Although most paper is made from wood fiber, a growing number of companies are developing ways to make paper from bagasse — the fibrous residue left over after the sugar cane has been pulped and the sugar extracted. In commercial production, bagasse is pulped in huge vats, using chemicals. You can make sugar cane paper at home, however, by combining the bagasse with other fibers, such as paper scraps and cotton fibers. You need to find a source for bagasse. Look for a Middle Eastern or health food market that presses their own sugar cane in a mechanical presser, and ask for the leftover bagasse.
Things You'll Need
- Paper scraps
- Large plastic tub
- Dryer lint
- Liquid starch
- Window screening
- Wood frame or deckle
- Felt or flannel
- Baking sheets
Choose the paper scraps you will use. Tear the paper into strips or pieces. Place the paper pieces into a bucket and cover with warm water. Let them soak overnight.
Place paper and bagasse into the blender. Fill the blender about half full. Use half paper and half bagasse. Add warm water until the blender is full and blend for around one minute or until the mixture resembles a paste. There can be some small pieces of paper or bagasse visible, but there should not be any large chunks.
Pour the paste into a bucket and mix in around one cup of dryer lint. Stir the mixture to incorporate the lint. Add two teaspoons of liquid starch and stir the mixture again. The starch helps prevent ink from soaking into the finished paper.
Stretch a piece of window screen material over a wooden frame and tack it in place. The screen should be flat and tight, with no warping. You can use an old wooden picture frame or a store-bought deckle. This is your mold.
Place your mold into the tub (you can also use a large sink) and fill with water so that the water covers the mold. Hold the mold under the water with one hand while you pour the pulp onto the mold with the other hand. Swish the mold around in the water until the pulp forms an even layer on top of the mold.
Lift the mold slowly out of the water. Let the water drain off the paper and mold and place it on a flat surface. Place the felt fabric over the mold, hold it in place and gently turn the mold and felt upside down and place it on a flat surface. The felt should now be on the bottom, with the mold on top.
Use a sponge to press as much water as you can out of the paper by pressing the sponge against the screen. Rub the sponge back and forth over the screen, wringing out the water when it becomes saturated. Ease the mold off the paper. The paper should remain on the felt. Gently but firmly press down on the paper with the sponge.
Cover the paper sheet with another piece of felt and transfer the paper and felt to a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet on top. Place the whole thing into a sink or empty tub and press down hard to remove more water. Remove the baking sheets and felt. Gently pick up the paper and lay it on newspaper, or hang it on a clothesline to dry. It takes one to three days to fully air dry, depending on the humidity. You can also dry the paper by running a blow-dryer, set to a low heat, over it until it is dry.