Ancient Egyptians used the fibers of the Cyperus papyrus plant for nearly everything, from food to woven mats and baskets, mattresses and furniture to sandals. And, as far back as 4,000 B.C., they also used it for a writing medium, the early ancestor of contemporary paper. While finding papyrus fibers might be difficult, you can simulate papyrus papermaking with cornhusks.
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Simple Cornhusk Papyrus Paper
Things You'll Need
- Dried cornhusks (available in many grocery or Latin stores)
- Stewpot or Dutch oven
- Soda ash (also called washing soda, which is available on the supermarket laundry aisle)
- Wheat paste
- Books or other weights
Trim the points off the ends of the husks and soak the husks until they get soft.
Bring 1 gallon of water and 2/3 cup of soda ash to just below boiling. Add the husks and simmer them for about 30 minutes. For fewer husks, you can reduce the water and soda ash, but it won’t hurt to use the larger quantity of the mix.
Rinse the husks in cool water, handling them carefully, as they are now fragile. Pat them dry, removing as much water as possible. This will speed the drying process in later steps.
Spread newspaper on your work surface. Use two or three sheets of newspaper.
Lay the corn husks in a single layer, letting them touch or slightly overlap, with the smooth-side facing up.
Brush the husks with wheat paste and then add a second layer of husks, perpendicular to the first one, smooth-sides down.
Add more newspaper before stacking heavy books, vegetable cans or other weights on top. Leave the stack to dry. If the humidity is high, change the newspaper each day until the paper is dry. Trim to even the edges, if you wish.
Cornhusk Papyrus Paper the Ancient Way
Originally, papyrus fibers were stripped with needle-like tools, woven and then pounded. This method uses a similar technique.
Things You'll Need
- Cornhusks, fresh or dried
- Water (optional)
- Mallet or flat rock
Cut the husks into strips that are 1-inch wide. If you are using dried husks, drop the strips into warm water until they are soft.
Lay newspaper on your work surface to protect it.
Weave the strips into a mat the desired size of your final paper sheet.
Pound the mat thoroughly before turning it over and pounding the other side. Allow the paper to dry.