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Thread: Non Wood Paper

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
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    Default Non Wood Paper

    I've been a student of paper technology for many years now. Paper, indeed fiber in general, is of the utmost importance to the development of civilization. There is more to say about paper, and paper history, than one can write in a single book, so this forum post is barely a tiny taste. It is really just my ramblings, but I hope it will inspire someone to consider their papers in more depth.

    Outside of the art world, it seems that wood is taken for granted as the basic furnish for paper that we use. There is the exception of papers for legal documents commonly available which are usually specified as 25% cotton, Otherwise it is slim pickings nowadays, especially with the tendency of consolidation of companies and simplification of retail markets. Many paper suppliers won't even sell to the public any more. In any case, modern wood based papers are actually often of quite a good quality and many are genuinely acid free and not just buffered to prevent yellowing.

    So why would you want a paper made from other materials anyway? Well there is the question of fiber length which generally equates to strength. That is the reason for the 25% cotton content of document papers, and why bank notes are traditionally all cotton. But there are many other qualities of a paper one can look at besides strength. Longevity is a major concern for some people. Non wood fibers have less lignin, a component of fibers which weakens the paper and is responsible for yellowing.

    I grew up with newspapers that yellowed in a week and became brittle in a year or two. I also am witness to the pulpy and rapidly deteriorating books from the turn of the last century. I've just had enough experience with the worst of wood based papers for it to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Of course this is just me, and like I said, modern wood papers are generally good, and sometimes even excellent. I look at papers more from an aesthetic point of view. That is, I see different aspects in terms of how I like them. There are a lot of things one can learn about a paper. There is of course, the look, color, and surfacing. But there is also the physical feel of the paper - how it bends and folds, is it soft or hard etc. I also consider the operation and history of the mill that made the paper. I notice fountain pen people do this with pen and ink. I suggest doing the same with paper. Crane & Company paper is an old mill that has always made paper for currency printing and actually made the paper for America's first paper money. The client in that case was Paul Revere! Paper mills often have deep history and there are interesting companies all over the world.

    The method of manufacture is less varied nowadays. Writing and printing paper being all made on various sizes of Fourdrinier machines. However, the furnish can vary considerably. The furnish comprises the various types of fiber (pulp), dyes, filler, and sizing. We rarely get rag papers any more as there is not a good nor sufficient source. Gone are the days when a paper manufacturer would source rags from poor countries where there was no use of bleach for washing, so that they could get the ultimate fiber strength for the highest quality paper.

    Paper comes off the dry end of a Fourdrinier onto large rolls. In many cases the rolls are so large and heavy that they would flatten you like an ant if the were to roll onto you. This is a totally unwieldy form, so the paper goes from there to the converters. A converter is a company (or perhaps department nowadays) who takes bulk paper and cuts it into sizes suitable for the market.

    One of my favorite papers is mulberry. I got large handmade sheets some years back, but unfortunately I've not found any commercial mulberry paper for writing. It's wonderfully soft and feels like no other paper I've seen. I've also collected linen papers in the past, but I have not been able to find any in the current market.

    There are many other interesting fibers, and we see a few sometimes. Sometimes, like often with bagasse, they're just used as filler. The contemporary market, as I see it for writing paper, is pretty much cotton and linen, with an emerging use of hemp. Actually hemp is one of the oldest fibers for paper and has long fibers and low lignin content, and is very strong. There is much to say about the value of hemp.

    Currently, my personal needs are almost all for simple cut paper for writing and copying. For the latter I have no issue using regular wood papers. They are more than sufficient. However, for pen and ink, I really like something with deeper meaning to me - might I say "class", (as defined by me for myself). To that end I have found several 100% cotton papers, and two 75%cotton/25%linen papers which I can get on Amazon. I'll list them in the next post.

    Here are some links to whet your appetite for paper technology.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulp_(...s_to_wood_pulp
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_paper
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp_paper
    Last edited by Ole Juul; November 22nd, 2020 at 09:11 PM.

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    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Some 8.5" x 11" papers.

    Gnatural 100% Cotton 80gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 200 sheet boxes, soft feel, tasteful cream color (not a crass yellow like some advertised cream papers) I think this is
    an excellent buy.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 25% Linen 85gsm Ivory
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes, quite yellow, but the color plays quite nicely with a lot of inks and really enhances them. It has tiny blue and red fibers embedded which are only visible on close inspection or with a magnifying glass. This looks very special and is remeniscent of security fibers used in bank notes. It takes ink very well and is not so prone to feathering.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 24% Linen 85gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes. Tasteful off-white color. This also is similar to the above except for the color and has the colored threads in the mix.

    Southworth 100% Cotton 90gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes. Water marked. (Not tried, it is still in the mail)

    Fox River 100% Cotton 92 bright 90gsm
    - I couldn't find it on the net. I got a number of 100 sheet boxes from a printer friend. It's watermarked and very classy looking. It does feather a bit much with some inks.

