Rogue papermaker takes on 3-D printing

AUGUSTA, Ga.  – Don’t say that newer is better — at least not to Douglas Parrish.

Douglas Parrish in his backyard workshop

Douglas Parrish in his backyard workshop

The 35-year-old resident of Augusta’s Westover neighborhood is on a one-man campaign to show the world that the ancient art of papermaking has a place in a modern world of Blu-ray, hybrid cars and smart phones. He is so sure of his cause that he quit his job as an English teacher to pursue his passion full time.

Parrish, who until recently was a member of Augusta’s Paper Caper papermaking club, was expelled from the group because of what he calls his “rebellious, devil-may-care” approach the craft.

“When you think of papermaking,” he said, “most people think of creating pulp, spreading it on a framed screen to dry and removing it, the flat result of which can be written or painted on. But we need to get rid of that limitation.”

Parrish believes that the future is bright for papermakers like him who are willing to look outside the frame. He thinks papermakers can give 3-D printing a run for its money.

“A lot of media attention was given to that guy in Texas who published instructions how to make a gun with a 3-D printer,” Parrish said in his garage workshop. “Well you know what? I constructed a gun, too, but out of paper. I sculpted it from a quick-drying pulp made from secret ingredients. And you know what? My gun actually worked on the first try.”

The process

Parrish showed how he intends to take on companies such as MakerBot and FlashForge, whose 3-D printers can cost thousands of dollars. And he intends on doing it for a fraction of the price.

To demonstrate his craft, he put on a traditional papermaking smock (“for good luck, more than anything,” he explained) and created a pulp out of used newspaper inserts. He added a powder from a cereal box that he uses as a decoy in case of burglars. Although he wouldn’t divulge what was in the box, he said the ingredients were all legal “but difficult to obtain.”

After just a few minutes of work, Parrish produced this volleyball

After just a few minutes of work, Parrish produced this volleyball

As the pulp dried on a screen, he rolled it into a ball, letting it sit on a table for ten minutes before announcing  it was done.

Voilà,” he said. “And that’s how you make a volleyball.”

The market for producing functional objects out of paper is limitless, he said. “From skateboards to desks. Even bottles, eventually. Goodbye, plastic.” When asked about computers, he said: “Well, we’ll leave microchips to others. But computer housing, sure, why not.”

One thing is certain: if the path to the future is through 3-D printing, Douglas Parrish will be there to pave the way in paper.