How to Make Wafer Paper

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Wafer or rice paper is used in making some Chinese lanterns.
Wafer or rice paper is used in making some Chinese lanterns. (Image: temple lantern image by Rosemary Robenn from Fotolia.com)

Also called rice paper, wafer paper is traditional in China and Japan for writing, making decorations and eating. There are two types of wafer paper, edible and inedible. The paper is slightly translucent and can be used to make elegant cake decorations, some Vietnamese food, and crafts or artwork. Wafer paper is usually made from bamboo, plants and rice. You can make your own inedible wafer paper in your kitchen using a collection of supplies from craft stores or online merchants.

Things You'll Need

  • Large pot
  • Basin
  • Water
  • 1 1/2 pounds of bamboo leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds of wood ash (such as from a fireplace)
  • Towels
  • Mesh (for straining)
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Wooden spoon
  • Deckle and mould (paper-making frame kit)
  • T-shirt or soft cloth
  • Heavy books
  • Liquid starch

Wafer Paper Instructions

Fill the pot with enough water to cover the ash and mix in the wood ashes. Place the mixture on the stove and boil it for 30 minutes. Sit the pot in a safe place to steep overnight. Chop or shred the bamboo leaves into tiny pieces (as if you're chopping herb leaves for a soup), and set them aside until the next day.

Strain the wood ash mixture using a hardware mesh until most of the water is gone. A fine strainer such as a window screen or cheesecloth works as well. Pour the shredded bamboo leaves into the ash mixture and mix them in the pot. Heat the mixture on low for five hours. Check the water level during the five hours of cooking. Add water as needed to avoid burning the mixture. Strain the mixture and pour the fibers onto a towel. Wrap the towel around the mixture.

Put the towel under running water for a minute and squeeze out the excess water. Pour the mixture into a large mortar. Using the pestle, grind the fibers into a pulp. If your mortar is not large enough, you can grind the mixture in several smaller batches.

Pour the pulp into a basin mostly filled with water and stir it with the wooden spoon. The mixture should be about four parts water to one part pulp. Keep stirring until all of the lumps are smooth.

Add two teaspoons of liquid starch to the pulp mixture. This prevents ink from soaking into your wafer paper.

Place the pulp on the mould and position the deckle on top. The deckle (top frame) is removable, holds the pulp on the mould and determines the size of the paper. The mould (bottom frame) has a screen and drains the water from the pulp. Slowly move the wooden frame back and forth until the pulp is flat and even. Remove any lumps.

Sit the frame on a sink or basin and allow it to drip until the water is gone. Once dry, place a smooth towel, T-shirt or soft cloth over the wafer paper and lightly press on the paper to absorb water. Leave the cloth on the paper.

Allow your paper to dry completely and gently remove the cloth. The wafer paper should be attached to the cloth instead of the screen. Separate the paper (still attached to the cloth) from the screen and put it on a flat surface to dry.

Remove the cloth when the paper is completely dry. Slowly and gently peel the wafer paper from the cloth. The paper is complete.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can purchase the deckle and mould at a hardware or craft store or make one according to the size of your paper.
  • Wear a face mask if you have a sensitivity to wood ash.

References

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