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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 6

Paper Materials

Paper Materials.

In a retrospective view on prior discoveries of paper material, it is not easy to ascertain how far substances also attainable beyond Australia may have been tested and even employed. That British true rushes (Junci) are eligible, that they contain about 40 per cent, of pulp-substance, and that they form a splendid substitute for rags, is long since ascertained. From this observation and calculation the inference may be drawn that the generality of rushes, sedges, and kindred plants, all allied in structure and texture, may be drawn, under the prospect of similar facility for working and similar yield, into use. This the experiments here instituted prove to be the case. Garices and many grasses furnish approximately 30 per cent, fibre, malvaceous plants average 10 to 20 per cent., and not more is obtained from the stalks of beans, peas, hops, buckwheat, potatoes, heather, broom bushes, and many other plants tried. The yield from Victorian material is much larger, moreover the supply infinitely vaster, and locally much less expensively attainable and much easier worked. Besides, the substances just indicated are generally wanted in great agricultural countries page 28 for refertilisation of fields. Nettles produce about 25 per cent, of pulp fibre, fit for a beautiful paper, easily bleached. A main staple for admixture to rag-pulp has been found in pinewood and straw of cereals. The Museum of the Melbourne Botanic Garden possesses samples of writing and printing papers, manufactured in Southern Germany, for which 30 to 40 per cent, of pinewood and 12 to 15 per cent. China-clay have been employed; wrapping paper made of 50 per cent, of pinewood, and tissue paper containing 40 per cent, pinewood; good printing paper obtained by adding 20 per cent, of aspenwood; glazed packing paper containing again 30 per cent, of pinewood; writing paper of superior quality, prepared in France, from 75 per cent, of esparto, and others solely made of that grass; paper prepared in Switzerland from wood solely, and turned out fit for packing and even inferior writing paper, and fair though not elastic millboards; packing paper made in Belgium, and printing paper prepared in Prussia, containing a large proportion of maize straw and the straw of other cereals.

The prior experiments on exclusively Australian material are very limited, as far as the writer is aware. Years ago stringy bark was shipped and tested in Britain, but seems to have borne only the character of fitness for merely coarse and brittle packing paper. Mr. Alexander Tolmer, of Adelaide, eight years ago caused paper to be made of the Australian marshmallow (Lavatera plebeja), and of the sword-rush of the sand-coast (Lepidosperma gladiatum). New Zealand Flax was pointed out as a fitting substance for paper twenty-two years ago. Good paper of an inland Lepidosperma rush, not so heavy and bulky as that experimented on by Mr. Tolmer, was prepared by Mr. Newberry, and referred to by the director of the Geological Survey in his last annual report, published in March. Some of the kinds of material now brought in paper-form before the public at the Intercolonial Exhibition were pointed out several years ago, and nearly the whole of the substances now drawn into use and submitted to the jurors were enumerated as eligible by the writer in the earlier part of 1866, in a note furnished on special inquiry to the Australasian. The percentage of pulp obtainable from the new paper fibres has not been exactly ascertained in these first, and to a certain extent preliminary, experiments; but, inasmuch as the raw stuff can be gathered in endless quantity, and as it proved evidently rich in pulp, the tabulation of the percentage was reserved for future more extended experiments. With the exception of one of the samples of stringy bark paper, all the kinds sent to the Exhibition were neither subjected to chlorine nor drawn through size. In addition, I would remark that forest regions and coast lines, swamps, and flats subject to inundations, should prominently yield the material for the factory; for on open pastures or otherwise occupied tracts of country, even paper material cannot be harvested for an unlimited period, at the expense of the soil, with impunity. In factories situated in the vicinity of forests, the soda expended in paper manufactures might be profitably regained by evaporation of the ley and calcining it with coal or sawdust. The value of Esparto, or Sparta, the grass so extensively shipped from the Mediterranean to British paper mills, varies from £5 10s. to £6 per ton. In viewing the immense supply of various kinds of paper material here cheaply available, there is no reason why they should not form, closely pressed, an article of export probably less inflammable than rags; and still more, it may safely be antici page 29 pated that, together with the consumption of rags in local factories, the new articles indicated will largely enter into the fabrication of paper, the product of Victorian industry.

