In 1916, USDA Botanist, Lyster Dewey, published a report, Bulletin No. 404, titled “Hemp Hurds as Paper-making material.” Inspired by this, I decided it would be a good experiment to make paper from just hemp hurds. This was made possible by money raised from the IndieGogo fundraiser in spring 2014. Thanks to all who supported it to help cover studio rental costs and materials.
Hemp hurds were purchased from Hemp Traders, then retted for around 3 weeks outside in two five gallon buckets, changing water every few days, or whenever there was noticeable discoloration/mold/smell. Retting may have not been necessary, as I later realized; however, my papermaking instructor told me it would be wise to ret them before beating, so I went ahead with that. Then, the hurds were cooked in soda ash for a few hours – another step that may have not been necessary – maybe this will be another experiment – making paper with retted/unretted and uncooked vs cooked batches. They were loaded into the 5 lb reina beater and very quickly after starting the machine, the beater roll was brought to the lowest setting. After about 30 minutes, the hurd was ground up as fine as possible. I let the machine run a little longer just to be sure. The hurd was about the consistency of sawdust. I formed sheets easily. The couching worked fine as well, although it was a delicate process. Once water was pressed out, the sheets took on a consistency similar to piecrust. I made a stack of sheets, pressed and dried as usual. Once they were dried and unloaded, it was exciting to see that it worked! The sheets held together…however, as they were handled more and more, began to break apart, crumble a bit, and it became clear that they would not hold together. The hurd created a thick cardstock like paper, with beautiful bits of texture; however, when folded, the hurd sheets would break apart at the fold. The next experiment was to mix in hurd with fiber pulp. Since I’m in the studio fairly often and have a variety of hemp pulps available to use, I simply mixed hemp fiber pulp, which was made previously, with hemp hurd pulp, about 4:1 ratio of fiber to hurd. When mixed together, the result was a fine paper – a bit thick like cardstock, with a textured surface, and even sheets. The hurd seemed to act as filler, creating more evenly formed sheets, yet they allowed for quick drainage.
I recently printed posters for the Hemp Heals Foundation Music Festival on 100% hemp paper. This was the first time running handmade hemp paper through a professional inkjet machine and they came out great. There was slight bleeding on the degummed hemp paper. Before closing shop, we did a test print of the fiber/hurd cardstock – and the result was amazing! No visible bleeding, and a nice sturdy posterboard. I will definitely be experimenting with more printing on this fiber/hurd paper.