How To Prepare Bamboo For Papermaking


The Chinese were among the first cultures to make paper in approximately 105 A.D. Although the first papers were made from hemp fibers, early paper makers were soon creating paper from both mulberry bark and bamboo sheaths as well. These ingredients were crushed into a pulp, soaked into slurry, screened on a sieve and then dried. Today, you can make paper from bamboo sheaths just the way the ancient Chinese did. However, to do so, you must first prepare the bamboo.

Step 1

Gather bamboo sheaths in the spring when they begin to fall off the bamboo. Sheaths are typically the same size as an autumn leaf and deteriorate quickly, so they must be gathered during this time of year.

Step 2

Shred sheaths along their width into 1-inch thick strips using a paper cutter.

Step 3

Fill a 1-gallon cooking pot halfway full of shredded sheaths.

Step 4

Dissolve a solution of ½ oz soda ash per 1 quart water. Make enough of this solution in advance to cover your bamboo sheaths when it is poured into the pot.

Step 5

Place the solution in the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer once the pot begins to boil.

Step 6

Simmer two to three hours, stirring every 30 minutes with a stirring rod. Check sheaths after two hours, and then again every 30 minutes to see if they are ready to process. If fibers separate easily, sheaths are ready to process. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Step 7

Line a colander with nylon hosiery. Pour contents of pot into colander and allow water to strain off. Run water over contents and rinse until clean and free of chemicals. Water should run clear when contents are chemical free.

Step 8

Fill a blender ¾ full of water. Add a handful of pulp. Run for five seconds on slow and five seconds on medium speed to create slurry. The slurry is now ready to be made into paper.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, eye and breathing protection when handling soda ash to prevent injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Bamboo sheaths
  • Paper cutter
  • 1 gallon pot
  • Water
  • Soda ash
  • Stove
  • Wooden stirring rod
  • Colander
  • Nylon hose
  • Blender


  • Georgia Tech Robert C. Williams Paper Museum: The Invention of Paper
  • JM Bamboo:Using Bamboo
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency: Paper Making

Who Can Help

  • Pioneer Thinking: Making Handmade Paper in 10 Easy Steps
Keywords: garden crafts, making paper, Bamboo arts

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."