Hemp fiber makes paper that is high in tensile strength, withstands folding well, requires less environmentally-harmful bleaching than wood-pulp paper, lasts for centuries longer than wood-pulp paper, and is very pleasing to the eye.
People interested in crafting or supplying artists and crafters can make paper in their homes or shops. From that level of production to producing paper for the mass market, hemp works better than any of its competitors.
Here's what we've done...
At Lakota Hemp Days, in 2004, and again at the Hemp Hoe Down in 2005, Matt Rankin brought his Hollander beater (expl. below first photo) and we made paper.
Hollander™ beater. The large "gear" on the right spins (under a cover to prevent spattering) drawing the hemp/water slurry under it and around the oval racetrack-like channel. As solid material passes under the gear, it's pulverized. When the slurry reaches the desired consistency, it's drawn off and poured onto paper screen or other form.
"Using a Hollander beater [like the one pictured above] hemp paper was made that was stronger, with similar mass, absorbency, and thickness as commercial paper." --Craig, Patrick & Miller, Terry. The Perfect Stationery: A Study of the Properties of Different Paper Materials. Newland photo (Lakota Hemp Days 2004)
Matt Rankin (with microphone) walks attendees through stripping hemp fiber off the central part of hemp stalks, which contains the high-cellulose hurds. The fiber was then placed in the Hollander beater with water and processed into slurry, which was then placed on screens to dry. Part of the results are shown below.
Drawing slurry out of Hollander beater, preparatory to pouring on drying screen. the base for the slurry was hemp fiber that we stripped from stalks harvested on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, along with variously-colored hemp cloth scraps, which accounts for the dark brown color. Briggs photo (Lakota Hemp Days 2004)
Paper slurry drying on screens. When dry, each will be an 11"x14" piece of construction paper. Hydrogen peroxide in the slurry can bleach the brown out, making lighter colored paper. With more equipment (such as a press to smooth the finish), one can make writing paper.
This was our first try. The slurry was way too thick for writing or construction paper. However the results were interesting. The paper was about 1/8-inch thick and was very strong in resistance to bending. It was similar to the soundproofing panels put inside car doors (which hemp is used for in lots of cars made in the USA and elsewhere). Briggs photo (Lakota Hemp Days 2004)
This is a scan of a corner of one 8x10 piece of paper that we made at the Hemp Hoe Down, at very close to actual size. The paper is slightly thicker than a standard piece of typing paper, and is rough to the touch, although its surface is smooth enough to write on with a ballpoint (see below). This paper is quite suitable for hand-made greeting cards, or even for unique stationery. With longer processing in the beater, the individual fiber pieces would be less visible, and the the surface smoother. A little bleach, and the color becomes ivory or creamy.
Same scan, at 2x magnification. All of the solid material you see is hemp fiber. Note the "fringe", onionskin-thin hemp paper.
Same scan, at 3x magnification.
I wrote on the sheet with both a ballpoint and a red marker, just to see how it took ink, and whether the marker would bleed badly. This picture is at about 2.5x magnification. At 1x, little bleed is apparent.