Where We Worked and Lived
From Pulp to Paper

In the past, and especially while owned by Hammermill Paper Company, the Lock Haven paper mill offered tours to the public. 25-30 major areas of the mill were described to visitors along the tour. Of these, a number will be discussed here to help the reader visualize what surrounded the paperworkers on an average day in the mill. The primary elements of the papermaking process include pulp, water, energy, and various chemicals for processing. As early as 1834, the Lock Haven mill utilized the Pennsylvania Canal for the transportation of materials to the mill. This later changed to rail and truck transport, but the use of the canal to draw on water originally coming from Bald Eagle Creek continued. Water is stored in the paper mill’s basin where heavy materials can settle out before actual man-made filtering is begun. Filtering of millions of gallons of water is necessary for proper paper production as is the softening of 100’s of thousands of gallons which are converted to steam. Without the filtering, hard water would calcify and destroy boiler heating tubes. Coal fueled boilers produce steam as well as electricity for the overall operation of the mill. Additional electricity is purchased and supplied by the regional power company.

Under Hammermill already, the mill operated without a pulp mill. Rather, it did collect wood chips for transport to the Erie mill for conversion into pulp. Specially designed rail cars took loads of chips to Erie and return trains brought back to the Lock Haven mill the partially dried sheets of pulp used in the first steps of papermaking. Hydrapulpers, a type of industrial blender, with large rotors in the bottom of tubs, transform the pulp sheets into a slurry, 96% water. A half hour production of this pulp soup can yield 16,000 gallons of the stock which will then be placed in storage chests. This pulp may then be pumped to the bleaching plant for whitening and then stored in chests. A few hundred tons of this liquefied pulp is used each operating day. The Jordan refiners break down further the bundles of fiber in the pulp. Refining is increased or not depending on the specification of the paper being produced. Further cleaning of the stock occurs prior to pumping the material to another storage chest. The initial point of the papermaking begins when pulp is poured out from the headbox of the paper machine. The box has a narrow opening through which the pulp emerges and pours out onto an endless wire screen. The screen is a porous surface and as fiber and water separate out the paper begins to form on the wire screen. At the outset, the pulp leaving the headbox is 99% water, but by the end, a much drier pulp begins to form a mat of damp paper. On this Fourdrinier section, over 500 miles of paper can be formed in 24 hours. The speed of the machine is changed depending on the type of paper desired; higher speeds for thinner papers, slower for thicker, etc. Water , fibers, and chemicals being drained out are also recycled. The mat of wet paper is then passed through presses which squeeze out more water. When it then enters the dryer section it still has a 60% water content. The dryer section consists of steam-filled, rotating, metal drum rollers through which the wet paper passes along. Here also, the temperature and speed of the process are controlled according to the thickness of the paper desired. The crude paper is then treated on the surface with a solution of water and starch. The starching has the effect of flattening out the fibers and stiffening the paper. This process, known as “sizing” the paper, is completed when paper goes again through rollers to squeeze out any excess starch. A final finishing of the stock occurs with the paper passing through horizontal steel rolls which increase the smoothness, gloss and density of the paper. This polished paper is wound onto a large reel until the reel is filled to the desired size. The process is not interrupted, however, when the reel is filled. The paper is continually produced. When a reel is full a “flying transfer” is made from the full to the next empty reel. (Segments of the above were excerpted from Hammermill’s 1976 “official tour program.” Smiley describes below the further itinerary of the newly produced paper.)

Smiley: I went to the mill April 1, 1948. That is why I wrote about 1948. In 1948 the finishing department consisted of counting and sorting paper that came from the cutting department, for any defects. This paper was piled on skids and was eventually trimmed to exact tolerances by hydraulic guillotine trimmers to exact sizes as requested by customers. Paper cut on trimmers had to be manually lifted onto the trimmer bed, trimmed to size, and then manually piled on skids that would be wrapped, tied down with metal bands, weighed, and labeled. They were shipped to customers by rail or truck.

Other paper of various sizes, cut on trimmers, was piled on pallets, to be wrapped in bundles according to the amount of sheets requested by the customer. These bundles were either taped, sometimes tied with rope, or put into cartons. All had to be weighed, labeled and placed on pallets to be shipped.

8 1/2x11 - 8 1/2x14 - 8x10 1/2 - 8x13 sizes were cut on trimmers, piled down on pallets and later hand fed into a package machine that wrapped the paper in reams, labeled, and placed into cartons that were also labeled and piled on pallets (all by hand) to be shipped to customers. In the late forties, more paper was shipped to customers in roll form than was cut from the trimmers. The paper in roll form, coming from machines number 1 through 6, that were to be wrapped were dumped on numerous roll benches (close to the machines) where they were stenciled with the grade of paper, machine number, size, etc. They were weighed and wrapped with their destination label placed on each roll, and hauled to the warehouse to be shipped by rail or truck. Curtis Publishing received much of the roll production. Rolls placed on benches were the responsibility of the finishing department. These rolls came in many different sizes and weights. Most of the work in the finishing department was performed by manual labor.

As years went by the product mix changed and customers requested cut sizes - 8 1/2x 11 - 8 1/2x 14, etc., as well as punched paper, and fewer rolls. By 1976 two Lenox Sheet Convertors were in operation producing
paper for IBM and Xerox. Up to five full size rolls were loaded on the backstand, cut into 8 1/2x 11 sheets, packed into reams (500 sheets), loaded into cartons, all in one continuous operation. 55 tons of paper could be processed through each of the two convertors in 24 hours. Paper could also be punched on one of these convertors.

March 25, 1981: a real red letter day. The Xerox Excellence Award was granted to the Lock Haven mill for superior overall quality and service during 1980. 100% of the paper we produced for Xerox in 1980 met that company’s strict standards. (Today’s scabs can’t even qualify to make Xerox paper.)

By the mid 1980’s, three E.C.H. Will german sheeters were in full operation and the number three Will/Pemco line produced 330.8 tons of paper on February 18, 1986. The total cut size production that day on all three Will machines was 719.1 tons. E.C.H. Will’s President, Klaus Haasemann, wrote to the Lock Haven mill to say that his company was proud to be associated with “world champions”, stating: “These numbers are unbelievable and by far the best production numbers ever achieved by any mill around the world.”

an Oral History Project by Dr. Bob Allen, Technical Assistance Ron Gruici
Copyright 2007