The increasing scarcity of rags, scraps, and kindred substances has rendered their supply as a main article for paper making more and more inadequate, while the importation of the Esparto-fibre from the Mediterranean countries has likewise failed most fully to supply the augmented want. Hence, a variety of other substances have been tried, but few drawn into use, for the manufacture of especially the coarser kinds of paper; still, even for these, the raw material is in demand, and substitutes for the finer flax and hemp rags have been for some time much in request for the better kinds of writing-paper Under such circumstances arose, to a great extent, the desire of the late Duke of Newcastle, that throughout the British colonies investigations should be instituted into the adaptabilities of any vegetable substances eligible for paper manufacture and other textile fabrics. In compliance with the request of His Grace, I had for several years carried on inquiries, microscopical as well as technological, in this direction, whenever opportunities offered; and with the recent establishment of a laboratory in the department under my control, I was able to give these researches a practical bearing, and was thereby enabled to place in the Exhibition samples of thirty kinds of paper prepared, on my desire, by Mr. Christian Hoffmann, each kind representing the unmixed fibre of the particular plant operated on. It was not the aim to produce elegant paper, but only to show the crude nature of pressed and dried paper-pulp, without action of bleaching or glutinising substances thereon. In the selection, besides, every kind of material was discarded which could not be obtained in vast abundance, and also all plants were excluded closely allied to others already selected, otherwise the samples of the series could have been largely augmented. It may suffice on this occasion briefly to enumerate what the collection exhibits, to indicate the geographical range of the species operated on, and to point out what allied plants could likewise be drawn into use. I deemed it also desirable to notice briefly the particular use to which in each instance this paper material could be applied.

I.—Paper from Barks.

1. Eucalyptus Obliqua: L' Herit.—The Stringybark Eucalypt of Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.—The paper prepared from the bark of this tree is not merely suited for packing, but also for printing, and even writing. It may also be employed for mill and paste boards. The pulp bleaches readily. I regard it as the most important material drawn on this occasion into use, for be it remembered that this tree covers many of the barren ranges from St. Vincent's Gulf to Gipps-land, and that it equally abounds in Tasmania. Its bark, as is well known, is extremely thick and bulky; it moreover separates with the utmost facility, and is hence universally used for thatching rural dwellings in or near the ranges. Indeed, the supply is available by millions of tons. It has been argued that sad inroads would be made into our forests by turning this material as indicated to account; but even the bark left unutilised by the splitters would furnish an enormous supply; and if the sacrifice of small portions of widely-extended forests were brought within page 30 judicious limits by legislative enactments, possibly not any injury could occur; while indeed at present the annually more or less extensive conflagrations of the Stringy bark forests destroy an infinitely larger number of trees, than ever could sink under the axe of settlers scattered through the mountains. The area within Victoria alone wooded almost exclusively with Stringy bark forest extends over many thousand square miles, generally as yet without any habitations. Allied trees, likewise with thick, fibrous bark, occur in West Australia, Queensland, and North Australia, though not so extensively. Other bark may be similarly converted into paper. The whole thick stratum of the bark was employed. It yields readily to mechanical appliances on account of its lax and loose texture, and is also easily acted on by caustic soda for conversion into pulp.

2. Eucalyptus Rostrata: Schlechtendal.—The Red Gumtree of South-Australia and Victoria (but not of West Australia).—The paper prepared from the bark of this tree proves much coarser than that of the Eucalyptus obliqua; the pulp may be either used as admixture to that of packing paper and pasteboards, or in the composition, or perhaps as sole ingredient, for blotting and filtering paper. The species ranges nearly over the whole Australian continent along river flats.

