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October 30, 2008

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Roger

I don't know a lot about paper except my memory of the bad smells that come from paper mills. Macon, GA has one, and that is where I spent my college years. I was wondering though about the use of cotton and other fabrics in paper. I know it makes a heavier stock, but what other reason is there for combining paper and fabric?

Lee Kottner

You're right, Roger; commercial papermaking is often a really smelly operation, in part because they "cook" the fibers and in part because of the additives and bleaching. A lot of commercial paper is made from wood pulp, which is highly acidic and quickly goes yellow and brittle from the acid. This is the stock that paperback publishers and newspapers use. Cotton rags are used because they're not acidic and can last for centuries. Most "archival" paper is cotton rags. It doesn't just make heavier stock, it makes better, stronger paper, and holds the ink better. When you're printing letterpress work, it also has what printers call a good "tooth" meaning you get a little impression from the type too. Check out the Cocktail Party Physics post for a little more scientific info on paper contents, and a good video about hand making paper.

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