March 11, 2010
Making a Parchment Panel
A couple of days ago I got my materials together and did a grand experiment: making a parchment covered panel. I had ordered wheat paste , an adhesive, from Talas (I bought 5 pounds, enough to last me the rest of my life), along with some acid free paper. I printed out the instructions from a very helpful blogpost on the Talas website. A local lumber yard had some small pieces of 1/2 inch birch plywood, which I cut into a 5 x 7 inch piece on my handy table saw, a machine I don't like using, approaching it with great care.
The first step is to line the plywood panel with a piece of acid free paper, so the parchment will not be in direct contact with the wood. I mixed up some glue and applied it thinly to the board, then lay down the paper. I was having a hard time getting the paper smooth, so took out my rolling pin, and voila, it flattened the paper beautifully.
While the paper was drying, I soaked an 8 x 10 piece of calfskin parchment that I'd ordered from Pergamena, a company located in the Hudson River Valley that produces leather and parchment. It becomes quite soft and pliant when wet. I left about 1 1/2 inches of overlap around each side of the parchment, then cut out each corner so there wouldn't be an overlap on the plywood's sides. Then I applied glue to the outer 1 inch of parchment and panel.
I pulled the parchment tightly around each side of the panel, one side at a time, then allowed it to dry.
The result is a beautifully smooth and taut finish, velvety and inviting to the touch. My only failure is that a bit of wood shows on the side corners, so I'll have to be more careful in future when cutting the parchment. I'll do my next painting on this panel and will then have a chance to see how it behaves when in contact with the water in the paint, but right now it seems to have solved my waving/curling problem. If I want the panel to project from the wall rather than lie flat against it, I can glue some small wood molding to its back. All in all, a bit of work to produce the panel, but not onerous work, and I can take pleasure in the making of it.