3. Eucalyptus Amygdalina: Labillardière.—One of the so-called Peppermint-trees, more oily in its foliage than any of its congeners. It extends through the southern and eastern parts of Victoria, the whole of Tasmania, and the southern parts of New South Wales. The inner bark is adapted for the preparation of all kinds of coarser paper.

4. Eucalyptus Globulus: Labillardière—The well-known Blue Gumtree of Victoria and Tasmania.—Paper prepared from the bark of this tree answers for packing and perhaps for printing.

5. Eucaylptus Goniocalyx: Ferd. Mueller—One of the White Gum-trees, called in some districts the Spotted Gumtree.—It is confined to the more fertile ranges of Victoria and the south of New South Wales. The foliage is rich in volatile oil. The bark yields a good packing paper, but hardly material for any good writing paper.

6. Eucalyptus Corymbosa: Smith—The Bloodwood-tree of East Australia.—Occurs from the southern part of Queensland to the eastern part of Gippsland. The paper from the bark of this Eucalypt is remarkable for its great firmness. It makes thus a very strong wrapping paper.

7. Eucalyptus Leucoxylon: Ferd. Mueller.—This tree passes in various districts under varied names—for instance, it is the White Gumtree of St. Vincent's Gulf, the spurious Ironbark-tree of some parts of Victoria, and the Mountain Ash and Ironbark-tree of parts of New South Wales. The bark can be converted into rough packing paper.

8. Eucalyptus Longifolia: Link.—The Woollybutt of New South Wales and Gippsland.—The fibre of the bark again adapted for packing paper.

9. Eucalyptus Stuartiana: Ferd. Mueller.—One of the White Gumtrees of the eastern parts of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and the south of New South Wales. Called, strange to say, the Appletree, about Dandenong; the Water Gumtree of Tasmania may belong to the same species; it is designated locally with still other names. The bark of this often very big tree furnishes again good material for packing paper, and like others, for pasteboard.

10. Acacia penninervis: Sieber.—A tree, not of very large size, extending from South Queensland through New South Wales to East Victoria; of page 31 rather rare occurrence in Tasmania. The bark of this acacia was chosen merely to demonstrate, that also from the bark of very many species of this great genus a rough kind of packing paper can be produced.

11. Melaleuca ericifolia: Smith.—The so-called Swamp-Teatree. Universal in inundated places and stagnant waters, both of the littoral and mountain tracts of south-east Australia and Tasmania. The friable lamellar bark can be converted into an excellent blotting paper—perhaps, also, filtering paper. It is worthy of record that many species of this genus yield a very similar bark, formed of innumerable membranous layers. The most gigantic species of the genus Melaleuca leucodendron, which is common in South Asia and tropical Australia, exhibits such a bark, which thus may be turned to account.

II.—Paper from Foliage.

12. Casuarina quadrivalvis: Labillardiere.—The Drooping Sheoak. A common tree of the coast as well as the inland tracts of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales. The stringy foliage formed by the cylindrical concrescence of the branchlets with the leaves can be converted into an excellent pulp for packing, and even printing paper and millboard. The mechanical contrivances for preparing the pulp are of particular ease.

13. Casuarina leptoclada: Miquel.—The Erect Sheoak. Restricted to Victoria and New South Wales. The foliage in its use is akin to that of the former species. Different Casuarinæ occur in the other Australian colonies, in South Asia, and the Pacific Islands, but none of the species has been employed before for paper manufacture, and consequently the investi-gations instituted in Victoria may be found even of value in a country so anciently industrial as China.

III.—Paper from Grasses, Rushes and Allied Plants.

14. Scirpus maritimus: Lirme.—The Soltmarsh Clubrush. This plant being almost cosmopolitan, occurs frequently in more or less brackish waters of, at least extra-tropical, Australia. It seems like the following previously not yet tried, or at all events not yet extensively used for paper manufacture, for which it is singularly well adapted, being, like most rushes, so readily converted into pulp. The amount of bleaching material for all these rushes is trifling. It is sufficiently common here to deserve attention, though not so frequent as in Middle Europe. Apparently the paper is firm enough to stand the impressions of type.

