Paper And Watermarks - Part 2

Other than the fancy finishes which are given to the finished or partially finished paper, the process remains the same and is tremendously fast. It is a worth-while sight to visit a paper mill and watch a veritable forest being fed into the maw of this monster only to come out the other end a continuous roll of paper as much as 120 inches wide and traveling almost a mile a minute! The stamp collector's primary concern is with two stages of this process. First, the dandy roll. This cylinder applies to the wet pulp the finish that we describe as "wove" or "laid" paper. If the cylinder is made of a wire screen in which the horizontal wires are equal in number to the vertical wires - as, for instance, ordinary mosquito netting - then the pulp passing under it will be known as "laid" paper., i.e. the lines of the dandy roll will appear as laid parallel to each other. The supporting wires, which also show up on laid paper, are called "batonnes" and we have "laid batonne"; or if the wires are close to each other we call the result "laid quadrille," or plain "quadrille" paper.

Both laid and wove paper are, of course, actually watermarked paper for the laid lines or the even texture we see, when holding the paper before a light, is the result of the surface of the Dandy Roll being pressed into the wet pulp. However, watermarks are actually an added device. Small bits of metal, called "bits," are stamped out in required design and soldered or wired to the surface of the Dandy Roll. This can, and often is, done on either a wove or a laid-surface dandy roll. But whether on wove or laid paper, if there be a watermarked device, collectors refer to the paper as "watermarked."

Dandy roll
Dandy roll

There are then four distinctive descriptions used by collectors in describing the paper upon which stamps are printed:

  • 1.Laid
  • 2.Wove
  • 3.Laid, watermarked
  • 4.Wove, watermarked
In addition to the watermarks that are intentionally impressed into the wet pulp from the dandy roll, there is an additional watermark of interest to stamp collectors. This is the "stitch" watermark. In appearance it resembles a row of stitches, which are exactly what caused it. The "stitch" watermark, of importance on some early United States stamps, is caused by the blanket which carries the partially dry pulp over the drying rolls. This blanket, or more correctly a "belt," is stitched at various places to hold it together. When this line of stitches happens to strike the partially wet pulp at or near the point when the pulp passes from the Fourdrinier screen to the drying rolls - and the paper is then in a very wet stage - the stitches of the blanket will impress themselves into the paper and cause an additional, and unintentional, watermark. As the blanket is extremely long, running some hundreds of feet, and may not be stitched for a considerable length, the "stitch" watermark will occur only at infrequent intervals. Hence, when discovered on a stamp, it is often prized by collectors.