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Retting flax

Folks: In the papermaking class at The University of Alabama we do two
experiments with raw flax. One is to use the hollander and beat the
material in its raw state. It is very tough material and can be a trial
in the beater. We hydrate the flax for a couple days before hitting the
beater. The paper produced needs to be dried under strong restraint as
it likes to buckle at the edges, and it contains lots of the interesting
bits of the plant that retting and cooking destroys.

When we ret the fiber, we do so for a couple months. We've retted for up
to six months, but a couple months seems to do the trick. It sits in
plain water, covered, and mixed as often as we think about it to aerate
the mess. It really does smell, but that's part of the cost of making
very interesting, strong, almost translucent sheets. We purchase our
fiber at Twinrocker in Brookston, Indiana.

PS/ In response to Mila Nazdarovya remarks about teaching bookbinding,
from my perspective as the printing teacher: Don Glaister has created a
very vivid and exciting bookbinding program that seeks to demystify the
more arcane aspects of the craft, focus on essential structures, and
build a confiddent and strong foundation, all the while encouraging
students along. They make work in the first year that is substantial,
creative, well-wrought, and have a great time doing it. "'Tis a gift to
be simple." Steve Miller

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