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. 



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