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Giant Paper: A Group Sheet-Forming Event

A post sheet-forming group portrait, Timothy Barrett holds the megaphone. (Barry Phipps)

Friday, October 26.  An audience participation demonstration
with Tim Barrett & his team

After a call for assistance, twenty-two people were ready to help with this ambitious project, and a bigger crowd was ready with their cellphones and their enthusiastic presence to see the action. The full 5 × 27 foot sheet required 88 liters of water, 23 liters of (bleached abaca) pulp and 58 liters of formation aid. This solution was gradually and continuously added using buckets at either end while the nearly two dozen volunteers held and moved the mould. Although we tried practicing with 40 lbs. of dry marbles just before the real process, it turned out to be ineffective. Marbles move differently than pulp. 

The tension and the movement of the mold was not easy to control, because the pulp must be moving constantly and just when you think everything is under control, another round of 10 liters of pulp was coming from the other end of the mold. After the sheet was finally formed, on a cloudy but not windy day, the group of papermakers used big buckets partially filled with water to support the mold at a 30–45° angle. The sheet was left there the rest of the day, overnight and during the next day until finally, at 4:30 on Saturday, the last day of the conference, the sheet was peeled off very carefully to be part of the conference’s auction that night.

Many factors can be detrimental for this procedure. Climate conditions at the moment of the sheet formation and during the 24 hours of the drying process on the outside, can damage the quality of the sheet by moving the  fiber if the wind is too strong or leaving water drop marks if it rains. Also, if at the moment of the sheet formation too much of the solution jumps off of the mold, the sheet ends up being too thin or with big sections of “blank space.” Fortunately, none of this happened, and the satisfaction of being part of this big sheet during an incomparable team work event has no comparison.

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