The Critter Paper Beater is Dandy for Hand Papermaking Studios

critter paper beater by mark landerFinding a way with limited equipment to beat fiber into paper pulp is one of the biggest obstacles for fledgling attempts at making paper by hand. ‘Beating‘ means processing plant fiber and cloth rags into a pulp with water, that one can then form into paper sheets. Hand beating with mallets works for traditional Japanese fibers and some plant fibers, but can be labor intensive and rough on your biceps. Kitchen blenders only cut fibers, leaving you with a small amount pulp and weaker paper. Hollander Beaters are machines that macerate, cut, and fibrillate fibers into buckets of ready pulp.

Fortunately, the papermaking community has Mark Lander of New Zealand on their side. Mark builds affordable Hollander beaters, known as Critter beaters. Simple in design, and easy to fix if you’re handy, Critters are portable, a little quirky, wonderfully accessible, and available in several sizes. Plant fibers, half-stuff and linters, and even rag can be beaten into pulp with Critter beaters.

History of Little Critters

Fun fact!
Did you know that stacked end to end, Critter beaters stretch taller than the Empire State Building?

Mark Lander Critter Papermaking Beater

The Critter project is not for profit. Mark Lander began hand-making Hollander beaters as a way to provide hand papermakers with a beater at a much lower cost than commercial paper beaters. From the Critter website and Mark himself:

The way it works…I collected enough $ to make machine #1 (with a small wage…it takes about a week to make each machine) and the same parts $ is used again to make machine #2 …and so on…everything handmade, nothing subcontracted out which would increase prices…the biggest challenge is compensating for exchange rate fluctuations, babies getting born, and communicating the concept of a ‘not for profit’ to University finance departments. The comforting thing is…there has always been a miraculous component…we have never actually starved, thanks to the goodwill and kindness of our wonderful Papermaking community.” 

Today, you can find Critter beaters all over the world. The professional practice of hand papermaking has been greatly assisted by Lander’s beaters, allowing papermakers on a budget to travel and teach paper workshops, artists to explore the relatively new medium of papermaking, and paper studios to create larger batches of pulp.

Critter Beater Tips & Tricks

critterbeater_moving

Slow but steady wins the race! If you have worked with other Hollander beaters, you might find the Critter to be as slow as molasses. Here are a few things to know:

  • Beating cloth rag (cotton or linen, cut into 1-inch squares) will take 2.5 to 4 hours. Lower the roll all the way down; you should a low knocking sound, which is a sign that the rag is being processed. Also, only put in enough rag to cover the bottom of the tub.
  • Water level is crucial for movement around the tub. Make sure the water just covers the highest part of the bed plate. Mark the inside of the tub so that you know how much to fill the tub each time.
  • Start the machine with the roll up, then immediately lower the roll all the way down. When the pulp is finished, raise the roll for 5 minutes to loose any knots or clumps.
  • If the fiber is not circulating around the tub, add some already processed pulp, and stir to help it get started. Also, too much fiber or water can sometimes slow movement.

Also, click here to read more about Hollander Beaters and where to get one >

Do you use a Critter beater? Have a blog or website? Know any other tidbits about Critters? Comment on this post to share with us all!

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29 thoughts on “The Critter Paper Beater is Dandy for Hand Papermaking Studios

  1. Pingback: New City, New Studio | MAY BABCOCK

    • I bought my little critter 3 years ago from Mark Lander. I have beaten all kinds of (cooked) fibers and it does a great job beating it all to a wonderful pulp. Ordering from Mark went very well; he is a humorous dude, efficient and dependable. Mark built me a fabulous critter and sent it all the way to Holland from New Zeeland. I’m still very happy with my dandy critter and very grateful to Mark for making her for me.
      Betty

  2. I am a therapist working in the St. Loius VA medical and am interested in getting a beater for a creative writing program that I lead. If you are selling Criter Beaters let me know, or if you have a contact I would appreciate it thank you.
    Rita

  3. I would like to purchase a Critter beater for my studio and workshop!
    I have not been able to find any for sale ad I cannot afford the high end models.

    Thanks

    David Jones

  4. I love my critter! I have discovered that my critter works best with water filled to the line then add the cloth/fiber as it circulates. If I set it up like that, I have less babysitting time and circulation from the get go.

  5. Hi! I have had my Critter for a little over a year now and I beat absolutely everything, (including raw, uncooked hemp and flax) in it with super results. However, I do have one question.

    I bought my Critter from a friend. The drain/plug was never installed; up to now I have been scooping the finished pulp out. Where is the best place to install the drain/plug. (I am so afraid of cutting into the tub…)

    I have checked Mark’s site for info but haven’t found any that specifically addresses this question. Any feedback welcome! Many thanks in advance!

    • Hi Daria! Try poking around the Hollander Beater Yahoo Group…people have tried a various number of approaches, so maybe you can read through and decide which is the best route for you.

      https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Hollander_Beaters/info

      It seems most recommend installing it in the bottom at the very end, so that it can hang over the edge of the table or cart to drain out. For larger Critters, I read that Mark recommended a hole in the side, and setting a length of clear plastic hose to drain out the pulp.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions, and also how it turns out!

      Cheers,
      – May Babcock

  6. I look for an inexpensive easy to use and maintain paperbeater. The one made by David Reina looks wonderful but is to expensive to buy and to transport to Sweden. They do not make beaters in Sweden or Europe
    what I know. I do not need one for large amounts of pulp
    but for good quality and control. Are there any beaters exept for Reinas and the “critter”
    Grateful for answers
    paperconservator Peder Werner

  7. All of the links provided to contact Mark do not work. I had to hunt to find his personal website to email him. If he is still creating the critter beaters can you update his contact links?

    • Sorry about that Katie! Looks like Mark has updated his website URL, unbeknownst to me. Links are updated, thanks for letting me know!

      Best,
      May

  8. Thanks for sharing all this wonderful info. Love your blog. 🙂 Just wanted to say thanks, great work, i appreciate you. ArtisanHemp/Natureflections on instagram 🙂

  9. Hi, We have just started using our Little Critter – so exciting. Had lots of help from Mark Lander who used to live in Oxford and we will be holding our first workshop in October. Very pleased to find your great site!

    Arts in Oxford Gallery Papermaking Team,
    Oxford
    North Canterbury
    New Zealand
    http://www.artsinoxford.com

  10. I Love my Critters — I have two. The smallest one, Cherub, and a mid-sized Critter. I got my first one in 2002. After a residency at Women’s Studio Workshop where I had access to two beaters, daily, I knew that I couldn’t live without one and
    Mark made it affordable. I am so grateful to him!

  11. I bought a “critter” from Mark years ago and it is one of the best pieces of equipment I own. Easy to use, beats anything I put in there. Hemp was my biggest challenge very long beat ( I should have cooked longer) but the paper produced was amazing. Mark built mine to order, and got it to me , from New Zeland to New Mexico, in a month. Great product!

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