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Paper Review #18: Lokta

Edited by Sara Adams

When you think about handmade papers, three names come to mind: Origamido, Unryu and Lokta. We had already reviewed the first two, so it was time to complete the trio.

The best information I found about Lokta came from Wikipedia:

Nepalese handmade Lokta paper is made from the fibrous inner bark of high-elevation evergreen shrubs primarily from two species of Daphne: Daphne bholua and Daphne papyracea, known collectively and vernacularly as Lokta bushes.
These bushes proliferate in open clusters or colonies on the southern slopes of Nepal's Himalayan forests between 1,600 and 4,000 m (c.5,250-13,000 ft). Historically the handcrafting of Lokta paper occurred in the rural areas of Nepal, most notably in the Baglung District. Today raw Lokta paper is produced in more than 22 districts in Nepal, but finished Lokta paper products are produced only in Kathmandu Valley and Janakpur.
Lokta paper's durability and resistance to tearing, humidity, insects and mildew have traditionally made it the preferred choice for official government records and sacred religious texts.

As with most handmade papers, Lokta has long fibers and the slow cleaning process is intended to keep the fibers whole, long and unbroken. This results in a high quality product, but there is a price for such long fibers - can the paper hold a crease?

We immediately realized that Lokta isn't suitable for simple action folds or modulars, and as such no results for these models are given here. We concentrated our testing on the genres that are more suited to Lokta's properties: more 3D animals and complex models.

Properties

  1. Thickness: The measured weight is 50 gsm. The thickness measurement is ~160 microns, but – as it is handmade - this will differ depending on the place you measure. This is a little thicker than Kraft and Onion Skin papers.
  2. Sizes: There is no official size, but Lokta is available in sheets of 45cm×45 cm; 50cm×60cm; 50cm×65cm, and other sizes.
  3. Colors: Many colors, usually bright and strong.
  4. Paper Coloring or Colorability: With such a large variety of colors available, there is no real need to color the papers (other than for duo). However, after coating with MC and leaving to dry, the paper curled a little. It flatten again after a night under heavy glass. It also changed proportions enough to be noticed. Coloring would have similar effects.
  5. Texture: Uneven. The fibres are visible, and back light shows a cloudy sky. Some papers (e.g. the brown) have a leathery look and feel. Others feel like fabric in places.

  6. Photogenic: The texture is like animal fur. The colors are strong and you can see the fibres and the bark residues. The finish is matte, so there is no reflection from your light source. This all guarantees that images of your models will show the rich character of this paper.
  7. Aging and Wear and Tear: This paper is the strongest paper we have seen by far. It scored 2100 and 1994 in the tear machine. For comparison, the next strongest paper, Tissue Foil, scored ~1300, and Unryu only 1000. 10 out of 10.
  8. Memory: Below average. I tried the Preliminary-to-Waterbomb test, and the paper hardly moved. The resulting waterbomb base was rather flat and shallow. Crease lines can be felt, but just barely. Only 6 out of 10.
  9. Forgiveness: With memory so low, one would think that reversing a fold line would be difficult. Surprisingly it is quite easy. 7.5 out of 10.
  10. Tensile Strength: We refer here to the maximum stress the paper can undergo while being stretched or pulled. With the grain, the paper can hold up to 20kg before tearing. This is second only to Origamido, which can hold up to 21kg. 9.5 out of 10.
  11. Bending Resistance: This section rates the amount of force you need to apply to get a sharp crease and how strong the paper is while being curved. With numbers between 50 and 35, Lokta is in the same range as Japanese Foil. 6 out of 10.
  12. Where to buy: It is hard to find sources for small orders.

Test results

Traditional use

Traditional Crane, 15×15cm


Too sophisticated for simple uses.

The first sense you get is that the paper is soft. It's difficult to get a sharp beak or wing tip and, when stretching the wings to the sides, the top part resisted my attempts to get a lovely curved line.

Tessellation

Pineapple tessellation by Ilan Garibi, 45×45cm


Hard to fold, but the final product is beautiful.

While folding the 40 by 40 grid, I was nervous that the paper might be too soft to collapse cleanly. The pre-creasing showed more of Lokta's shortcomings. The paper doesn't like diagonal fold lines and tends to drift away from the correct line. The collapse has two steps, and the first step immediately realized my fears. There is no "snap!" feeling but the paper did succumb to my will, since it has none of its own. The second phase of the collapse was a fight! The paper is too soft, and I had to use many clips to hold it where I wanted it. There is very little snap effect, only where the paper is thicker, and the whole process took me much longer than usual. But I did it, and the final look is very nice, although you can see that it's not accurate

Star Puff by Ralf Konrad, 28cm hexagon (edge to edge)


Great shadows with back lighting.

