Sept. 4, 2022

R3 The Paper Primer Re-issue

R3 The Paper Primer Re-issue

This is the Paper Primer.

What is paper?

A thin cellulose mesh


Rags Make Paper

Paper Makes Money

Money Makes Banks

Banks Make Loans

Loans Make Beggars

Beggars Make Rags

-----Anon. English 19th C.


What does it take to make paper?


            Machining -mesh forming


            Finishing (sizing)


Washi fiber length 13-17 mm, naturally acid free

Cotton 3-5 mm

Wood pulp cellulose 2-7mm

Begasse paper 1.2 mm   

Recycled fibers <1 mm


What are the characteristics that make one paper more suited for a particular application?

Absorption/ghosting / Bleed through




drying time


Western paper makers





Baron Fig

Story Supply

Field Notes

G Lalo







Tamoe River



 Ink Jet paper

 Massive List of Fountain Pen Friendly Paper

Best Fountain Pen Paper

Basel Paper Museum 

Williams Paper Museum at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, GA.  

Fabriano Paper Museum


R3 Paper Primer Re-issue

John (2): [00:00:00] Welcome To episode three of stationary or I'm your host John West. And today's episode is the paper primer. We'll start off by an appropriate poem. Rags, make paper. Paper makes money. Money makes banks, banks make loans, loans, make beggars beggars make rags. That was a poem from an anonymous source in the 19th century.

England paper is the medium that makes all creative letter writing possible. You can have any number of pens or stamps or markers, but without something to absorb the ink from your chosen writing tool, you aren't gonna get very far. So what is paper? The most basic definition is a thin cellulose mesh.

What about the history of paper? Paper production was first documented in the Han dynasty and 1 0 5 CE by site luon and [00:01:00] a sample preserved from this area is a hemp wrapping paper. The name paper is derived from Papyrus, even though the two are produced from different methods, early paper was entirely recycled from other sources of fiber called rags.

Those rags were made up of hemp, linen, or cotton, and that rag picker was the person from the poem that I read at the beginning of the. Rag picking is also where you get the term rag and bone men. It was a profession until the development of modern sanitation and wood pulp paper rag picking is still a profession in India, but in most of the world, it is an obsolete profession.

So when was modern paper developed wood pulp paper was developed in 1843. The craft pulping process was developed in the 1870s. The craft pulping process is a chemical pulping process. The Fourdrinier machine was patented in 1806 and [00:02:00] was the first continuous production paper machine. So mentioning paper machines, what does it take to make paper?

You start with pulping, then you have the machining, which is the mesh forming. Then you have drying and then finally you have sizing and finishing pulping can be one of two processes, either mechanical or chemical. Mechanical pulping is cheaper and has a higher yield, but doesn't remove the lignin from the cellulose that lignin then causes yellowing and the breakdown of the paper, chemical pulping does remove the lignin from the pulp. And that includes the craft pulping process that I mentioned before. In chemical pulping, you have a fluid, that's called a light liquor, which is a sulfur compound. That's added into the slurry with the fibers in it.

And that sulfur compound attaches to and removes the li from that solution. And creates [00:03:00] a black liquor, which is then removed and recycled to recreate the light liquor, which can be reused. And then the li especially in the craft process is actually burned to create energy that helps keep the steam up and keep the machines running for the sizing and finishing sizing is an additive that's applied to paper.

Controls how much capillary action there is in the cellulose fiber. And this tends to change the way liquid inks absorbed into the paper. In addition, sizing additives can also affect the abrasiveness, the creaseability, the finish, the printability, the smoothness and the surface bond, strength of the paper.

And it can also decrease surface porosity and fuzzing or aware of the paper. Italians were the first to ad sizing to their paper. And then for the other finishing techniques, There's a finishing technique [00:04:00] called calendaring, which in India and some modern Asian countries is still produced by hand and is a technique where a rock is used to compress and polish the paper after it's been produced in modern for machines, that same calendaring process is achieved by the last set of rollers in the machine, which compress and smooth the paper.

There are some common terms. When you are talking about paper, you have size and you have weight. If you're in Europe and the rest of the world, that sizing is usually defined by the ISO standard for paper ISO, a size ISO B size, and then there was an ISO c size. ISO paper sizes are based on an aspect ratio of the square root of two, which equals 1.41.

So it's 1.4. One is the length of the long side of the paper versus one being the short side of the [00:05:00] paper. A five is half the size of an a four, a six is half the size of a five for the B series of papers. Those were the mean between the a size. The B series sizes are less common, but B five is a common book size and B seven is passport size.

There was a C series for ISO paper sizes that fell in between a and B again, another mean of the size between the a and B standards, but it's now mostly seen as just an envelope size where the C six is made to carry a five paper because the C size papers were bigger than the, a size papers. So a size papers fit inside of C size envelopes and then C size envelope.

Fit into B size envelope. So you can have an inner and outer envelope. When you get over to the United States. The United States still has old Imperial size [00:06:00] papers, including eight and a half by 11 letter eight and a half by 14 legal and then 11 by 17 double letter or tabloid sized papers. Weight is your next term.

When you're talking about paper and weight is expressed in grams per square meter. Otherwise. Notated as GSM or just G for the paper in the Imperial system that's produced in pounds, which 20 pound paper is a typical copier paper. Printing paper is usually between 60 GSM and 120 GSM. Anything heavier than 160 GSM is considered card stock.

So what kind of varieties of paper are there? Paper generally falls into seven categor. Printing papers, which are wide variety of papers from newspapers to books, to magazines, wrapping papers, which are used for the protection of goods and merchandise writing papers, which are your standard stationary [00:07:00] papers.

