Papermaking at Tuckenhay Mill

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Phillpotts - sizing

Reference: [4] Storm in a Teacup by Eden Phillpotts (1919) - Chapter XVII / Chapter XXI

She entered unseen, and passed through the dim and odorous chambers where the sizerman, old Amos Toft, mixed the medium. Here, in two steaming vats, Amos melted his gelatine, made of buffalo hide, and added to the strong-smelling concoction those ingredients proper to the paper to be sized. Trade secrets controlled the mixture, but alum contributed an important factor, for without it, the animal compound had quickly decayed.

In the sizing room a narrow passage ran between long troughs. The place steamed to its lofty, sunny roof, and was soaked with the odour of the size. Through the great baths of amber-coloured liquid there wound an end- less wool blanket, and at one end of each great bath sat two little girls with stacks of dry paper beside them. They disposed the sheets regularly two together on the sizing felt, and the paper was drawn into the vats and plunged beneath the surface. For nearly three minutes it pursued its invisible way, and presently, emerging at the other end, was lifted off by other young workers and returned to the drying lofts again.

At one end of the glazing house - a lofty and bright workroom at the top story of the Mill - stood the dry press, to which the choice papers demanding extra finish came after glazing. Here they were piled between heavy slabs of hot metal and subject to great pressure; but the primal business of glazing had already been done between metal rollers. A range of these presented the principal object in this workshop.

Girls prepared the paper for the rollers, and Medora had once been of this cheerful and busy throng. Hither came the paper from its final drying after the size bath, and the workers stood with a heap of sheets on one side of them and a little stack of polished zinc plates on the other. With her left hand each girl snatched a sheet of paper, with her right a plate of zinc ; and then she inter-leaved the paper with the metal until a good wad rose in her crib. The paper was now ready for the glazing rollers, and men, who tended these massive machines, ran the sheets and zinc wads between the steel rollers, backward and forward twice and thrice under tremendous strain. Then what was dim and lustreless reappeared with a bright and shining surface,and the sheets returned again to the girls, who separated zinc and paper once more.

Mr. Pinhey had often preached on this text indeed his simile was worn threadbare, though he repeated it to every new-comer in the glazing house and rolling room. "With paper as with humans," he would say, "nothing like a sharp pinch to bring out the polish; that is if a man's built of stuff good enough to take a polish. Of course some are not ; we know that only too well."

Reference: The Story of Handmade Paper (1924)

Little Chart Paper Mill, Kent

The distinctive sounds in this great shop were three and did he hear them, a paper maker with his eyes shut would know exactly where he was. First, the steady thud of the plates on the side of the wooden cribs ; next, the ceaseless rustle and hiss of the paper flying between the girl's hands as it is laid upon the zinc or snatched off it; and lastly the rumble of the rolling machines sounding a bass as they grip the piles of paper and metal and squeeze them up and down.

The very precious papers went to the dry press; but the mass of them passed directly to the sorters, who graded all stock into three qualities perfect, less perfect, and inferior. No inferior paper ever left Dene Mill. It was pulped again ; but could not aspire to the highest standard having once sunk beneath it.

And lastly it came to Mr. Pinhey the finisher who seemed a figure conceived and planned for this lofty purpose. Spick and span in his snowy apron, with delicate hands and quick eyes behind their shining glasses, he moved spotless through the mountains and masses of the finished article; he passed amid the ordered blocks magisterially a very spirit of purity who reigned over the reams and called them by their names. Wove and laid Imperial, Super-royal, Medium, Demy, Foolscap and Double Foolscap were all included. Here towered orange and old rose sections; here azure and ultramarine; here sea green, here opaline pink and every delicate shade of buff and cream, to the snowy whiteness of the great papers and mightiest sheets. From fairy note to "double elephant" ranged Mr. Pinhey's activity. He worked among the papers, great and small, and put the last touch of perfection and completeness before they passed away into the larger world.