The 32-division grid showed more shortcomings of this paper. Although it breaks both ways easily, there was a lot of residue from the bark that really annoyed me. The collapse was no real problem, but the paper is too soft. I finished the first stage and started to make the small triangles, with a good response - the paper breaks and stretched easily. The puffing of the star, though, showed the problem of soft paper - it was a little hard to make them stand out as there is no sense of snap-into-place with it.

Complex

Pegasus by Satoshi Kamiya, 35×35cm and 10×10cm


Not easy to fold, but worth the effort.

Using the yellow sheet, I started with no real problems. Yes, it's a soft paper, but still it kept the fold lines and gave enough resistance. Even the open sink went smoothly. And then layers started to accumulate. The legs and the abdomen were difficult to do as the paper kept unfolding itself. This was not fun at all. More frustration came with the final details, as I found the paper much too soft to be moulded at will. I squeezed the hooves hard, hoping that it would hold. The final model is interesting, given the paper texture, but without any strengthening treatment it looks messy.

Owl by Katsuta Kyohei, 45×45cm


The texture really enhances the model.

The paper size is 45cm, and it comes folded in half, so I used it like that, although usually I fold this model from 35cm. I chose the dark brown side that had the leathery look for the outside. The uneven thickness of the paper is immediately apparent. The thicker parts break visibly and some residue of thick bark may also disturb a little, but the steps are flying past! This paper is so foldable! Maybe it's the size, but it's a pleasure. The first speed bump is sinking the talons; this portion of the sheet is softer, fabric like, and the execution is slower, yet still possible with no real problem. Again with the wing tips - manipulating so many layers was done against a lot of resistance and the layers kept opening up. I managed to fold the legs, but the layering of the wings' feathers was hard. This paper is not like most of the others in the pack; I guess the color gave it stability. The final model is impressive.

3D models

Rabbit by Hideo Komatsu, 15×15cm


Lokta folds well enough, but stays too fluffy.

I went for the pink option. This paper came from the same batch and immediately showed the differences from sheet to sheet. It feels soggy; creases tend to open up unless you hold them. It's foldable, but the feeling is very soft. The softness was irritating while trying to give it a 3D look at the end. The sides of the body jumped back again and again. The final model just begged for some MC to keep itself from opening up.

Asiatic Elephant by Satoshi Kamiya, 22.5×22.5cm


Lokta can hold a 3D shape.

After buying his second book, this model looked like a great candidate to check 3D animals. With a memorable reference to Dumbo, I chose pink. The first steps went OK, although it was difficult to maintain sharp points for the tusks. Even the sinking (twice) went well. The neck stayed whole unlike the Tant model I made which tore at the neck.

Rat by Eric Joisel, 15×15cm


A miniature rat suffers from the resistance of the paper.

I like to fold this model from a relatively small sheet. In the first stages there are some reverse folds to do, and as soft as this paper is - it is harder to reverse it. Trying to mould the model into the desired shape is almost impossible. The final model tends to open up and is unstable. After a few days in the jaws of a wooden pin, I managed to prepare it for the photo shooting.

New Rose by Toshikazu Kawasaki, 23×23cm


The petals uncurl, but the look is very nice.

Again, I found it hard to maintain the shape I wanted. I couldn't even collapse it accurately, since the marks are not strong enough; this paper is low on memory.

Horned Owl by Hideo Komatsu, 22.3×22.3cm, coated with MC


A little MC really improves Lokta's properties.

As the paper is too soft, and in order to give a full review here, we realized we had to loosen our principles and test it after treatment in MC. The paper shrank to 23.3cm×23.4cm from its origin of 23.5cm. I had to cut 1mm from the longer edge. The sheet dried in about 10 minutes and after one night under heavy glass, was flat and ready. Folding the paper after MC treatment provided a better experience. It's easier to reverse and manipulate fold lines. Shaping the full curve of the body went well, although the ears didn't stay where I wanted them. An undeniable improvement but the softness is still evident.

Final verdict

It's an iconic paper. I had heard about it many years before I held it my hands. Now, I can say it has many good reasons to be iconic. Mainly - it's the look; the texture, the big variety of colors, the long fibers, all promise you get a beautiful paper. Secondly - it's strong, super strong. Both reasons make it a hit among paper lovers, but for us paper folders, there are some distinct weaknesses. The main one is its resistance to folding - it becomes a clash of wills - yours and the paper. I am glad to say that we won. Add MC to your side, and your victory is assured.