15. Scirpus lacustris: Linne.—The Lake Clubrush. It grows in moist parts nearly all over the globe, and so it is here also frequent in some places. Being of gregarious occurrence, the plant is readily collected. The paper from it is remarkably good, and hence well adapted at least for printing and tissue paper, but probably also for writing.

16. Cyperus lucidus: R. Brown.—The Shining Gallingale, a rush-like plant, common in many parts of Australia, shown to be adapted both for printing, tissue, and writing paper. All these rush-like plants bleach with great facility.

17. Cyperus vaginatus: R. Brown.—The Sheated Gating ale, one of the most widely and most copiously distributed of the rush-like plants of all page 32 Australia. Its fibre is extraordinarily tough, and accordingly can be formed into a very tenacious paper, which, moreover, proves one of great excellence. The raw material is available by thousands of tons on periodically flooded river flats, swampy depressions, and other moist localities, where a continued harvest of the plant cannot possibly exhaust the soil.

18. Heleochavris sphacelata: E. Brown—The Stout Spikerush. Abounds in the swamps of South-east Australia and Tasmania. It yields a paper as good for printing as for writing and tissue.

19. Heleocharis acuta: R. Brown.—The Slender Spikerush. Common in moist ground over a vast extent of Australia. Closely allied to the Creeping Spikerush of Middle Europe and other parts of the globe, which, although so frequent, has seemingly never yet been converted into paper. The local experiments here show this and many other cyperaceous plants exquisitely adapted for good printing and tissue paper, and a by no means very inferior writing paper. Better appliances will necessarily improve on the quality of the paper.

20. Lepidosperma gladiatum: Labillardière.—The Sword-Rush of the coast. A plant everywhere to be found on the sandy shores, where it greatly tends to bind the shifting sand. It was, nine years ago, subjected by Mr. Tolmer, of Adelaide, to successful tests for paper-fabrication. The article produced from it is of strong texture, and inasmuch as the plant can be collected in enormous quantities on ground not arable, it should find its way deservedly into factories with the many other kinds of material now pointed out. All the species of Lepidosperma are of like utility, but not all are equally bulky, nor equally gregarious. It grinds largely into pulp, like many other rushes.

21. Juncus vaginaius: R.Brown.—The Sheated Rush. Very abundant in moist parts of the whole extra-tropical part of Australia. Resembling several Middle European common rushes, which, like ours, would be worth collecting as material for printing, tissue, and likely also fair writing paper. The pulp is of equability. Many other species could, in the same way, be used.

22. Xerotes longifolia: R. Brown.—The Toothed Dry-Rush. This plant is dispersed through south-east Australia and Tasmania, and can be employed both for printing and writing paper. It is, however, scarcely so readily collected as many of the other plants just referred to. It has the recom-mendation of great tenacity for it. Several allied species will yield similar material. The aborigines make baskets from the Dry-Rush.

23. Dichelachne crinita: J. Hooker.—The Horsetail-Grass, one of the toughest of all kinds. It is almost universally diffused over extra-tropical Australia, and occurs also in New Zealand. This grass yields a tenacious paper, especially fit to be used for a thin packing or wrapping paper. Whilst, under disadvantages, working with small quantities of the pulp, the operator found it not needful to separate fragments of the arista, glumæ, &c., which appear as an admixture; but as in this instance it was not the aim to procure an elegant paper, no such provisions which machinery provides were adopted to separate the interspersed particles. It is not unlikely to make fair printing and the less costly kinds of writing and tissue paper.

24. Stipa semibarbata: R. Brown.—A grass to be found almost every-where throughout South-east Australia and Tasmania. The paper from this grass is very substantial, though not so strong as that of the preceding kind. On these two grasses only experiments were made to demonstrate page 33 their adaptability for the purpose in view. There are several other stipæ and besides grasses of other genera, which may finally be introduced with these into factories.

