Introduction: Up-Cycle Junk Mail Into Artisan Paper

Picture of Up-Cycle Junk Mail Into Artisan Paper

I love sending handmade cards and making custom gift tags, and I hate the ever growing pile of junk mail that I try to shove under the coffee table with my foot on a daily basis. Seriously. Omaha Steaks sends me a mailing every other day, and I feel horribly un-green just receiving them. The solution: Up-Cycle that junk into beautiful handmade sheets of paper good for all kinds of crafting needs!

This is a project that my mom did with me when I was a kid, and I decided to resurrect my paper making stuff for the paper craft challenge here. Hope you enjoy this simple Ible and get motivated to give your paper shredder or recycling bin contents new life.

Step 1: You Will Need...

Picture of You Will Need...

Junk Mail --Any paper with a matte finish will work. Brochures, envelopes, shopping bags, wrapping paper, etc. As long as it is NOT glossy, you're good to go.

Blender

Screen with wood frame --these can be bought ready made from art supply stores, or you could build your own using wooden stretcher bars or a picture frame and some fine mesh window screen. If building your own, just be sure the screen is taught across the wood frame, not sagging in the middle.

Liquid Measuring Cup

Metal Butter Knife

Food Coloring and/or Essential oil for scenting (both optional)

Plastic Washtub or Cat Litter Pan

Hair dryer (optional)

Step 2: Tear It Up

Picture of Tear It Up

Gather up your junk mail paper. You can use a variety of paper weights and colors, as long as they are all regular matte finish paper. NO foils or glossies.

Tear sheets of paper into strips, then tear the strips into squares measuring approximately 1-2 inches.

I kept mine on the smaller end for easy blending later.

The minimum to rip up is 4-5 sheets of standard size paper. I did a little more to be on the safe side and have plenty of pulp.

Step 3: Blend

Picture of Blend

Put 4-5 fistfuls of your paper bits into a blender.

SAFETY NOTE: I recommend keeping your blender unplugged until you are actually ready to hit the button and use it. This avoids any nightmare scenarios where you have to reach into the blender for some reason and it turns on by accident.

Add 4 cups water.

I hit "Blend" for 15 seconds to get things going, then "Liquify" for another 30 or so. You should end up with a finely blended, slightly lumpy paste, probably grayish in color

Step 4: Optional Coloring/Scenting

Picture of Optional Coloring/Scenting

To give some pizazz to your homemade paper, you can add food coloring to your pulp to tint it. I used 4 drops of green to give it a minty color that would be noticeable, but still light enough for me to write on. If you want bold colored paper, I have had the best results by adding colored construction to my initial pulp, rather than squeezing in a whole bottle of food coloring.

At this time, you can also add a few drops of essential oils to scent your paper. Imagine opening a notecard from a friend and having it smell of lavender, mint, or ginger! It was something fun I thought I'd try here, so I added 8 drops of Peppermint oil.

Blend again for 30 seconds.

Step 5: Mix

Picture of Mix

Pour your pretty (and possibly delicious smelling) pulp into your plastic tub.

Add water until you have 4-5 inches of depth to work in.

Mix with your hand to ensure pulp is floating throughout. It may feel so fine and light that you'll question whether there's enough pulp in there. Trust me, there is.

Step 6: Screen

Picture of Screen

Insert your screen into the water vertically, on edge.

Tilt and push your screen into the water, as if you are trying to get under it. This helps decrease trapped air under your fine screen and allows your pulp to flow evenly over the top.

Swish your screen gently back and forth under the surface of the water. You want to make sure pulp is flowing around so it can be captured.

Using both hands (one of mine was on the camera) life the screen out of the water, laying flat. There should be a fine sheet of your pulp on the screen.

If you didn't get an even coating on your first try, that's ok! Just re-dip your screen, gently shake it clean, and re-lift until you are happy with the result.

Repeat with multiple screens, or save pulp mix for later.

