How Paper is Made
The paper to make into pasteboard or cardboard is manufactured as shown below. This was not normally carried out by the cardmakers themselves, but by a paper mill. The earliest forms comprised rectangular pieces of cloth on wooden frames, onto which the pulp was ladled. Later, bamboo strips bound with horse hair or silk replaced the cloth. Forms made with copper threads were an Arab invention. The illustration below shows the pulping hammers mashing old rags, and pulp being laid onto the sieves or forms to make paper, which is then pressed and hung up to dry.
In Europe the custom of printing a design into the paper dates back to the 13th century. Watermarks identify the owners of paper-mills or the source of the paper. The watermark is created with fine threads or wires welded onto the sieve so that thinner layers of fibres are deposited on the motif area, which becomes more transparent once the paper has dried.
Further information here►
Playing cards were formerly made from several sheets of paper, of varying qualities, glued together. The face of the cards, which will receive the printed outlines and colouring, was usually printed on fine quality paper. The backs require a smooth, unblemished paper which will have no marks which might identify the value of the face card, otherwise the pack is not suitable for play. In between these front and back papers a third layer of opaque grey or brown paper was inserted, so that the cards obtain the required degree of firmness and strength for sustained use.
In addition, cardmakers required paper to print the wrappers►
How Card is Made
The manufacture of the cardboard used for playing cards contains a number of interesting processes which we will describe in the order
in which we recently witnessed them at the house of Messrs. Sabine, Poppin's Court, Fleet Street.
Cardboard consists of a number of thicknesses of paper pasted together, pressed and polished on two surfaces. Ordinary cardboard consists of two sheets of white paper with a sheet of cartridge paper between them, and the thickness of the board is determined by the stoutness of the paper. For stout cards two or more sheets of cartridge paper are interposed. Modern playing-card board is usually laminated with a black adhesive and comes in a range of weights and with matt, glazed or embossed finishes including linen grain or air cushion finish. The following notes describe the manufacture of cardboard in the nineteenth century.
Consider the manufacture of three-sheet card. The arranging of the paper for this is called mingling. That is, a ream of white demy paper is spread open, and between every two sheets one sheet of cartridge paper is placed; and the pile when complete is called a head, consisting, of course, of a ream and a half of paper.
The next process is pasting. A man stands at a bench with a mahogany slab before him, the head of paper on his left hand and a large tub of paste on his right. Pulling the first sheet from the head upon the mahogany slab with his left hand, the paster with his large brush saturated with thin smooth paste covers it with a layer by two or three skilful movements of the arm and hand. He then pulls down upon this pasted surface a sheet of cartridge paper, the top surface of which is in like manner pasted. He next pulls down upon the pasted cartridge surface two sheets of white paper, and covers the upper surface only with paste. One sheet of cartridge paper is pulled down upon this and pasted; then two sheets of white paper, and so on until the whole head has been pasted. Now it is obvious that by pulling down two sheets of white paper with no paste between them the boundary between two sheets of cardboard is made.
One man will paste 4 heads of paper, or 7 gross of cardboards in one day. This will consume about 14 lbs or 16 lbs of flour, reckoning 1 lb of flour equal to one gallon of paste. In some cases it helps to dampen the paper beforehand.
When the head has been pasted, it is put into an upright press, and condensed by the action of a well-oiled iron screw and a long lever worked by two men. The water of the paste oozes out at the edges of the head, and falling into a channel in the lower bed of the press, escapes through a hole into a bucket, which becomes entirely filled with clear water from the produce of one man's work in the course of one day.
The next process is drying. Every evening before the men leave off work, each man takes out of the press the heads which he has pasted during the day and hangs the cardboard pieces on lines to dry. This involves piercing the corner of each sheet and passing a 1½" length of thin copper wire through the hole which then serves to hook the piece to the drying lines. The room is artificially heated, and in the course of twenty-four hours, that is, on the next evening when the lines are wanted for the next day's work, the boards are sufficiently dry. Then they are separately brushed with a hair brush to remove any dust &c.
