Paper Workshop with Dan Mezza

During my last semester of school in the summer I was able to help organize and attend a talk given by Dan Mezza to the Association of Canadian Archives (ACA) Student Chapter at my university. Dan came to speak to us about paper. Before Dan became a bookbinder he was a paper maker and he’s very knowledgeable in the subject! It was a very interesting talk, I’ll share with you some pictures and details from it.

Paper Workshop with Dan Mezza

Dan began with the history of paper and a little about what paper is. Paper is interwoven cellulose fibers invented in the East (China). Dan explained that China had a monopoly on paper for centuries and it was heavily restrictive in the laws regarding it. Some key differences between West vs. East was that the paper made in the East was made on bamboo and silk screens whereas in the West they used metal screens. Learning the difference between laid screens and woven, we also discussed watermarks and Dan showed us several samples of paper and various watermarks.

What really interested me was the categories of paper. Paper in the West used to be made from rags. There were three levels: writing, printing, wrapping. Writing used the whitest rags and produced the whitest paper. Wrapping paper was a blue-ish grey. This was because a lot of rags came from the British Navy.

After a bit of history and a bit of discussion on the quality of paper over the ages, Dan began to demonstrate how to clean paper. Here are few pictures from the process:


The top picture is Dan showing us briefly how to clean paper. It’s important to clean the paper before you wash it. First you start by brushing it, using the least abrasive to the most abrasive brush.


Above you can see two varieties of eraser dust. Once you’ve brushed the dirt from the page, you sprinkle eraser dust on to it, then using a cotton ball you gently in circular motions rub the page.


Finally it’s time to wash them, using a large flat bin, you fill it water. A fabric is places at the bottom to support the paper, and then you lay the sheets on top. You can do several layers in one bin.


While we were waiting Dan showed us the various results of cleaning, washing and bleaching as you can see in the above photograph.


After three washes, it’s time to gently remove the paper. It sticks nicely to the fabric as it is pulled up. This allows for it to easily be transported to a screen, were as seen below the fabric sheet is removed and the pages left to dry on the screen.


Washing helps remove the acidic nature of the paper, but you will notice it’s still stained – to remove staining the paper is bleached, and this is done by  placing it out in the sun for several hours a day!

It was a very cool process to learn about and obviously a very time-consuming one! I enjoyed it though.

Some of you who followed my old blog may have realized these are re-posts from what I did there! I’m currently just bringing them over to my new blog, one more to go and then I’ll be caught up. New stuff is coming soon though I promise! I’m taking Bookbinding level II and it’s nearly finished so I’ll be posting about that once I’m done!

Until next time,



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