Step 7: Drying

Picture of Drying

Transfer your screen to a place where it can dry undisturbed and relatively level. A bathtub or sink would be ideal so excess water can just drip away.

Allow to air dry several hours.

OR

You can help it along with a hair dryer, if you wish. If using a hair dryer, make even horizontal and vertical sweeps over the screen, no less than 6 inches away from it.

Step 8: Freeing the Final Product!

Picture of Freeing the Final Product!

When your paper is entirely dry, use a butter knife to get under one edge. Dry paper should pop up from the screen pretty readily. If you are having trouble getting an edge, hit the screen with a hair dryer to eliminate any remaining moisture.

Skim around all 4 edges with the butter knife to free the page.

With your knife underneath the paper, push gently toward the middle of the screen to free the middle. Again, mine popped off easily because it was evenly and totally dry.

Ta-Da! Your junk mail has been transformed into something new, useable, and wonderful! In the end, my peppermint scent was subtle and very inviting mixed with the fresh "woodsy-ness" of the paper pulp itself. If you really want a strong scent, I'd say you need to at least double the amount of essential oil.

Step 9: Experiment!

Picture of Experiment!

This basic Green-Craft process can be customized a variety of ways. Experiment with different colors of paper, scents, or adding textural elements such has leaves and dried herbs, glitter, or paper circles from your hole puncher to use like confetti. Your final product can be made into stationary, gift tags, sculptural paper art and so much more. The project possibilities are endless...and anything is better than a pile of junk mail under your coffee table!

Comments

PiinkInstruct (author)2015-04-14

What an awesome and creative idea! Going to try it sometime! :)

kittymster1 (author)2015-01-28

have a lot of scrap paper so will try this. Just need to get a "strainer" will post pics..

kittymster1 (author)2015-01-28

have a lot of scrap paper so will try this. Just need to get a "strainer" will post pics..

Salvwi Prasad (author)2015-01-17

This is great! So useful.

Daneel (author)2015-01-14

This project looks immensely useful and I've been dying to do it for a while. A few questions I have about it are: You advise heavily against using glossy paper, and I can see why you wouldn't use foil paper, but what would happen if you added glossy? (I ask because that's what I have an abundance of at the moment haha) Could you blend the mixture more to get a finer mix or would that just sift right through the screen? Is it possible to get a finer screen to combat that? Thanks in advance!

ashleyjlong (author)Daneel2015-01-14

My understanding has been that glossy papers may not re-bond with regular paper as well because of the coating. Since I've always been cautioned against it, I haven't tried it myself. You could always do a small batch and see whether the glossy pages affect your result badly or not.

If you're making your own screen you can definitely explore the options and get the finest mesh possible. Window screen is generally good, though the screen I have may be a little softer/ finer (not quite as fine as a pantyhose weave, but smaller than window screen). Explore your hardware/ craft store! Regardless of screen, your paper should pulp down into pretty fine particles anyway. The time and settings used in this Ible gave me pulp that was like silt --really no chunks to speak of. Hope all that helps!

profort (author)2015-01-08

kudos

Hiroak (author)2015-01-07

Is this strong enough to run through a printer?

ashleyjlong (author)Hiroak2015-01-07

It may vary from sheet to sheet, but generally I would say yes. Sometimes you'll get a particularly thin coating on your screen and not realize its so thin until its already dry. A thin sheet will be very flexible, almost like toilet paper, and you'll know its a bad idea to run through a machine. Your typical sheet will be firm, sometimes even slightly thicker than regular printing paper. You may want to do a test print on regular settings vs. cardstock setting to see if there's a difference that serves you best.

Some things to watch out for: If it were me, I might use scissors to cut the edge that will be grabbed by your printer feed into a nice straight, consistent line. The wispy "deckle" edges of your natural paper may not be substantial enough for the feeder to grab. You can always tear the edge again after the print, to re-create the organic wispy look.

Keep in mind that bumps or inconsistencies in the paper surface will affect printing. If you're printing text, major "flaws" could effect legibility. In my opinion, the textures will make art prints even more unique and are not a set back.

