Lotsa Nori!

yamato nori
Yamato nori

If you’re looking at this site, you’re probably familiar with the use of paste (nori) in mokuhanga: It allows the pigment to stay in suspension and produces a smoother color impression. I go through it pretty quickly lately.

I’ve used the ubiquitous Yamato

asahipen nori
Asahipen shoji screen glue

paste in the past (love the smell)- it’s apparently made of tapioca starch and the ‘word on the street’ is that it sometimes makes printed areas shrink while prints dry which can buckle the paper.

I’ve also made my own paste from a variety of flours (rice primarily) before working each day, but it’s nice to have a ready-made supply on hand.

While printing in Japan, I was introduced to Ashipen shoji screen glue. Suga-san and Ayumi-san of Mokuhanakan didn’t know what it was made from. They were generous enough to translate the ingredients for me and we found out that it is made from potato starch! The price of this shoji glue for westerners via Amazon.jp is steep-$27.51! Luckily, I was able to buy 2 containers in Tokyo for next to nothing ~$2US ea. It’s amazing to see the markup on esoteric things.

So, as I watched my precious supply of Asahipen nori dwindle, I considered doing some experiments to make and package my own batch nori with a long shelf-life for med.>long-term use.


  1. I recalled my early backpacking days and bought 4 fill-able camping squeeze tubes from REI with my member rebate (price- about $2.50 ea.).
  2. I also purchased an 8 oz. bottle of preservative (Germaben II)  on eBay for $15 which is used for cosmetics production. I did some layman’s research about preservatives- apparently, a high or low pH is an attribute for most natural preservatives. Germaben II however, has a neutral pH (~7) which is important for archival reasons and multiple websites state that it is the best choice among non-toxic preservatives. It rates especially high on the anti-fungal chart- another concern for print-makers.
  3. For the nori, I also bought Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch which was a bout $6 at a local health food store. It’s pure potato starch. All of these ingredients should supply my nori needs for 5 years if the moths don’t get to the starch.
1. Coughlan’s squeeze tubes
2. Germaben II
3. Potato starch

Recipe and Process

1. I used the following recipe to make a lot (around 1/2 gallon) of the stuff:

  • 2 quarts water (~2 liters)
  • 1 cup starch (~240 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (~2.5 ml) Germaben II preservative (I think I did the math roughly to the recommended .5>1% concentration).

2. I mixed the starch and cold water together and mixed it VERY well.

3. I used medium heat and stirred, stirred, and stirred.

I can’t emphasize constant stirring enough.

The starch will settle and cause lumps if you don’t!

Starch and cold water mixture before heating

4. I heated it until the mixture becomes translucent- right before it boils. The process is called gelatinization. I initially used 1.5 liters of water and added .5 liters later.

Right before the mixture is translucent

5. I let it cool for about 20 minutes and added 1/2 teaspoon of preservative (the online directions warned against adding to anything too hot) which equates to the recommended 1% solution. I stirred it thoroughly. It has a pleasant smell and the aroma and strangely reminded me of Halloween makeup from the late 60s… it’s weird how smells haunt the memory.

6. While the nori was still warm,  I filled the squeeze tubes and the two empty Asahipen containers. I still had about 2 more containers worth that I chucked outside.

After sealing the tube with the crimper and inverting, I tapped the tube a bit to let any bubbles rise. I then opened the cap and let any air escape.

7. If you use the squeeze tubes, fill them about 2/3 of the way to keep the excess nori from squeezing out when you put the crimper on.

The cool end-result should look like a clearish, semi-firm gel (the retrogradation of the starches).

0P0A0513I think I have about a year’s supply of Tanuki Brand® Nori. I trust that it’ll keep for several months or years. If things go bad in the far future, I’ll be the first to tell you!

Either way, this could save me a bundle!

Thanks again to Suga-san and Ayumi-san for turning me onto potato starch!

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