These include ledger bank and bond paper blotting paper, which contain little or no sizing, additives drawing papers, which are produced with rough surfaces for artists and designers. Handmade papers, which include your decorative papers, Japanese papers and tissues, and then specialty papers, which include cigarette paper, toilet tissue, and other industrial papers.

So for the one category we care about, which is stationary paper, you have bank paper, which is strong. Thin writing paper of less than 50 GSM and is commonly used for type writing bond paper is a higher quality durable writing paper, similar to bank paper, but having a weight greater than 50 GSM, you have cotton paper, which as mentioned before, is known as rag, paper and legal documents need to be a minimum of 25% cotton content for the paper and cotton paper is watermark with its [00:08:00] content, which can be 25, 50 or a hundred percent.

Cotton paper is also commonly used for currency. And the Crane mill in Massachusetts is the only mill in the United States that makes paper for our currency and the treasury department then takes that paper and uses specialty watermarking techniques, threads, and specialty inks in order to create our currency in the United States, washi is a traditional Japanese paper.

The paper Mulberry is the most commonly used fiber in making Japanese paper, which is known as Komi. It has a toughness closer to cloth than ordinary paper and does not weaken significantly when treated for water resistance. What about recycled paper? As mentioned before rag paper was a recycled paper because it reused and re pulped the fibers from linen hemp and cotton rags that were brought in by the rag pickers.

So it shouldn't [00:09:00] surprise anybody that the de inking technique was invented in 1774 and current recycled paper includes having to mix the recycled pulp with Virgin pulp in order to get the quality up high enough for certain types of paper. So one of the leading indicators of paper quality is the actual fiber length of the fiber that goes into.

Washi being the traditional Japanese paper is actually made up of a tree bark instead of all of the tree pulp and washi fiber lengths are generally between 13 and 17. Millimeters cotton is three to five millimeters wood pulp. Cellulose is two to seven millimeters depending on the variety of trees that wood pulp comes.

Begasse paper, which is a corn stock. Byproduct paper has a fiber length of 1.2 millimeters, and then recycled papers are made up of the recycled fibers are less than [00:10:00] one millimeter in length. So that is a good indicator of what the actual quality of the paper is going to be in the long run. When you're talking to fountain pen enthusiasts, we tend to talk about a set of qualities that we look for in a.

The first one being absorption, which leads to ghosting and bleed through where if an ink is applied to the front of the page, it will either ghost through where you can see the writing on the other side of the page, or it will bleed through where you will actually see the ink color on the other side of the page where it's completely saturated the paper.

Feathering is another version of absorption, but it's in the lateral sense where you put a thin line on a piece of paper and it becomes a wide line because of the capillary action drawing the ink sideways across the paper, shade and sheen are typically ink properties, but various papers have the ability to.

Showcase that [00:11:00] sheen or shade on the surface of the paper. So it's also a quality that we look for in paper in terms of how well it shows that shading or sheening for an ink. And then finally, and most importantly for lefties and folks who write with an over hook writing style is dry time, how long it takes for that ink to actually dry on the surface of the paper.

This is affected by. What kind of coatings there are on the paper. What kind of sizing has been applied to the paper and how impermeability it is, which leads to that in having to dry on the surface, instead of being absorbed into the paper. Other qualities that we look for in paper include the patterns of lines or dot grids or graph that you'll see on a paper lined paper is widely known because that's what you grew up writing on in school.

Graph paper is something you will have remembered from your science classes. Dot grid [00:12:00] is almost the opposite of a graph paper, where all you see are the vertices of the grid, not the actual line grids. Then there is a reticle grid, which is reminiscent of the old moon cameras that had reticle on the camera to help mark on the moon surface and reticle grid is a really cool grid style.

Other specialty grids include ledgers and engineering grid, which is also known as an engineering five by five grid. And those are kind of neat because the grid is actually printed on the backside of the paper so that when you're photocopying the paper, you don't see the grid, but when it's on the pad, you can see the grid for making engineering drawings.

Now that we're through how paper is made. What kind of characteristics, there are fiber lengths and then the qualities fountain pens is looked for. I'm going to quickly go through some of the different paper makers, including [00:13:00] Western and Eastern paper makers in the Western world. You have paper makers, such as Clairfontaine Rhodia Leuchtermm Strathmore, Baron Fig story, supply, field notes, and G. Lalo and Fabriano

in the Eastern countries that you have the Japanese makers, including Mnemosyne Etoya life, Apica Midori Tamoe river Kakuyo and Graphilo for cheaper papers. There are the composition books which have a variety of quality levels associated with. You can find those out on the internet as to comparisons of various composition books and then inkjet paper, which there is also a guide out there that I will include a link in the show notes for inkjet paper.

For the other fountain pen friendly papers, there are two guides that I'm gonna include [00:14:00] in the show notes as links. One is to fountain pen love and his massive list of fountain pen, friendly paper ratings, and then jet pens and their list of best fountain pen paper. And in both of those cases, they will have actual ratings for the various qualities of the paper, as well as the prices of the paper and the general usability.

So, if you haven't gotten enough paper, there are three paper museums that I found. There's the Basel paper museum, which is in a 500 year old paper mill in Basel Switzerland. There's the William paper museum at the Georgia Institute of technology in Atlanta, Georgia. And then there's the Fabriano paper museum in Italy, and that's gonna take care of our paper, primary episode.

Please join me for our wax seal. Mail art and pen pals primer episodes that are coming up. It's gonna be a great ride.