MicioGatta (author)2015-01-06

Beautiful work, it could be nice to be done at school :) Maybe in may!

ashleyjlong (author)MicioGatta2015-01-06

Thanks! If you can get enough screens this would be an excellent classroom project! You could even divide the kids into teams of "paper rippers" and "screen dippers". I made a sheet with confetti and glitter last night. I'll post it later so you can see how fun these sheets can be!

MicioGatta (author)ashleyjlong2015-01-06

I think I saw some screens (4 or 5) somewhere in my school. I did the teams when doing papier-mâché for props for a play. They did a great work. Of course they rotate in the works. They are my pupils from 1st grade and now they're in 5th ;). The problem is they are 22. The paper with confetti would be great near Carnival (February 16th and 17th).

ashleyjlong (author)MicioGatta2015-01-06

Glitter and confetti paper!

ebineesey (author)2015-01-06

Any idea about the longevity of this kind of recycled paper? I've seen variations on this method with dryer lint instead of junk mail.

Do you think adding a glue / size to the pulp before screening would make for a sturdier paper?

ashleyjlong (author)ebineesey2015-01-06

Also, a glue may slicken the paper's finish in a way that makes it less receptive to being written on. Just another thought. When I opened the box containing my screens the sheets of recycled paper I made with my mom when I was 10 were still in there, so I believe it is only as vulnerable as any other paper (if you get it wet, etc.)

ashleyjlong (author)ebineesey2015-01-06

Hmmm...I know I've read that lint can sometimes weaken the re-bonding process if the fibers are not compatible with your paper element. I'd imagine this is true of synthetic fibers, but that fine cotton dryer lint would do well.
I would not advise adding glue to your pulp as it may cause difficulty when trying to free it from your screen. If you wanted to laquer the paper with something AFTER it is off the screen and dry, that'd probably work in terms of hardening or preserving it. What do you think you'll ultimately use the paper for?

smorgsborg (author)2015-01-06

Can you use a good blender for this or does it make it dull?

ashleyjlong (author)smorgsborg2015-01-06

Using your regular blender is totally fine. This is our daily blender for shakes and whatnot. The paper pulps in under a minute and as long as you aren't adding anything hard to the mix (obviously no metal, and I'd avoid chunk of thick cardboard) your blades should not suffer. The pulp also pours out very easily, so cleaning is a breeze.

stechi (author)2015-01-05

"Any paper with a matte finish will work. Brochures, envelopes, shopping bags, wrapping paper, etc As long as it is NOT glossy"

What happens with glossy paper? We get loads of junk mail, but I reckon almost all of it is glossy; leaflets from restaurants, newspaper-sized sheets from supermarkets, free magazines, even envelopes are often glossy, although there is some plain paper inside, and most wrapping paper this Christmas was glossy. (Our shopping bags are almost all in plastic nowadays). So is there any way we can do this with glossy paper? I really want to have a go.....

ashleyjlong (author)stechi2015-01-05

My understanding has been that the glossy papers may not pulp and re-bond as reliably as matte paper. Whatever coating has been put on it to make it glossy might prevent the fibers from locking together again. If you give it a try I'd love to hear about the results! I've encountered the same problem with our junk mail --you have to pick and choose. For instance, I can't utilize the omaha steaks catalogue but I can use the mail reply inserts that are regular paper. I agree with you that most wrapping paper has a foil to it, but I have encountered more matte finish gift wrap lately, as the trend has gone toward retro/ craftsy looks.

baecker03 (author)2015-01-05

great idea, would be good for prints

ashleyjlong (author)baecker032015-01-05

Definitely! Silk screen or block prints would look amazing on this stuff.

About This Instructable

11,558views

346favorites

License:

Bio: I'm an animation director by day and Queen of the monsters by night. I picked up most of my costume and prop building skills ... More »
More by ashleyjlong:How to Do a Color Melt Naughty Garden Gnome ModKidney Disease Care package
Add instructable to: