The Galician mill which was first converted to the production of paper in 1453 is the centre of the Basel Paper Museum The equipment and method of production which is used in this workshop is typical of the handmade paper manufacture during the 18th century. Here the paper is made out of rags from old clothes and pieces of material. These are soaked and beaten to pulp by the stamping machine which is driven by the mighty water wheel via a camshaft.
The pulp is heavily diluted with water in the vat, which is a large wooden tub and is then moulded into sheets of paper by the vatman. Once the excess water has been allowed to run away, the moulded sheets which are still damp are placed on to a piece of felt by using a strainer. This is known as couching. A pile of couched sheets between felts are then pressed in the wet press. Finally the pressed sheets of paper are hung in the attic to dry. If the paper is to be used as writing paper it must first be sized in order to prevent it from soaking up too much ink. In earlier times this involved dragging the sheets of paper through a bath of lime followed by a repeat of the pressing and drying stages.
Making paper by machine
With the coming of the industrial revolution the time consuming process of forming each individual sheet of paper was replaced by a machine which produced rolls of endless paper. Nicolas-Louis Robert developed the first paper making machine in 1799. In the Rychmuehle section of the museum a paper making machine is on display which was built in 1964. This machine is fully operational and every Friday it produces rolls of endless paper with a width of 22cm.