My quest to make hand-made medieval paper has led me to the part where, before you make the thing, you have to make the tools to make the thing. While it is perfectly fine not to use a press to make hand-made paper, most places had and have (depending on medieval or modern) one. This is the documentation of making my paper press.
I started with trying to figure out how to make one. This video was very helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVESW-KvqEg
So this isn’t going to be a medieval style press but really who has access to that kind of wood and manpower? Here is what a medieval paper press might have looked like.
First step was to draft out what this thing might look like based on the video. I knew that the largest sheet I would make in the early part of doing this would be 11 x 14. The felts would be 13 x 16 then to have enough room to help wick the water away. The press plate would therefore be 14 x 17 so we didn’t have to be exactly center. Because of the rods supporting the press, those plates would need to be 17 x 20.
Off to the hardware store. I purchased two 48″ x 48″ birch plywood boards. I would have loved to get a 48″ x 96″ board but neither I or my friend could get that in our vehicles. We also got some 1″ PVC pipe for the supports. My friend had some threaded rods, wood glue, and all the tools. I also ordered a 12″ press screw.
I chose birch for a few reasons. It needed to be a hard wood to have some wear and water resistance. I had initially thought mahogany. The best I could find locally was 6″ boards. While I am told joinery is not a big deal, I just didn’t want to deal with that. So birch is somewhat water resistant and is pretty smooth. That was important too.
First we cut the 20″ lengths. We will need 2 of everything because this is 3/4″ plywood and we want to glue it together to make 1.5″ (or close to it) to ensure we withstand the pressures.
A few cuts later and we have our four 17 x 20 boards for the plates.
We then cut the 14″ length into two 14 x 17’s for the press plate.
This is what the second 48 x 48 was for. The paper needs something to dry on. In my model, the Europeans used drying lines in an attic. That isn’t very portable. Indian and Chinese papermakers brushed the pressed paper onto a flat, heated surface to dry. the smooth surface of the birch would be great for that. So we cut the other 48 x 48 board into 12 x 16 boards. One 11 x 14 sheet or two 8 x 10 (or slightly larger) could fit on each board to dry. Ideally, cuckling should be less by drying flat. We will see.
Then we sand the edges just to get the splinters from cutting off.
Then we glue. There was a slight bow to the plywood. So lots of glue. This thing is neat. I imagine you could use to to spread mayo on a big party sub.
Then we clamp it all down and let the glue dry. That is it for part 1. In a week or so, we take the clamps off. Then some polyurethane, drill some holes, etc.