25. Xanthorrhæa minor: R. Brown.—This stemless liliaceous plant, of the particular genus which produces the different grass-trees of Australia, extends on temporarily inundated flats with heathy subsoil almost uninterruptedly over very many square miles of country in the Western Port district, Gippsland, and other Victorian localities; there are occasionally lines of from thirty to fifty miles' extent hardly interrupted by any other vegetation. The broad rigid tufts approach each other to the exclusion or gradual suffocation of most other plants of the spot. The harsh foliage, under such circumstances locally available in unlimited quantities, is shown to be easily converted into an excellent printing and also good writing paper; the percentage of pulp is large. This experiment teaches us also, that the wiry leaves of the different grass-trees may all be collected for paper mills, because all have a similar tissue. Thus an ample new resource is opened, especially for West Australia, where various Xantliorrhæa abound, and are vernacularly passing by the puzzling 'appellation of "Blackboys."

26. Typha augustifolia, Linn.—The Bulrush or Reedmace, identical, as it seems, with the common narrow-leaved species of Britain and many other parts of the globe. The pulp of the weighty foliage is easily to be pressed into good printing, tissue, and an acceptable writing paper. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the plant has previously not received any attention in paper factories.

27. Phormium tenax: Forster.—The New Zealand Flax-Lily. Paper has been placed in the Exhibition from material grown in Victoria. . The readiness with which the large richly fibrous leaves can be turned into pulp for a very substantial paper, entitles the plant not alone to our consideration, but also the fact that it may be permanently established with the greatest ease in any swampy ground. At present the limited supply of the Phormium reared here is only sufficient to serve as tying material in gardens, vineyards, &c. The adaptation of the Phormium for paper-making is not a new one. Mr. Luke Natrads, as early as 1844, exported the New Zealand Flax prepared as raw material for paper, and, I may mention, in the form of square solid lumps, to lessen freight. The subject from that time to the present clay has been one of almost constant discussion, and it is to be hoped that a local mill will ere long utilise so excellent a material. The paper here obtained from Phormium is the strongest of all.

28. Confervaceous Algæ, with Oedogonium and other allied freshwater weeds, cohere into extensive teguments on the bottom of our shallow swamps, when during the summer heat the water evaporates. The paper obtained from these Algæ would serve well, on account of its strength, for packing. At certain times and in certain localities these water weeds can be collected in enormous quantity. The application for the purpose appears to be a new one, and was first suggested by Dr. Greeves.

29. Musa Banksii: Ferd. Mueller.—In the forest glens of north-east Australia. This plant yields a fair paper for almost all purposes, according to the methods employed in reducing the fibre of the leaves and stalks to pulp. It has, on this occasion, merely been chosen to illustrate that all bananas, and thus the Manilla rope plant, and, besides, numerous allied page 34 products of the vegetable world, might, in tropical countries, be utilised for the preparation of coarser paper. The Banksian banana here operated on was grown in Victoria. The bleaching process, however, is not an easy one. Banana leaves yield approximately 40 per cent, of fibre for pulp. The treatment to which these fibres were subjected has been the same as that by which the esparto—or sparta—grass (Lygeum Spartea) is reduced to pulp. They were immersed in a solution of caustic soda, obtained from quicklime and common carbonate of soda, varying in strength according to the requirement of the fibre, but always inexpensive. In operating on Victorian raw fibres, it may be of advantage to know that the Mediterranean esparto, which contains about 56 per cent, ligneous fibre, needs application of a caustic liquid, prepared from one-eighth of soda in proportion to the grass. The process of boiling is extended over six or eight hours, whereby oil, albumen, resin, gum, and starch are abstracted. As substitutes for rags, all the materials indicated here deserve preference over many of the articles elsewhere tried or employed. Thus ferns yield generally only from 20 to 25 per cent, of pulp.