Couching requires an incredible amount of experience and skill. This is because there is no guide to align the Bal on the post. After couching, some papermakers roll a wooden log, Geung Gul Dae, across the back of the Bal from side to side. Such rolling eliminates any bubble on the wet sheet and speeds the drainage. At this point, the Bal is removed from one end to the other as if being peeled. One string is put between each paper in order to separate the individual sheets later. This string is called Bae Gae. In case of We Bal papers, which has Yin and Yang layer in one sheet, string is put between every two layers. The post of wet paper is drained overnight before being pressed.


No guides are used to align sheets

Rolling a log across the Bal

String separates each sheet

The last step in papermaking is drying. Today, most papermakers use heated stainless steel panels, but traditional method is air drying on wood board. When paper is air dried on wood board, it takes about half a day during the winter, and approximately one hour on a sunny summer day. It maintains similar texture on both sides and the distinct properties of Hanji, subtle sheen and softness, can be best experienced. On the other hand, papers dried on heated stainless steel has one smoother side, which can be useful for certain projects.

Another interesting Korean tradition is drying on heated floor, Ondol. A room designated for the purpose of drying Hanji is called Ji Bang, translated to 'paper room'.


Separating each wet sheet

Heat drying on stainless steel

Air drying Hanji on wood board

Dochim  (Manual calendering)
Some Hanji are treated with an extra finishing process called Dochim. This special surface treatment is similar to manual calendering or burnishing in western papermaking. About one hundred sheets are treated at a time. One wet sheet is inserted between every ten dry sheets. This stack is pressed with a board on top for moisture to be evenly distributed. Once the stack is moistened, it is pounded two to three hundred times. Afterwards, the damp sheets are shuffled to control not only the moisture, but also the amount of beating on the paper surface.

After this process is repeated several times, the fiber becomes compact, making Hanji surface smooth and without fuzz. Dochim also adds strength and a beautiful sheen. It is an extra step for highest quality Hanji and requires an amazing amount of care, physical effort, and most importantly, intuition.


Before Dochim

After Dochim: less ink bleed