What should I do with all of these outdated subway maps?


First of all, you are a hoarder and you need help if you have many years worth of outdated subway maps in your apartment.  Get some therapy before it’s too late and some reality television crew needs to excavate fifty-odd years of life-sediment to recover your corpse for a tearful holiday episode.  That being said, I made paper with all of the many years worth of outdated subway maps I had been hoarding saving.

You will need:

  • old subway maps or any paper you want to recycle into new paper
  • a bucket
  • water
  • a blender
  • a small tub (see pictures below)
  • screen material (most home improvement stores have it; get aluminum because stiffness helps – see step 3)
  • sheet metal cutters to cut the screen material (or heavy duty scissors you really don’t care about)
  • old sheet or pillowcase you don’t mind cutting up (can use regular (non-HeavyDuty) HandiWipes if you want, but the texture of the resulting paper won’t be as fine as it would with a nice sheet/pillowcase)
  • 2 finely textured, lint-free dishcloths (no terrycloth! – see step 3)
  • a place for stuff to dry (see below)
  • time

Step 1 – Soak the paper – let it sit for at least a day (I let mine sit for 3 days).

Step 1 of papermaking

Tear up all your paper and put it in the bucket. Put in enough water to cover the paper pieces by at least an inch.

Step 2 – Make paper pulp

Step 2 papermaking

Put soaked paper into blender, making sure there is enough water to cover by at least an inch. Don’t fill your blender more than 3/4 of the way full.

Step 2b papermaking

Blend until homogenous. Chances are your pulp will be either greyish or brownish.

Step 3 – Form and press the pulp

Step 3a papermaking

Pour pulp into a small tub that is larger than the size of the screen material you cut. P.S. you should cut the screen material into the size of the paper you want to make.

Step 3b papermaking

Place screen in pulp, shaking it a bit, so that pulp covers over the screen completely.

Step 3c papermaking

Gently and evenly, lift the screen out of the water by supporting it from the bottom, so as not to disturb the pulp on top of the screen.

I was supposed to tell you to cut your old sheets/pillowcases to be a bit larger than your screen size, so that you have at least 2″ of cloth beyond the boundaries of the screen on each dimension.  Now you know!

Step 3d papermaking

Gently lay your sheet/pillowcase/HandiWipe cloth over the pulp, so that it is flat and even and doesn’t disturb the pulp.

Step 3e papermaking

Kind of like this.

Step 3f papermaking

Spread out your finely-textured, lint-free dishcloth on a flat surface and get ready to flip your pulp on it, sheet-down. You will need the grace of a gazelle, a cougar’s confidence and the speed of a cheetah. Perhaps you should meditate. I should have suggested this before you had your hands full of formed, wet paper pulp. My bad.

Step 3g papermaking

Kind of like this.

Step 4 – Blot the pulp

Step 4 papermaking

Use the finely-textured, lint free dishcloth to blot the excess water from the pulp by pressing it into the screen, which is still on top of the pulp after you flipped it in the last step.

Step 5 – Peel away the screen

Step 5a papermaking

After blotting, gently run your finger outward along the edges of the screen to pull any wrapped-around pulp off the screen and toward the edges

Step 5b papermaking

Like this.

Step 5c papermaking

Gently lift a corner of the screen to peel it away from the paper. If you blotted enough of the water away in step 4, the paper pulp should be flattened and stuck to the sheet/pillowcase/HandiWipe. If some of the pulp sticks to the edge (like you see in this picture), break it off and flatten it into the sheet below.

Step 5c papermaking

After you fully remove the screen, you can flatten out the edges and make sure your sheet/pillowcase/HandiWipe is flat and not rippled.

Step 6 – Dry and peel – after a few hours, your paper should be dry.  Once it is dry, gently peel it from your sheet/pillowcase/HandiWipe and make sure it dries out completely before stacking and/or storing it.  If you want it flatter, you can iron it with a medium hot iron (no steam).  If you are going to iron it, I would do it through a handkerchief, so as not to get pulp on your iron.

Now go make some homemade holiday cards and/or brunch invitations and send me one!  You’re welcome!

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One Response to What should I do with all of these outdated subway maps?

  1. tomsaporito says:

    This is incredibly impressive.

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