When I was a kid, I remember making paper with big vats of “pulp” (torn up scraps of old magazines mixed with a little bit of water) and screens; we dipped the screens into the pulp before letting them dry in the sun, and that was pretty much all there was to it. But I was curious to find out how the process works on a more industrial scale.
An illustrated explanation on the Clairefontaine website went a long way toward answering my questions. The pulp for non-recycled paper is, of course, made from shredded wood with a little bit of cotton mixed in for extra softness and according to the website, it’s sprayed onto its mold with the help of a special machine. Suction machines and presses help extract the water, and then the paper is dried through dozens of steam-heated cylinders.
“It’s like cooking,” Christine Nusse, president of Clairefontaine’s parent company, Exaclair, explained to me on the phone. The transformation of pine into pulp, she says, smells wonderful, though the company now often purchases pre-made pulp (from ecologically certified forests) rather than pine logs.
Christine and I also had a long conversation about Clairefontaine’s history, and about the technologies they’ve developed to make sure their papermaking is environmentally sound. I’ll blog about that in greater detail in an upcoming post.