We still make paper using that same basic formula. We just vary the kinds of wood fiber and energy, and the techniques of bringing it all together, to get just the kinds of paper we want.

There are certainly many types of paper – newspapers, school books and writing stationery; envelopes, boxes, packing and wrapping paper; paper toweling, tissue, and personal hygiene products. Not a day goes by that we don’t use paper in dozens of ways.

And it all goes back to Ts’ai Lun’s innovation and RĂ©aumur’s industrious wasps.

Yes, paper was once made one sheet at a time by artists, and many people still enjoy making their own special papers. You may discover you like the magic of turning all kinds of materials into paper.

But papermaking today, creating all the kinds of paper we use in such huge quantities, is a science as well as an art. Engineers and technicians speed things up, using computers to help guide factory machines that can produce huge rolls of paper at more than 45 miles an hour.

That would have confounded Ts’ai Lun. RĂ©aumur’s wasps couldn’t have kept up. But every day, papermaking companies around the world turn wood from trees into pulp, pulp into paper, and paper into products we all use.