    Note that these papers are not like common "fountain pen friendly" papers. The surface has quite a bit of resistance and you won't get an ink to sit on the surface and provide a varnish look in places, like Tamoe River, for instance. The ink basically soaks in right away.

    I'd be very interested if there are other non wood papers readily available in practical sizes which are usable for pen and ink.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Interesting information - thank you for taking the time to post.

    As a long-time user of Tomoegawa paper (52gsm only; the 68gsm is not nice IMO) I am upset that they’ve changed the specification of the paper. The new spec is nowhere near as good. As such I’m on the lookout for a replacement. I like Graphilo & Midori MD (Japan) and Elias (Philippines) but I’m still searching........

    For pen & ink drawing I sometimes use matt drafting film (polyester) and vellum (plasticised cotton). Traditional tracing paper is good too. They give very clean lines, with no bleedthrough. The ink sits on the surface. The drafting film (I use 005 double matt Polydraw) is also an unusual and exciting surface for coloured pencil,work, especially as, being translucent, I can use both sides for a drawing to get nice effects.

    I wouldn’t use any of these as standard writing surfaces, but I do enjoy them for sketching and designing with pigment or drawing inks like Rohrer & Klingner.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Interesting indeed, thanks for posting this.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    I heard tales of hemp paper being perfect for fountain pens. Except the price is through the roof.



    Stone paper is bad for liquid inks.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Thanks for your excellent post. 👍

    You are right, especially when using really wet drawing/painting techniques cotton/rags paper (25 up to 100%) is usually way better than conventional wood paper.
    It just is way more robust mechanical and water related.
    But this also has its price, such high quality papers are not cheap to get.

    I already tried quite a lot papers for watercolor and ink washes and the differences are huge.
    But there are also some wood papers which are not bad at all.
    It depends on your use case which paper is the best compromise between quality versus price.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    I recall that my doctoral dissertation had to be submitted on 100% cotton paper. It wasn’t easy to source in Montreal. I also had to print it twice because the first printing was rejected for having widows and/or orphans.

    There’s also bagasse paper from sugar cane. I think it works well for fountain pens.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Very cool, Juul. Thanks for this info. I will look into some of this.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Thanks Ole Juul for posting this is very educating post. While I have heard of modern non wood paper, I have not ventured in that direction........


    To Migo, I always though vellum, was such...

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Yazeh View Post

    To Migo, I always though vellum, was such...
    The vellum I’m referring to is the modern craft/art semi-translucent ‘paper’, rather than the traditional animal skin-based ‘parchment’ surface.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    As migo said historical vellum paper like parchment was made from the skin of certain animals.
    Then the word vellum was used for high quality rag paper which had a similar finish as the ancient skin vellum.
    Vellum is also used to describe translucent paper.

    The term Vellum is also used for pastel art paper to describe the surface finish of pastel paper.
    Vellum pastel paper has a toothy finish (you can think of it as kind of fine sandpaper, but it is of course not sandpaper....even it is possible to use fine sandpaper as cheap pastel drawing surface) so that the pigments of dry media’s like pastel, charcoal, .... are grabbed and hold by them.
    These papers are the expensive ones, but really makes a difference as you can layer several layers of pigments on it before it is satisfied.
    General you can say as more layers are possible as more expensive the paper is.
    One of the best (might be the best) pastel paper is Clairefontaine Pastelmat.
    Last edited by Pterodactylus; November 23rd, 2020 at 12:08 PM.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by migo984 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Yazeh View Post

    To Migo, I always though vellum, was such...
    The vellum I’m referring to is the modern craft/art semi-translucent ‘paper’, rather than the traditional animal skin-based ‘parchment’ surface.
    Thanks Migo. I gathered so. I have been lucky enough to appreciate some of your beautiful sketches, especially one of fishing boats I believe on I assume cotton paper.
    I was caught in the world of "historic stationary"...quills, parchment etc......

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    Senior Member Yazeh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    As migo said historical vellum paper like parchment was made from the skin of certain animals.
    Then the word vellum was used for high quality rag paper which had a similar finish as the ancient skin vellum.
    Vellum is also used to describe translucent paper.

