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Beater with top off

Copyright 2010

Handmade Paper Plant

By Tom Riley

Back in the 1970's I build a handmade paper plant for the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. The project was intended to use small businesses to help people in drug rehabilitation. Here are a few pictures and ideas from that project.

The key piece of equipment was a Hollander Beater that converts small pieces of cloth into paper pulp. The beater I build was made of wood with a steal drum and chevron baseplate. The wood for the tank was mahogany and I put incise carvings along the edge of the base. This design was based on a beater from The Twinrocker Paper Company.

Below is a discussion the key parts of this paper plant with a few pictures. I include notes on how the parts are used and how they were built. Unfortunately the pictures are just ones I happen to still have around.

Wet Press drawing one, front and side views

I am also currently working on designs for the following equipment to be available over the web:

We do not plan to provide beater plans at this time due to safety concerns.

Anyone interested in the construction of handmade paper equipment should fell free to drop me an e-mail for more details.

Mold sketch with deckle

Rockler order link to first page

Beater front and side views

  1. The Process

    The handmade paper process starts with old rags and ends up with art paper:

    1. Making the cloth squares -- Old clothing is sorted for cotton, linen, and silk. Wash the good cloth in a washing machine without any additional soap to remove soap resadue. The cloth is then dried and sorted by color, and the buttons and zippers are removed. The pieces are laid out on a work table to make a stack about 2 inches thick. The stack is then cut into one inch squares with a power cloth cutter. This tool looks a little like a kitchen beater but has a sharp wheel that cuts the cloth.

      Adding water to the beater

    2. Making the Pulp -- Cloth squares are added to water in the Hollander Beater. They are beaten for about 20 minutes to create paper pulp.

      Adding cloth squares to the beater

      Making paper with a mold

    3. Making Paper -- The paper pulp is placed in a vat with more water. The mold is ducked under the water and brought straight up. This traps a layer of pulp on the brass screen on the top of the mold. A mold or deckle is then removed leaving a course edge to the pulp layer.

      Removing the paper from the mold

    4. Transferring the paper -- The paper is removed from the mold by rolling it over a piece of wool cloth laid on a curved table called a couch.

      The wet press

    5. Pressing out the water -- The stack of new paper and wool cloth is transferred to a wet press and the excess water pressed out.
    6. Drying -- The new paper is then laid out on racks to dry.
    7. Dry pressing -- The dry paper is put through the press again with pieces of flat sheet aluminum between them to flatten and compress them.

    Beater with top off

  2. Hollander Beater

    The Hollander Beater is the show piece of the operation. It beats squares of cloth into paper pulp. It has a oval tank on top covered with a lid. The tank is build into a heavy wooden table. Below the table is a solid support structure that supports a walking beam, a jack, and a motor. This beater gets its name because this is the first pulping machine design efficient enough to be run with a windmill.

    Drum and baseplate in side view

    The key mechanical parts are a steel drum with metal bars welded on it that beat against a metal baseplate with similar bars that are bent in the middle. In actuarially they two parts do not quite touch.

    Drum and baseplate in side view

    The bars on the baseplate are bent in a chevron design so that it is impossible for the drum bars to fall between the baseplate bars. It is important that the bars on the faseplate and those on the drum do not actually touch. If they did the device would be a cutter and not a beater.

    Baseplate in top and side view

    The drum is fixed in place and the baseplate is jacked up from underneath. This is by far the simplest way to build a Hollander. The area around the baseplate is sealed with a piece of neoprene cloth conveyer belt material. The base plate is mounted to an working beam and moved up with a car jack.

    Adding water to the beater

    To make paper pulp, water is first put in the beater and the motor started with the baseplate gap wide open. Several pounds of cut up cloth, (2 cm squares) is then slowly added. The baseplate is then jacked up slowly over the period of a couple hours. The bars on the drum quite literally beat the cloth against the bars on the baseplate.

    The progress of the pulping is followed carefully. You must not beat the pulp too long or jack the baseplate up until it hits the drum as this causes iron to wear into the pulp. When complete the pulp is drained from the beater.

  3. Obtaining a Beater

    It is very difficult to find a small beater that you can purchase. The problem is that it is quite possible for someone hurt themselves with this piece of industrial equipment. If not handled properly a beater can cause serious hand injuries. It is currently impossible to get insurance to build or even sell designs for a beater.

    Building a Hollander Beater is a major project and is not to be taken on without a budget of at least $2000.00 (the final cost could be closer to $3000.00). The drum and baseplate will have to be built in a machine shop. The motor, electrical controls, and bearings have to be purchased from an industrial supplier.

    The only way I can see to get out of this problems is to get the anonymous plans for a beater on the Web in a developing country where law suits are not a serious problem. This would take a sponsoring group in country. Beaters are used both for art projects and for manufacture of simple paper products such as egg crates. Having plans available over the Web would be a big help. Contact me if you would like to work on this idea.

    mold in use

  4. Molds

    The Paper Mold and Deckle is the most difficult woodworking challenge for the paper plant. It is a box made from mahogany with a brass screen on top. The corners of the box are dovetailed. A brass screen covers the top. The screen is supported with a series of wooden tear drop shaped slats beneath it. On top is a deckle of this that looks like a picture frame but has a very complex corner joint.

    mold sketch with deckle

    The top of the mold may be covered with wire mesh in either brass or stainless steel. The most artistic covering is a hand woven brass wires with heavy straight wires for the weft and fine brass wires for the warp. A simple handmade mesh loom helps with this weaving.

    It is not hard to fashion watermarks out of brass wire and attach them to the molds.

    I would greatly enjoy building paper molds again. And, they are light enough to ship.

    Mold on couch Wet Paper Couch, Tom Riley 2007

    The wet press Wet Paper Press, Tom Riley 2007

  5. Wet Press

    The Wet Press has a fixed top plate and bottom plate that is moved up with a hydraulic jack. The top and bottom cross beams are oak, but had to reinforced with steel channel iron. The major challenge of the design is to handle the water as it comes off the paper.

    Paper wet presses are not difficult to build, but they are too heavy to ship. I would be happy to provide design if you wish to build one locally.

    The wet press in color

  6. Other Equipment

    There a number of pieces of support equipment that can be build out of wood:

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