The boards are now rough on the surface, warped and uneven. They are made smooth and even by passing them between a couple of powerful iron rollers in contact with thin sheets of smooth copper plate. The rough uneven cardboard is converted into a perfectly even board with a beautifully polished glazed surface. Several boys are employed taking out sheets of cardboard and arranging them into heaps.
The cards are now ready to be formed into playing cards... as a final cautionary remark, researchers have found that toxic chemicals from recycled newspapers had contaminated food sold in many cardboard cartons. The chemicals, known as mineral oils, come from printing inks!
Member since February 01, 1996View Articles
Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Portuguese proverbs in combination with special courts and suit-signs published by Apenas Livros, Lisbon.
Cheerful, colourful designs on handmade paper from Nepal.
Non-standard designs on Nepalese handmade paper for Pilgrims Book House, Kathmandu, Nepal, c.2000.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.
‘History of fashion’ cultural quartet game designed by Erika Werner-Nestler, 1954.
The XIXth Century published by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.
Geschichte des Buchgewerbes illustrated by Ludwig Winkler, published by Verlag für Lehrmittel Pößneck.
“So Fängt Es An” beautifully illustrated by M. Neugebauer, published by Helingsche Verlagsanstalt, c.1950.
French for Fun instructive card game published by John Jaques & Son Ltd., c.1930s
Eurotrotter by La Ducale, c.1980s.
Counties of Britain by John Jaques & Son Ltd. c.1930.
“Countries of Empire” published by John Jaques & Son Ltd, c.1930s.
Anma US Armed Forces, 1942.
‘Significant Inventions in Everyday Life’ quartet game published by Verlag für Lehrmittel, Pössneck, 1979.
Playing cards were traditionally sold inside paper wrappers, which were usually thrown away.
Musikinstrumente quartet game published by Verlag für Lehrmittel, Pössneck, 1984.
Botany card game published by Houlston and Wright & Henry Greenwood, c.1860.
Neerlands Glorie Kwartetspel published by Hausemann & Hötte N.V, Amsterdam, 1945.
Rainbow card game and colour mixing guide printed by Goodall & Sons for Robert Johnson, c.1920.
Happy Guides by James Brown & Son (Glasgow) Ltd. around 1910/1915.
Wie Wird das Wetter, a Black Peter game about the weather created by Gunter Eckhardt, published by Rudolf Forkel,1952.
Educación Vial (Road Safety) card game published by H. Fournier, 1995.
Spear’s “Fancy Dress Ball” card game with children dressed in period costumes, 1930s.
Welsh Language Playing Cards designed by Richard Ruston-Burgess, made in Wales, 2020.
“Historische Verkehrswege” quartet game published by Verlag für Lehrmittel Pössneck, 1988.
Aesop’s Fables playing cards by I. Kirk, c.1759.
German History Quartet published by Otto Maier Verlag Ravensburg, c.1930-35.
Musical Snap by C.W. Faulkner & Co., c.1900.
“Atouts de la Vie” wartime card game created by Madame Lucien Willemetz, c.1940.
Pantheon or Heathen Mythology cards for instruction of youth, c.1770.
Roman Empire playing cards designed by G. Wyatt for Green Board Game Co Ltd., 2011.
National Geographic: “Weird But True” kids fun fact playing cards, 2014.
The Royal Historical Game of Cards invented by Jane Roberts and published by Robert Hardwicke, c.1840.
Skits, an instructive card game which sharpens the wits, c.1900.
Desperanto language game by Qui Vive Ltd, c.1990.
Anno Mundi: an early Jaques game described as ‘scripture recreation for the young’ with events in the Bible, c.1875.
“Weights and Measures” card game by John Jaques & Son, Ltd., c.1910, a reminder of some of our more archaic units of measurement.
Hide & Seek with the Kings & Queens of England by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.