    The term Vellum is also used for pastel art paper to describe the surface finish of pastel paper.
    Vellum pastel paper has a toothy finish (you can think of it as kind of fine sandpaper, but it is of course not sandpaper....even it is possible to use fine sandpaper as cheap pastel drawing surface) so that the pigments of dry media’s like pastel, charcoal, .... are grabbed and hold by them.
    These papers are the expensive ones, but really makes a difference as you can layer several layers of pigments on it before it is satisfied.
    General you can say as more layers are possible as more expensive the paper is.
    One of the best (might be the best) pastel paper is Clairefontaine Pastelmat.
    Thanks Ptero, much appreciated

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Thank you for this thread Ole Juul! I was reading through the first post, which is extremely informative and interesting, but I was starting to worry "Oh no, I won't be told what to buy!". I was so happy to get to "I'll list them in the next post." and hit the PgDn key :-)

    You mentioned Crane, which I thought was interesting. I have only used Crane paper in Christmas cards, for the past two years. I have experienced two types of their 100% cotton paper: the "white" (which is definitely off-white) works quite well with Iroshizuku inks. But the "ecru" (much yellower) feathers a lot, with both Iro inks and Sailor Souboku. I haven't had opportunity to experiment with other inks, though, since I only buy them for Christmas cards and they're expensive. But they certainly make an impression on the recipients.

    I didn't consider before your post, though, that I could just buy Crane paper. And after looking that up... $26 for 40 half-sheets.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by XYZZY View Post
    . . . You mentioned Crane, which I thought was interesting. I have only used Crane paper in Christmas cards, for the past two years. I have experienced two types of their 100% cotton paper: the "white" (which is definitely off-white) works quite well with Iroshizuku inks. But the "ecru" (much yellower) feathers a lot, with both Iro inks and Sailor Souboku. I haven't had opportunity to experiment with other inks, though, since I only buy them for Christmas cards and they're expensive. But they certainly make an impression on the recipients.

    I didn't consider before your post, though, that I could just buy Crane paper. And after looking that up... $26 for 40 half-sheets.
    I bought a couple of reams of Crane laid paper many years ago, but a couple of years later when I went back to get more it was not available. The way they're sell their product now doesn't interest me.

    I like laid papers. That is the way papers always used to look until the modern wove became common with the advent of the paper machine. Nowadays it's just a finish - the work of a dandy roll. It is still nice, in my opinion. I have not been able to find any on-line lately, except in wood.

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    Senior Member Ole Juul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    As migo said historical vellum paper like parchment was made from the skin of certain animals.
    Then the word vellum was used for high quality rag paper which had a similar finish as the ancient skin vellum. . . .
    This process of naming something by a superficial look is prevalent. I find it a nuisance when searching for paper. One cannot search for "linen" paper and expect to find linen.

    For some reason "cotton" papers are still made of cotton, but I think that is because the qualities of cotton are more subtle and often even ignored by many people.

    A brown block of wood in never called a chocolate bar, but who knows how the language may change in the future.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Vellum, Old French vélin 'calfskin', from the Latin word vitulinum 'made from calf'

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Some 8.5" x 11" papers.

    Gnatural 100% Cotton 80gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 200 sheet boxes, soft feel, tasteful cream color (not a crass yellow like some advertised cream papers) I think this is
    an excellent buy.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 25% Linen 85gsm Ivory
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes, quite yellow, but the color plays quite nicely with a lot of inks and really enhances them. It has tiny blue and red fibers embedded which are only visible on close inspection or with a magnifying glass. This looks very special and is remeniscent of security fibers used in bank notes. It takes ink very well and is not so prone to feathering.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 24% Linen 85gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes. Tasteful off-white color. This also is similar to the above except for the color and has the colored threads in the mix.
    I must be doing something wrong: I cannot find "Gnatural" on either amazon.com or amazon.ca. And googling "gnatural paper" doesn't produce useful results, either.

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    Quote Originally Posted by XYZZY View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    Some 8.5" x 11" papers.

    Gnatural 100% Cotton 80gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 200 sheet boxes, soft feel, tasteful cream color (not a crass yellow like some advertised cream papers) I think this is
    an excellent buy.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 25% Linen 85gsm Ivory
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes, quite yellow, but the color plays quite nicely with a lot of inks and really enhances them. It has tiny blue and red fibers embedded which are only visible on close inspection or with a magnifying glass. This looks very special and is remeniscent of security fibers used in bank notes. It takes ink very well and is not so prone to feathering.

    Gnatural 75% Cotton 24% Linen 85gsm White
    - Available on Amazon in 100 sheet boxes. Tasteful off-white color. This also is similar to the above except for the color and has the colored threads in the mix.
    I must be doing something wrong: I cannot find "Gnatural" on either amazon.com or amazon.ca. And googling "gnatural paper" doesn't produce useful results, either.

    I couldn't find it either, however, I found this: https://www.gnaturepaper.com/product...0-cotton-paper

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    Default Re: Non Wood Paper

    I'll post my amazon.ca links

    Gnatural yellow 75%/25%
    Gnatural white 75%/25%
    Gnatural white 100%
    Southwoorth 100%

    I think they suppress or bury some results. I don't like that. The Gnatural 100% cotton was very difficult for me to find in the first place. I only found it because I knew it was there.
    Last edited by Ole Juul; November 23rd, 2020 at 04:15 PM.

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