Toilet Paper: A History

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Catullus, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Catullus

    Catullus Monkey+++

    For all you Monkey's that were curious...compliments of BulkTP. Please excuse grammatical and translational mistakes. I am converting this from a typewritten version. This was a papermaking training manual that was made for my family's old paper mill.

    1. An understanding of how and when the first paper was made.
    2. Invention of the first Paper Machine.
    3. Pulping wood fiber.

    Papermaking as we know it today began in China about 100 A.D. when Ts’ai Lun discovered a method to produce a coarse sheet of paper.
    The original product was, of course, very crude when compared to the paper of today; nevertheless, it was made from fibers of plants and at that time the plants used were bamboo or mulberry. The Chinese ground up the inner bark of the bamboo or mulberry into fibers. The fibers were then mixed in a water suspension which was filtered through a screen. This left a mat or layer of intertwined fibers which was pressed and then dried to form a sheet of paper.
    This process provided the basic steps that became the key to the manufacturer of paper and these steps are still basic to the manufacture of paper today.
    Most people have heard of “papyrus” that the Egyptians made in ancient times and on which was recorded much of the history of those days. Our museums contain many interesting and priceless documents written on “papyrus” and perhaps it would be well to explain that it was not really a paper. “Papyrus” was made by taking the inner layers of that reedy plant which grew in abundance along the Nile and crossing sets of the layers at right angles. The crossed sets of layers were then dampened with water and pressed, causing the sugary sap of the “papyrus” plant to spread and act as an adhesive that held the layers together. This laborious process did produce much of the writing material for ancient times–but its invention did not start the paper industry.
    And now back to the Chinese. They maintained and developed their new industry in secret for almost 950 years. During that time, paper-making became a highly skilled art in China. The western world knew nothing about this important discovery until around 750 A.D. when the Arabs and the Chinese met in battle in what is now southern Russia. The Arabs defeated the Chinese in this battle and in doing so captured a number of them. Among the Chinese captives were soldiers who knew how to make paper and they were persuaded to share that knowledge with the Arabs.
    The victors in this remote battle of long ago took their newly acquired knowledge and developed a papermaking industry of their own. As the Arab armies expanded their military control, they conquered Sicily, and the manufacture of paper spread gradually through Italy and on into southern Germany.
    As early as the eleventh century, hand processing of paper in Europe required that felts be used for couching and pressing. The paper fibers first were probably formed on a mold of wire cloth by dipping. After most of the water had drained away, the mold was pressed against a felt and the sheet transferred or “couched” from the mold to the felt. After couching, paper and felt were pressed to remove excess water. The paper sheet was then allowed to air dry. Such is a simplification of modern papermaking with its three main stages: forming, pressing, and drying.
    The first paper mill in Germany was built about 1320. during this period, most paper was made from cotton or linen rags. It was still handmade and an expensive luxury item. It took several hundred years for papermaking to move across Europe and reach England. The first paper mill in England was built early in the 1600′s. It took much less time for papermaking to cross the Atlantic. The first American mill was built near Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1690 by two partners, one who was a printer and the other an experienced papermaker who had learned the art in Holland.
    Papermaking continued to be a slow and costly process and there were few people who could afford to put paper to any use other than for writing and record keeping. Until 1799 all the paper made in the world had been formed by hand, a sheet a time. Several new developments had to occur before paper would become plentiful, diversified as to kind, and reasonable in cost. And, it took three major breakthroughs that would set the stage to transfer the making of paper by hand to our present day mass production industry.
    First, the Hollander beater was invented and that made it possible to provide pulp in large quantities. Second, mechanical and chemical processes were developed for making abundant paper pulp out of wood. And third, a paper machine called the Fourdrinier, was invented to produce paper in rolls, continuously and cheaply at high rates of speed.
