How to make cooked wheat starch paste

I have previously posted my recipe for cooked wheat starch paste in a post about making paste papers and in a post about different kinds of adhesives. Since I was actually making a batch this week I thought I would show the whole process in pictures.

I use food grade wheat starch which I purchase from an Oriental grocery store. I am pretty sure that it is the same stuff sold by book binding suppliers, but it is significantly cheaper!

I store my starch in a plastic container as it is easier to measure out the quantity I want.

The recipe is simple:

1 part wheat starch

4 parts cold water

My standard batch is 1/4 cup starch to 1 cup of water.

You can put the starch in first, but you will be more likely to get lumps! I put the cold water in a saucepan, then gradually whisk in the starch.

You can just make out the last addition of starch in the image above, ready to be stirred in. (Most of what I added dissolved before I had the camera ready!) Try not to make too many bubbles when you are whisking. (No, I am not sure why, but those are the instructions in Japanese Bookbinding and since the Japanese have been doing this for centuries they probably know what they are talking about.)

Place the pot on a burner over low heat. (I start at medium-low, then reduce the heat when the mixture shows the first hint of translucency.) Stir constantly. The starch paste will gradually turn translucent and begin to thicken. You want this process to happen slowly so that the paste doesn’t change too quickly and cook past the point you want.

I cook my paste until it is the consistency of mayonnaise or ‘soft peak’ whipped cream. If you want a softer paste, you can stop when it looks like the second picture. You can, of course, make your paste even stiffer. Just keep in mind that the paste will thicken further when it cools. You may need to make a couple of batches to find out what consistency you prefer and what it looks/feels like before cooling. The starch is cheap, and it will be worth the small expenditure of time and effort.

Once the starch paste has reached the thickness you want, the cooking process needs to be stopped as quickly as possible. Place the saucepan in a sink that has cold water to a depth slightly higher than the depth of paste in the pot. Continue to stir until the paste has cooled to room temperature, or at least cool enough that you can comfortably put your finger in it.

I wanted a batch of starch paste/PVA mix, so I added PVA (1/4 cup to the recipe above) before decanting. The addition of this amount of PVA makes the paste moisture resistant (after drying) and less susceptible to moulds. (There’s a pesticide in the PVA.) It is still reversible with a little moisture and patience.

Please ignore the small shred of cooked asparagus floating in the water. It has nothing to do with making paste, and merely indicates that I didn’t clean the sink quite as well as I thought before filling it with cold water.

Be sure to stir in the PVA very thoroughly.

I decant my paste into a well-washed plastic container and refrigerate it.

Please label your container. The starch paste/PVA mix looks like yoghurt, and although I don’t think it would kill anyone, they probably don’t want it on their breakfast.  Here’s what the mix looks like after an hour of chilling.

I made the batch of mix this week because I am preparing a case for Recomp. The first step was to coat the wooden components to seal the surface so I can glue paper onto them.

The wooden parts are painter’s panels purchased at the dollar store. I have had them sitting around for about six months as I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t warp. (They didn’t.) They should look quite different by the time I show them to you next week.

Yes, I am still working on If I could save time in a bottle. I wanted to think about the list of moments for a while longer before I declare it done.

In book arts news:

First a little self-promotion.

The posters and invitations have been printed and are being distributed. If you are in Saskatoon the week of June 26 — 30, please drop by the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery at the University of Saskatchewan to see my work. If you can possibly make it to the opening it would be lovely to see you. The food should be good (Gale’s mom is making her famous shortbread cookies and Nanaimo bars; I will be providing some of the savouries, including vegan options) and the live music will be excellent.

Benjamin Elbel of elbel libro has released a new bookbinding tutorial. You can get more information on his website here.

In knitting news:

I finished the yellow scarf/shawl. I also finish my first bottom-up crescent shaped shawl.

I under-estimated the amount of take-up in converting a straight piece of knitting (the triangular edging) to what turned out to be an almost circular shape, so the piece is more of a collar than a shawl.  ; ]

It will serve as an example on which to base future calculations. It has already served as an inspiration for some ‘princess’ headbands.

The top one is knit in a fine cotton cord and would fit an infant to one year old. The bottom is made from cotton chenille and might stretch to fit a four year old. Now I just have to locate some appropriately-aged little girls.

In other news: (contains caterpillar references):

Most of the forest tent caterpillars are gone. They have either died or made cocoons. Thousands of cocoons. Hundreds of thousands of cocoons. The cocoons are all along the angle between the soffit and the walls of the house, under the eaves of the garage, under the window sills and around the window frames. They are in many of the tree tops both in rolled leaves and on bare twigs. David removed about 100 from 2 orchid plants that he has put outside for the summer. There are cocoons in the clematis by the front door.

The other thing left from the invasion of the caterpillars is poop. All the blackish stuff in the next two pictures is caterpillar poop. (There would be more in the foreground of the first picture, but David swept that bit of sidewalk.)

In better news, we actually got a measurable amount of moisture in a thundershower on Friday.

After several weeks with no precipitation at all, we were beginning to wonder if we would be harvesting our vegetable garden this year. Things look a little more hopeful now, and there is a forecast for a day of rain (not just ‘chance of rain’) later this week. Fingers crossed.







About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in artist's books, book arts, bookbinding, DIY, instructions, knitting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to How to make cooked wheat starch paste

  1. ARTrivative says:

    Thanks for sharing your recipe, could you use this same recipe for paste papers?


  2. How interesting to see you make paste! I always have been intererested to see how other’s make theirs. Of course I am making mine very similarly, but then again a tiny bit different. It seems making paste is quite personal and there seem to be about as many methods as there are book binders.
    I just finishing filming my paste-making, and just before coming here, decided that it is too late for today to write a paste-blog post. Well, I guess I am going to wait a couple more days now.

    Really cute knitted crowns. Maybe you could go into knitting dressing-up headware. I do think that this whole custome/dressing up branch is getting bigger and more important on Etsy as we speak. – They wouldn’t have to be princess crowns, they could just as well be prince-crowns, and you wouldn’t have to restrict your search to girls! I don’t know why everyone seems to think only girls dress up as royal heirs, boys do, too. 😉


    • Byopia Press says:

      Apparently everyone is making paste these days! ; ] And you are absolutely correct: they could be prince crowns as well. (David already pointed this out to me.) I could just refer to them as royal coronet headbands, which would be gender neutral.


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