Did you know one of the first copies of the US Declaration of Independence is written on windmill-made paper from the Zaan region?
The paper-making process
Recycling, it's nothing new.
This millstone is located in an alcove besides the main millworks. Its purpose is to grind existing paper and cardboard into fibres that can be reused to make new paper.
Once the rags have been sliced into smaller pieces they are put into the 'Hollander', a beater where with the addition of water the fibres are turned into a slurry.
making paper the old-fashioned way
Hand-making paper involves moving a screen or mould in a loose frame (the deckle frame) through a vat filled with a mixture of pulp and water.
When most of the water has drained from the sieve, it's turned onto a wet felt cloth ('couching') and some of the remaining water is pressed out.
The sheets can then be hung up to dry.
a more modern approach
The dried fibres are mixed with water and through a series of gutters it ends on a conveyor belt. This belt allows the water to drip out, after which the pulp arrives at a large drum where it is deposited.
After collecting a number of layers onto the drum (the more layers the thicker and sturdier the cardboard), it is cut off by hand and placed on a stack to dry.
The above process turned the 'faulty' canvas bags into a beautifully blue version of Zaansch Bord. A paper favoured by book binders and artists. I picked up a sheet, turned it over in my hands, feeling its material quality, but even more so admiring the dedication of Arie to preserving and explaining the traditions of this paper mill.
UNESCO recognised the craft of a miller operating a wind- (or water) powered mill as 'intangible cultural heritage' in 2017. Not that this international recognition changes Arie's attitude, his eyes light up when talking about his craft, which he has practiced since the age of 18. One of the stipulations of the UN is that miller's knowledge is passed onto successive generations, and here too Arie has been successful: his son Ron will be taking over, ensuring continuation of this rich Dutch tradition.