New Powdered Retention Agent to replace our liquid agents

For many years we carried two products for helping with pigment retention in handmade paper: our Retention Agent and our Scavenger. Both were cationic agents (that is, they developed positive electric charge in water), which attracted them both to the cellulose fibres and the pigments, both of which are generally anionic (developing a negative charge in water). The two products differed in their molecular weight, with the Retention Agent having a fairly low molecular weight and the Scavenger having much higher molecular weight with long single-strand molecules.

Pigment retention is such a complex subject that I really don’t have room to get into it here, except to say that opposite charges attract, so the retention agents either coat the anionic pigment particles making them cationic and thus attracted to the fibres, or the long retention agent molecules cling to both the fibre and the pigment, acting as a tiny thread helping to hold them together. That first effect is why excessive quantities of retention agent actually impair retention because both the pigments and fibres become converted to cationic behaviour.

We started to have trouble purchasing these products in suitable quantities, and being liquid limited their shelf life, so we have now discontinued both of them, replacing both with a powdered retention agent.

To use this new product, you mix some of the powder with water beforehand, which produces a slightly syrupy liquid very much like our old Scavenger in appearance, in usage, and in its chemical properties. The prepared solution has a relatively short lifetime (a few days, depending on water purity and storage conditions), but because you only mix up the amount you need, this means you have fresh solution each time.

There is of course a trade-off between the convenience of having a pre-mixed liquid product and the ease of storage and freshness for a powdered product.

The new product is available in the following sizes and prices (as of February 2020):

Size Price
50g $11.45
125g $22.50
250g $37.50

More carp, live ones this time, and an eagle

The other day, I was walking along Alder Creek, which runs behind our property here in New Dundee, and I happened to spot a group of around 40 carp, just swimming gently to keep up with the current. The water was unusually clear and the fish were close enough to shore that I took a short video of them and posted it to YouTube.

The eagle is the large blob surrounded by smaller blobs which are crows. Sorry for the poor photo; the window doesn’t open and the double-glazing has fogged up internally.

Two days later I saw a bald eagle perched on a tree over pretty much the same area of the creek. This is not likely to be a coincidence; one of those carp would make a tasty meal for an eagle!

CBBAG Ottawa Valley Book Arts Show and Sale, May 16th, 2020

The Ottawa Valley chapter of The Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) will be holding their biennial(ish) Book Arts Show and Sale on Saturday, May 16th, 2020. Unlike the previous few shows, which were held at the Glebe Community Centre, this one will be held in association with Carleton University’s new Book Arts Lab—The Quad Press—located in the MacOdrum library on the campus just south of centre-town Ottawa.

We will have a couple of tables there, and will be selling our handmade paper, marbling, and supplies for the book arts.

Admission is free.

More details to follow.

Power chute control for John Deere 185 snow blower

My JD185 lawn tractor can be fitted with a snowblower attachment. The one I have has no part or model number; it is just called the “38 inch snowblower” in the manuals.

At the driver’s seat there is a crank which aims the chute from side to side through about 180 degrees, but to adjust the height and distance of the thrown snow, I have to walk to the front of the blower to loosen some nuts and set the deflector height. There aren’t even handles to loosen the nuts with; I have to use a wrench. This was generally a big nuisance.

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Repairing our old Ironer (Mangle)

We have a near-antique Easy brand ironer (also known as a mangle). This has a cloth-covered roller and a heated platen that presses against it, and it would have originally been used for ironing (typically) large items like bedsheets. We now use it occasionally for flattening paper or marbling, for quick-setting the internal AKD sizing in freshly-made paper, and for drying a small batch of paper for something like a colour test.

The cloth-covered drum rotates upwards on the front, pulling the item to be ironed over the top of the drum and under the platen which presses against the back of the drum. There are controls to temporarily pause the drum rotation, to raise and lower the platen, and to control the platen temperature. Our drum is a bit stained from a series of colour tests we did with Red 101 pigment.

A while back, the ironer stopped working as its motor (mounted shaft-upwards below the gearbox at the right-hand end) fell off and was just dangling by its power cord. Read more ›

A Pump Stroke Counter for the Monotype Caster

I recently installed a pump stroke counter on my Monotype Composition caster, which will prove very useful when casting spacing and fonts of display type (fonts of composition type can be produced using the paper ribbon or computer interface).

The counter is an inexpensive import which was given to me by Stephen Quick at Weathervane Press in Orleans, Ontario.

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BOUND Book Arts Fair, December 8th 2019 in Toronto

The Papertrail will be participating in the third edition of the BOUND Book Arts Fair, on Sunday, December 9th, 2019. The fair will be held from 11am to 5 pm in the Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street (a block or two from Yonge & Dundas) in downtown Toronto.

Vendors at the fair will have handmade and artist’s books, printed items such as cards, broadsides, and various ephemera, as well as materials and tools for use in the book arts. We will have a vendor’s table there, where we will be selling primarily (due to space limitations) our paper and marbling.

If you wish, you can order from our regular product offerings in advance and pick up your order at the fair, saving you shipping costs, but please make sure we have a couple of days’ notice to get your order ready.

Admission to the fair is free, but there will almost assuredly be something there you want to buy!

A Film About George Walker

There is a Kickstarter campaign on to help finance a film entitled “Woodwriter: The Wordless Art of George A. Walker.” The project was initiated by photographer and filmmaker Jeff Winch.

George is a good friend of ours, whom we see at pretty much any book arts event we attend in southern Ontario (and beyond… I ran into him once at Gaspereau Press’s Wayzgoose in Nova Scotia). He has published several wordless books, each one expressing its story in a series of original woodcuts, and this is the focus of the film.

The campaign runs until October 1st 2019, and is currently almost halfway to its $5000 target. If you want more information or would like to contribute, you can use the link above.

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Updated listing of available handset type

I just brought home a large lot of new (to me) matrices, mostly Lanston display matrices, and I’ve updated our list of available fonts to include these. Many of these fill in gaps in the sizes for faces already offered, but there are a few new faces as well.

Another new pulp: Hemp/Cotton Rag blend

We have a batch (around 150kg) of pulp which is a blend of cotton rag and our raw hemp fibre. The hemp has not been cooked so this is purely a mechanical pulp. It still contains the shives (bits of pith from the plant stems) from the hemp so it makes a slightly bumpy paper.

This pulp is available while it lasts for $16.50 per kilogram.