.  I don’t have the ability to properly set up the Orleans process and it would be great to grow my own grapes, make my own wine, and make my own vinegars from them.  No sulfides to fight. I make glass.  This process is deciding modern.  If I was doing hot glass, it would be closer to classical style glass.

But the process for hand-making paper has been largely unchanged for the nearly 2000 years.  Machine made paper is very different but handmade paper is the same basic processes and the few machines used even harken back to period.  The Hollander beater, now electric, but water driven back then, was developed just at the end of period.  Things like a screw jack are period.

But more importantly, paper is a chance to do something I think has been missing in the SCA.  We have merchants who sell items.  Some are medievally made (for a given value) and some are modernly made but look medieval.  That is awesome!  But we are missing the industry.  We are missing the “town” feel.  If I can make a good paper and make a reasonable amount, then I can make an industry.  The paper supplier supplies to the scribes, supplies to the bookbinders, supplies to the card makers, etc.

We could be doing this with fiber arts and I think I have seen a small amount of these.  The spinners supply the weavers, who supply the tailors and seamstresses, who supply the milliners, etc. I think that would be so cool.

For those not in the Middle Kingdom, we give handmade scrolls for awards.  Imagine the next level.  Instead of Bristol board, the paper is handmade too.  One step closer to where we were 1000 years ago.

That is why I want to do this.  I know papermaking isn’t hard.  I just have to find the time to do it.


Gaming at its finest

It has been a while since I wrote anything.  I have been sewing and weaving.  Those are activities that I do out of necessity.  If I want nice garb, I got to make it (or at least help make it).  Still have some vinegars going but those are kind of boring.  Glass is on the horizon but it is the only way I can make these other things happen is to NOT to glass.

What I haven’t done is talk about one of my other hobbies, roleplaying.

Since I was a teenager, I played rpg’s.  Mostly Dungeons & Dragons but a lot of the White Wolf system when it came out.  Some of my best memories and best friends were made over gaming.

Currently, I am involved in three games.  I run two of them.  One is a straight up D&D 5E game.  One is an Adventures in Middle Earth games.  I play in a straight up D&D 5E game.

This weekend, my players did something pretty amazing.  They totally bypassed combat and made a very memorable situation happen.  The campaign is a mashup of the Tyranny of the Dragons, Storm King’s Thunder, and Princes of the Apocalpyse.  The hill giants attacked Goldenfields and the party pursued the fleeing giants.  The encountered Moog at the Old Tower before going to Grund Haug.

They empathized with Moog and made her into a bard.  They then gave her a potion of growth that temporarily made her the “biggest” giant and she then drove Gug out of Grund Haug.  It was actually pretty glorious.  I was well prepared for them to slaughter hill giants left and right but that isn’t what happened.

I think the only time that it was more magical was when we were playing Exalted: Dragonblooded and not only was there no combat, we didn’t even roll any dice!

Not long ago, in my AME campaign, a player willingly sacrificed their character’s life to destroy the Black Cauldron.  Again, a magical moment.

I see RPG as cooperative storytelling.  The players control what happens just as much as I do.  It is moments like these that are gaming at its finest.

SCA Life

I swear . . .

I think about oaths a lot.  I take oaths very seriously.  I am often surprised how not seriously some people take oaths.  Here are some thoughts.

In the SCA, we are attempting to recreating the Middle Ages as the should have been, or could have been.  So we give oaths and we value chivalry.  Or at least give lip service to that.  I am sure there are many people who actually also treat their oaths seriously but there are visible few who don’t.

In our modern society, there really is only one oath that has consequence.  If you are called to testify in a judical proceeding, you will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth.  If it is then discovered that you lied, you can then be tried for perjury.   Just about all other oaths have no real consequence.  The oaths of marriage are easily dissolved.  The oath of office for public service or the military are often overlooked.  Again, as long as the people vote for you again or your superiors don’t care, the oath is hollow.

And there is a reason our modern society went this way.  If there was honor in the real Middle Ages, it quickly was used for nefarious purpose.  Old Anglo-Saxon laws allowed those of high station to swear an oath as proof they didn’t do something.  I am sure originally it was felt that honor would rule the day but it probably didn’t take long for someone to simply swear they didn’t do something and suffer no consequence.  As society evolved, it was clear that most oaths didn’t mean anything.

Back to the SCA then.  I talked to a few friends about this.  Advice I got ranged from “some people just don’t think they are in the wrong and therefore believe they are true to their oath.” to “for some, taking oaths is just part of the game.”  And of course, there are many who believe the oaths they take.

