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Constructing a Basic Mould and Deckle

March 16, 2021

This information is reprinted from the For Beginners column of Hand Papermaking Newsletter #84 (October, 2008).

One can make an affordable mould and deckle with no woodworking skills whatsoever (unless one counts sanding and hammering nails into wood as woodworking skills). This mould will not form sheets with lovely laid lines, but will be a fraction of the cost, and it will get the job done just fine. The method I’m about to explain is good for small sheets of Western style paper.

What you will need:
8 stretcher bars (more on this below)
Escutcheon pins/nails (16+)
Small paintbrush
Fine mesh window screening
Hardware cloth (a heavy wire mesh with ¼-inch openings)
Wire scissors/cutters
Staple gun with staples
Duct tape

You will need the stretcher bars that are meant for needlepoint. These are narrower than standard stretcher bars for canvas, about ¾-inch by ¾-inch by variable lengths, and pre-cut to join together at the corners. Purchase four stretcher bars that are 1½ inches longer than the desired paper length, and four that are 1½ inches longer than the desired paper width. That is, if you want to make 5½ x 8½-inch sheets of paper, you should purchase four 7-inch stretcher bars, and four 10-inch stretcher bars.

Lightly sand the stretcher bars to remove all rough spots and potential splinters. Fit the pieces together into two 7 x 10-inch frames. You may need to tap them gently into place with a hammer. Once you have fit the frames together, use a square or triangle to make sure all of the corners measure 90 degrees. Next, secure the corners by tapping two escutcheon pins into each corner (see diagram). Having done this for both frames (one for the mould and one for the deckle), you can now polyurethane the frames to protect them from all the water they will be encountering. Build up two or three coats, allowing each layer to dry completely before adding the next, lightly sanding away any rough areas in between coats.

Once the frames are dry, put one aside as your deckle. (Hint: hold the mould and deckle frames together to determine which sides lie flattest against one another. Attach your mould screening to the flatter side of the frame to ensure the tightest fit when forming your sheets.) Cut the window screening and the hardware cloth to the exact size (or just shy of the exact size) of the outer edges of your remaining frame. Staple the screening to the frame, with the hardware cloth directly touching the frame and the window screening on top, stretching it taut as you go.

You will want to staple once every inch around the perimeter. Trim away any loose flyaway edges of the screening. Make sure to remove any sharp or rough edges that may prove injurious. Finally, use the duct tape to secure the edges of the screening to the frame. The strip of duct tape on the top surface of the mould should be no wider than your frame, or else it will affect the size of your sheet of paper.

Variations: To make a larger mould and deckle, you will need additional support behind the screening of the mould. Plastic egg crate will do the trick. Get it cut to size (this does require power tools) and glue it in place directly beneath the screening. Also, why not make a sugeta for Japanese sheet formation? Use the same procedure described above to prepare two frames of the same size, treated with two coats of polyurethane. A su can be created from a bamboo placemat or brush mat, cut to the size of your frame. Stitch a piece of no-see-um netting of the same size to the bamboo mat along the long edge, which should be parallel to the direction of the bamboo rods. For information on constructing a deckle box, see Marilyn Sward’s instructions in Hand Papermaking Newsletter, Number 66, April 2004.

by Mary Tasillo