This paper is almost exclusively bought for complex and 3D models, not for simple models, nor modulars. You can use it for tessellations to get a remarkable folded surface, but it really goes well with animals. It's thin enough for multi layer models, and if you treat it with MC before folding or even only in the shaping steps, you will overcome most of its shortcomings. On Flickr, I found more than 550 images of Lokta, 80% are animals up to complex level; the rest are tessellations and a lovely number of proud owners showing their collection of unfolded Lokta papers.

The score is not sky scraping, but it is misleading. The beauty of it is evident, and to really exploit this paper you have to treat it right and choose the right model.

It's a solid paper that will last for many years, stronger than it looks, and with many benefits.

Bottom line: it's a must buy for intermediate to complex animal lovers!

Paper Thickness (gsm) Size Color palette Texture Aging Memory Forgiveness Tensile Strength Bending Resistance
Lokta ~50 varies; e.g. 45cm×45cm, 50cm×65cm Many Handmade Many years 6 7.5 9.5 6
Bible 35-50 B1, A4 white Smooth Many years 7 7.5 8.5 6
Sato Gami 80 15cm, 35cm, full sheets 6 Rough and Fibery Unknown 9 9 7 8
Glassine 40 10cm, 15cm, 20cm, A4, 70×100cm 11 Smooth Unknown 9.5 6 8 4
Unryu 27 40cm, 60cm 10 Hand-made Many years 7.5 8 10 5
Skytone 90, 176 A4, 63.5cm×96.5cm 12 Smooth, marble-like Unknown 8 9 7 8.5
Kami 60 7.5cm, 15cm, 30cm 200+ Smooth, a bit shiny Many years 8 8 7 8
Ingres 90 B1, B2, A4 5 (previously 21) Rough Years 8 8 7.5 8.5
Nicolas Terry Tissue Foil 50 15cm, 20cm, 30cm, 40cm, 60cm 8 hues Glittery; handmade look Unknown 8 8 9 8
Onion Skin 35 A4; Letter; 84.5×64.4cm White Cockled Many years 8 5 8.5 5
Kraft 35 15cm; 30cm; 48cm; 35cm; 40×60cm Light brown Smooth and a little shiny on one side Unknown 9 5 8 4
Crumpled 48-51 64cm by 64cm 28 hues, plus 12 pearled Bumps Less than a year 8 6 4 4
Stardream 110-340 (120 tested) 72cm by 102cm 33 hues Smooth and sparkly Years 9 9 7 9.5
Origamido 10-100 40cm by 50cm and more Very broad Varies Many years 5 to 9 6 to 8 10 2
Printer Paper 50-120 (80 tested) A0-A7, B and C equivalents, ANSI. Many others Mainly white, but many colors smooth and dull Few years 7 9 4 4
Japanese Foil 50 various from 3cm up to 50cm squares 12 colors smooth and shiny Many years 10 4 5 6
Tant 78 7.5cm; 15cm; 30.5cm; 35cm; 110×80cm 100 colors Mildly rough Many years 9 8 6 5
Elephant Hide 110 A4; 70cm×100cm 7 colors smooth Many years 10 7 10 10
Paper Classic Action Tessellation Complex Modular 3D Wet Folding Final score
Lokta n/a n/a 7 8 n/a 8 n/a 8
Bible 8.5 7.5 8 8.5 6 8 n/a 8
Sato Gami 8 9 9 6 9 8 n/a 8.5
Glassine 8 8.5 9 7 9.5 7 n/a 8
Unryu n/a n/a n/a 9 n/a 9 n/a 9
Skytone 8 8.5 9 9 9 9 8.5 9
Kami 8.5 8 8 7 9 7.5 7.5 8
Ingres 7 8.5 8 7 7 8 8 7.5
Nicolas Terry Tissue Foil 9 8.5 8.5 9.5 8 9 9.5 9+
Onion Skin 8 8 7.5 8.5 6 8 n/a 8
Kraft 8 7 8 9 6 8 n/a 7.5
Crumpled 8 7.5 8.5 8.5 7 8 n/a 8
Stardream 8.5 8.5 9 7.5 7.5 9 9 9
Origamido 8 7.5 7.5 9.5 n/a 9 n/a 9
Printer Paper 7.5 7.5 6 5 6 6.5 n/a 6
Japanese Foil 9 9 6 8 8.5 8 n/a 7
Tant 9 8.5 9 8 9 8 7.5 8
Elephant Hide 8.5 9 10 8 8.5 9.5 9.5 9.5