    In 1799, the first paper machine was invented and patented by Louis Robert, and in 1827 the fourdrinier machine was introduced to the United States. Robert’s machine used an endless wire cloth belt that was stretched around two rolls. The paper was formed and drained on this wire, which was made of brass on the earliest machines; bronze was used in later years. Between 1830 and 1845 America’s handmade paper manufacture practically disappeared.
    Over the years, research has developed new ways of making paper resulting from different methods of mixing, refining or treating pulp to create paper of varying characteristics. An improved or different end product in the manufacture of paper always starts with an improvement or refinement in the process of making pulp. Initially, pulp was made from wood by the mechanical or groundwood process. This simply means that the wood is broken up into its fibrous content by pressing it against a turning grindstone. Doing this produces pulp in an amount by weight substantially equal to the amount of wood consumed. However, in addition to the cellulose fibers, the resins, saps and woody tissue remain as part of the pulp and restrict the use to which this basic groundwood can be put.
    The straightforward mechanical process of turning wood into pulp produces short, weak fibers that would not make strong paper. A small percentage of groundwood in certain paper, such as sanitary tissue, can be useful, but it must be augmented by a type of pulp that will provide additional strength, absorbency and softness to the paper. Chemical pulp which is made from wood chips cooked under pressure in a chemical solution produces the type of pulp that when mixed with mechanical pulp will combine to produce a quality of sanitary tissue that possesses permanence, strength, absorbency and softness.
    The chemical pulp process produces almost pure cellulose fibers and in doing so requires twice as much wood, since wood is approximately 50% cellulose fibers by weight. In preparing the pulp for some grades of paper, a small percentage of mechanical pulp can be mixed in with chemical pulp for conditioning and refining in a special machine called a refiner. In the refiner the fibers are put through a cutting and brushing process. As you can imagine each different grade of tissue paper requires special pulp treatment to provide the exact properties desired in the paper to be made. After going through the refiners, the pulp goes on to a tank where it is mixed with water in what would be about a .5% consistency. This means that the water would represent about 99-1/2% and the fiber about 1/2% of the mixture. The pulp that is now held in suspension is then pumped into the headbox of the paper machine from where it is distributed evenly onto a moving endless wire screen on which the paper is formed.
    Much of the high moisture content of the mixture is removed by gravity and suction as it passes along the wire. Some moisture is removed by mechanical pressing and additional moisture is removed as the sheet of paper goes over true dryers that are a part of the paper machine.
    Today, paper machines making sanitary tissues run at speeds over 5,500 feet per minute. This indicates the progress in the paper industry over the past 100 years when it is considered that 100FPM was a top speed as late as 1867. The paper coming off the dry end of the paper machines is rolled into large rolls called parent or jumbo rolls. These are then rewound and cut into smaller rolls for use by the converting machines. The converting machines cut and fold the paper and produce the many products which are used widely throughout industry and in the home. Great amounts of talent and investment have gone into improving the art of papermaking. The resulting inventions, refinements and new techniques have molded a dynamic industry that is one of the giants in the world today. In the United States, the paper industry is in the top ten manufacturing industries.
    tacmotusn, ghrit and kellory like this.
  2. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey+++

    Gosh, it's too bad the people who supply the toilet paper for our building haven't realized that there's the process of cooking the wood chips under pressure and adding the fibers to the short fibers. The TP in our building seems to be made entirely of extremely short fibers, if how it behaves upon use is any indication (if ya get my drift here!).

    Catullus likes this.
  3. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Naw, thet are just being "green". Those are really recycled beltsander belts.;)
    Catullus likes this.
  4. DMGoddess

    DMGoddess Monkey+++

    Are you sure they recycled them, instead of just repurposing them? :p
  5. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    No....I'm not sure.:eek:
  6. DMGoddess

    DMGoddess Monkey+++

    Better check. If they smooth wood, you're in trouble. :p
  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    You mean it's not wax paper?
  8. DMGoddess

    DMGoddess Monkey+++

    Sure it is, that's why your pants keep sliding down. :D
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