3-21-07 Something has been niggling at me
all winter. Coffee filters.
Coffee filters, from what I've read and heard, are made from abaca.
Sooooo...all winter I've been wondering what would happen if I ran coffee
filters through the beater. A goodly part of my reason for wondering
is that a pound of coffee filters costs about $2.50, or less if they're on
sale. A pound of bleached abaca costs $5.95 before shipping.
Today I set about finding out. My beater handles 1.25 lbs. (As
an aside, that measurement is a guideline, not a firm figure. The
amount of fiber in the beater will vary depending on plant material.
Different materials behave differently in the beater. Sometimes the
beater will handle over a pound and a quarter, sometimes only a pound.
Usually, when I try something for the first time, I'll go with a pound and
see how that works. I can alter that measurement once I know more
about the material.) 500 coffee filters weighed 1 lb 1.4 oz, and that
was close enough for what I wanted. I presoaked them in warm water to
make it easier to tear 15 or 20 filters at a time into chunks and tossed
those into the beater as it was running. I've beaten recycle paper in
the Critter before for children's projects and am familiar with how that
paper comes apart. It immediately begins to come apart and fine fibers
very quickly cloud the water while the remaining paper circulates. I
didn't expect the coffee filters to break apart in the same manner because
the quality of the materials is much better, but I was not prepared for what
did happen. There was absolutely no clouding of the water...no
stray fibers...nothing but sheets of fiber moving round and round, the
single layer bits of the coffee filter sheets becoming progressively smaller
and smaller. At no point in the beating were there single stray
fibers. Amazing. Initially, there was blockage at both the
intake and the output. Sheets crammed up against each other at the
intake, then when large numbers went under the drum at once, they would
block the outgoing end. At one point, I debated whether to remove some
of the material, but opted to leave it in, knowing that often, in time, this
problem stops. And it did. About thirty minutes into beating,
everything was reduced to a size that flowed without interruption and all
went smoothly after that. I beat the filters for 1 hour and 15
minutes, then raised the drum and let the pulp circulate ing the tub for
another 15 minutes to loosen up the knots of fiber that had formed.
Then I dipped out enough pulp to do a test sheet and left the rest in the
tub. Good thing. When I dispersed the fibers in the vat, it was
obvious that they should have been beaten longer. The filter sheets
were still in very tiny pieces, slightly larger than a pinhead, not the
individual fibers that I was shooting for. I went ahead and pulled a
sheet just to see how it would do, and actually, it made an excellent sheet
as it was, though after drying, there was some
minor "lumpage" that showed with
backlighting. (Please ignore the flecks of debris. This was
the first time the equipment had been used this year and I forgot to wash
everything off before getting started.) I went ahead and beat the rest
of the fiber for another 45 minutes (two hours in all) and then again raised
the head and circulated the pulp for 15 minutes. That time, the fibers
dispersed in the vat like a cloud. The
papers pulled from that are
smooth, clean. Both papers are extremely hard to tear.
Lovely paper! And it can be pulled see-through thin without a bit of
trouble. Excellent pulp, excellent paper. As to whether this can
be done in a blender....right now, I don't know. I seriously doubt
that it can be in the manner that I did it - just soaking, then putting it
into the blender. If at some point I do try this in a blender, I'll
cook the filters in soda ash first. For that matter, were I do beat
filters again, I'd cook first. The filters are (for paper) extremely
tough when wet, and I suspect that the paper is given some treatment that
makes it resistant to tearing when wet, and perhaps cooking with soda ash
would help break that down. [Disclaimer - The
brand of coffee filters used above is "Pure Brew" manufactured by Rochline
Industries, Sheboygan, MI. Other brands may give different results.]
3-29-07 I am a compulsive collector.
It doesn't much matter what it is as long as it's interesting.
coffeetree seedpods or the
tree's 2' leafstems,
wild senna seedpods,
wormy wood...all are fair game.
If this "dragging stuff home" gets much worse, I'll be looking for a support