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Re: Flax Paper

On Thursday, October 14, 1999 12:51 PM, suhag shirodkar
[SMTP:suhag_s@YAHOO.COM] wrote:
> 1. How long should one be retting flax fiber? In water
> or in something else? Does anybody still add milk to
> the retting vats as they did in medieval Europe?
If you already have fiber, no retting should be required. Retting is used
to allow the fibre to be separated from the pith of the plant stem, so you
only need to ret if you are starting from the plants themselves. The plants
are retted enough when you can take a dried stem, snap it, and have the
central pith snap and fall away leaving (more or less) clean fibre. Note
that in any reasonably damp climate, the plants can also be "dew retted";
they are spread out in the field where overnight condensation provides the
retting moisture. Dew retting is, however, a slow process, taking weeks or

> 2. Can I make flax paper without a Hollander?
Unfortunately not. As well as being very strong, flax is also a very tough
fibre; even *with* a Hollander, a lot of beating is required, and the
Hollander must be set to its closest, highest-pressure setting. If not
beaten enough, the fibres will not bond to each other properly, so the
paper will tear by fibre separation (rather than fibre breakage), and the
fibres will also be stiff, and thus subject to breakage when the paper is

> 3. If yes to #2, where could I get flax fiber?
We carry three forms of flax fibre: combed and uncombed flax tow (fibres
shorter than the "line flax" used to make textiles, but plenty long for
papermaking), and flax noils (short dust-like fibres that cannot be used by
themselves for papermaking, but can be used for casting or for mixing in
with longer fibres).

 -Kevin Martin
  the Papertrail

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