Monday, July 22, 2013

Learn from Failed Experiments

Making Paper

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Ancient China was the first civilization to make paper, so one of the entries on our China Activities List was make your own paper. I asked Smarty how she would go about making our own paper, and she used her knowledge from several books about recycling and described the process to me rather well. She said that we would need to turn our used paper into mush with a shredder (so much for using her motor skills and tear it!), wet it, and then flatten it. This is exactly what we did following instructions on how to make paper from About.com. I made a screen to be able to form paper into a rectangle out of a picture frame and an old piece of window screen.

The Results Did Not Match Our Expectations

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We had a blast with the process, but we were both a little disappointed with the result. Our paper turned out very stiff and crumbly – a lot more like a dried papier-mache than a paper that would be suitable for any sort of art project that I fancied making. It also crumbled and tore very easily when we attempted to peel it off later from this plastic mat.

What Did We Learn?

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  1. Check your equipment! I duct taped a screen to a picture frame, but it wasn’t tight, and our screen started to tear off in the process.
  2. Do not overdo it. We had way too much paper scraps for the size of our screen.
  3. Read instructions carefully. For this experiment I should have chosen more detailed instructions (there is no shortage of instructions on how to make paper online). I should have chosen 4 Ways to Make Paper from WikiHow instead – it has more detailed step by step instructions which would have prevented us from our main mistake.
  4. Make sure that your paper scraps are paper only! We took ours from our recycling bin, and I didn’t realize that we had pieces of shredded credit cards in that mix. These plastic pieces didn’t turn to mush (duh!) and tore pulp paper later. Moreover, they could have damaged our blender blades.
  5. Do not rush. Making paper is not a fast experiment, especially in the step where you need to squeeze extra water out gently and carefully. Smarty did her best, but our paper was still too “slushy”. We also tried to add some liquid starch to our mix trying to “clean” our paper. It did make it brighter, but I think we had too much starch, because our paper was sticky to the touch and hard to separate from the plastic mat.
  6. Enjoy the process and learn from your mistakes. Even though I considered this a failed experiment, it was fun to try, and Smarty remembers it more than many “successful” experiments. She asked several times to do it again, so I am sure there is more paper making in our future.

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5 comments:

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

We made paper recently too! Blogging about it tomorrow (if I get the post written! )

Marie-Claude Leroux said...

I'm looking forward to making paper as well, hoping for a bit more down time to dig into it :) The process looks like fun!

Ticia said...

We made paper when we studied China too. It's really hard to do well.

Deceptively Educational said...

I made paper in high school art class and haven't done it since. I think my kids would find it fascinating, though. As for the results not turning out like you'd intended, I know ALL about that (like when we tried to build a roman arch out of peanut butter and jumbo marshmallows - OY!).

Ticia said...

How amusing you shared something so similar to what I did. :)