How Wood Pulp is Transformed into Newspapers


Let us consider how newspaper is made in one of the great mills of the Adirondack Mountains, where the giant machines, rattling on, day after day, never stopping, are scarcely able to supply the demand of a single New York newspaper. The timber, which is felled in the forests of the north in winter, is floated to the mill in the mountain streams by the spring freshets, and piled up in great heaps about the mill buildings, whose many roofs, chimneys, and towers form a strange picture in the wilderness against the background of cloud-topped mountains.

By being fed to shrieking saws, the spruce logs are cut into pieces that are no longer than a man's arm. "Barking" machines, which have disks of rapidly-whirling radial knives, attack the wood and tear off the bark. To prevent a waste of any part of the timber, an endless chain conveyer carries the bark to the boiler-room, where it is fed to the fires. Another conveyer, like the moving sidewalk at Paris, carries the clean logs to the grinding-room, where a long line of three-horned monsters is waiting for them.

Flumes, beside which men are mere pygmies, bring the mountain torrents rushing down to the grinding-room feeding the energy of forest cataracts to the great turbines. They have an enormous work to do. Within the iron cases of the three-horned monster are grindstones of a special hardness, turned by the turbines. The "horns" are hydraulic presses, which force the logs under them against the stones. Thus the wood is ground to pulp, the stones eating away three feet of wood an hour. The engineer tells us that more than 10,000 "horse-power-hours" of energy are needed to convert one cord of spruce into pulp, and that the mills use more power than a whole manufacturing city in New England. Cold water flows continuously on the grindstones to prevent the friction setting fire to the wood, and the mixture of ground wood and water, which flows away from the grinders, as a pinkish, gruel-like fluid, runs over the dams and through screens and drying machines, until, a thick mass, it is either put in storage tanks, in bulk, or formed by machinery into thick sheets that can be rolled up like blankets. It is then ground wood pulp, ready for the paper machines.

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The Lectures
October 16, 1902

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