Back when Sir Seto was on vigil, I made a replica of Oathbinder in stained glass for him.  I gave Oathbinder a motto (maybe it already had one).  I felt all good swords should have a motto.  I put on the stained glass, “No one may speak falsely within my reach.”  I intended a double meaning.  One, that the magic of the sword would not allow you to speak falsely.  Two, the fact that a naked blade was presented to you, you would be unwilling to speak falsely under threat of beheading.  It may be foolish to hope for a magical blade that made it impossible to say that which is not true.  Oaths would be binding then.  You literally could not say words that you didn’t believe.

In some way, the modern business culture of mission statements and values is like oaths.  We are encouraged at my company at least to reflect on that mission statement and corporate values daily.  How will I engage in teamwork today?  That kind of thing.  We should do the same with our oaths.  We should mediate on those words.  For me, since I am only a member of the populace, I would think “to serve where I might according to my knowledge and ability.”  How will I do that today?  For those of you who do reflect on your oaths, I applaud you.  We need more who will “champion the good”, “protect the innocent”, “work for the common good”, and “promote the diverse arts.”

For those of you who don’t really reflect on your oaths, maybe you should.  Your word should have meaning.  When you take an action, you should reflect back, did I act in accordance to my oath?  If not, what will you do about it?  I really wish there was a good mechanism for enforcing or giving consequence for violating one’s oath.

Just some thoughts about oaths.


Froderick does Baroness Wars VI and Quad Day


Stationery v Stationary

One of the things I love about English is the amount of wordplay that is possible with it.  I don’t know how true that is with other languages as I am universally bad at languages.  I can barely speak English well enough.  But I love puns and rhyming and the multiple meanings that arise in English and love learning why our language is the way it is.

These two words are connected, believe it or not.   For those who don’t remember, stationery is paper or more generically writing supplies and stationary is to not move.  The former got its name from the later.  During the 1300’s through the 1500’s, most sellers sold from carts.  You moved your store around as you needed to or as markets allowed you to. Some days you had product to sell and some days you didn’t.

But the paper sellers eventually always had supply and always had demand.  They would set up outside of the universities, etc.  With the demand for paper high, they never needed to move their carts.  They remained stationary and in time, became known as stationers, those who didn’t move, and thus, their products were stationery, things a stationer sold.

I have started looking down the rabbit hole at paper making.  I have looked at it before.  I will take a class on it soon.  And like everything, when I start looking at something, I develop grand plans on what I will do with it.  Let’s look at a bit of the research I had done so far.

Paper gets it start in the 100’s BC in China.  Needing a cheap medium to write on, they develop a method of turning bamboo or mulberry bark into paper.   From what I can see, the method for handmade paper hasn’t changed much in China.  The plant fibers are mashed, originally with a mortar and pestle, but later with a drop hammer.  The fibers are then layered and dried.  Then cut.  Then soaked in large vats.  The slurry is caught on wire mats and then transferred to couches (often bamboo).  In the Chinese method, these sheets are then quickly put on hot stone walls to dry.   Depending on the need, chalk can be added to the slurry to whiten the sheets.  I didn’t see evidence of sizing being used yet.

Paper then moved to the Muslim world with the siege of Samarkand.  Not having either bamboo or mulberry trees, the Muslims use cotton or linen.  These fibers need more processing to soften so there are now multiple soaks with some fermentation to help break the fibers down.  The overall process was about the same though.  The Muslims did use sizing, in this case starch.  The sizing helps develop a water resistance so ink doesn’t just get absorbed.  The Muslims also found they had to burnish their paper with smooth stones to make sure it was flat enough for clean writing.

Finally, paper comes to Europe with the Muslims.  Rags of cotton and linen are still the main source but more industrialization is used.  Water wheels with trip hammers help break the fibers down.  Couching is done on felt sheets with presses to expel the excess water.  Sheets are hung in warm rafters to totally dry.  Gelatin is used to size the paper.  Watermarks appear.

Finally in the 1800’s more machines enter the process and wood pulp is used for the paper and the modern method is not that dissimilar to the 1800’s method.

We will see if I take this up.  I can see watermarking my paper as a tag to myself.  I can see adding watermarks for Royal and Baronial use.  I can see scrolls and cards made on handmade, medieval paper. I can see something like the Great Machine in Calontir used to drive the beating hammers.

Too often, I can’t be stationary but perhaps I can be in stationery.