I am very happy to announce that we have just finished building an 8 ft x 4 ft deckle box, to build large-scale paper! When I had my interview at NIU I expressed my desire to my advisor, Christine LoFaso, to make large paper, and she said that we could build the deckle box to make this happen, and that the school would cover the cost of the materials. Since school has started my friend Mary Hintzen (one of the other new Fiber MFAs) and I have been working towards this goal. With the help of Jeremy Gosser, the head of the wood shop here, we were able to see the project through to fruition. We used Andrea Peterson's design, detailed in The Papermaker's Companion by Helen Hiebert.
The deckle box was made of pine, with a simple frame as the deckle, and a more complex frame featuring 19 support slats as the mould. The screen was made of a bamboo window shade purchased from World Market for a mere $37, with a large sheet of pellon on top (thanks for gifting me with yours, Loni!). We attached large brass door hinges on one side so that the deckle will easily lift off of the mould, and eye hooks on the other side.
Janey standing with the deckle box, showing the bamboo screen:
Me with the deckle box:
Janey and Mary, with the plastic sheeting in place, holding the water and abaca fiber:Yesterday we tested the deckle box for the first time, with the students in Christine's undergraduate papermaking class. Fortunately we have a perfect location to work, a balcony on the third floor of the art building that had been commandeered by the fiber department. We made a sheet of abaca paper, which required an entire large vat's worth of water, 6 hands worth of abaca pulp, and approximately three cups of formation aid.
One of the students in the class, Dan, photographed our first attempt at pulling a sheet. It took three people to pull the plastic sheeting out from under the water and pulp - Janey, Mary, and I. The students braced the other end of the deckle box in case the force pulled it off of the sawhorses.
Christine, the head of the fiber program, is standing on the left side, in the white shirt:
After we pulled the plastic, part of the deckle box leaked on the opposite side, spilling out water and fiber. We will have to address this issue; it happened because there is a natural bend in the wood on that side, and there wasn't complete contact with the top and bottom of the box.
Here you can see that the pellon moved as the plastic was pulled, creating some wrinkles that will be recorded in the finished sheet:
Despite the remaining trouble-shooting ahead of us before we can pull a perfect sheet, I am so excited at the amount we did achieve with our first test! I think that with a little more effort we will be able to form perfect large-scale sheets with this box. We also have plans to build additional boxes in a variety of sizes, now that we see that it is possible!