So, how to dirty up and distress my page from the Ponape Scriptures?
First off, I'm going to try using a dye stain technique instead of the tea staining technique I've used for years. Curious Goods has an excellent description of the basic method using walnut ink crystals, and I Googled up a few more pages describing variations aimed at scrapbookers here and here. Unfortunately, none of the local arts and crafts stores carried the crystals, so I had to buy some off Ebay. That means I'll be waiting a few days before I can tackle that aspect.
In the meantime I decided to work on the edge treatment. There's nothing inherently wrong with leaving the paper edges un-distressed, but I think roughing them up a bit will make the finished prop more believable. At the same time I want to avoid the over distressing that some propmakers, myself included, are sometimes prone to. By that I mean the grotesquely worn and excessively oxidized edges that scream "fake", particularly when the rest of the paper prop has little or no distressing. I want a happy middle ground- enough wear and oxidation to imply age, but not so much that it looks ridiculous.
That's why I decided on a faux-deckled edge treatment. Deckling is the rough, fibrous edge produced during the traditional manufacture of paper as the loose pulp is scooped up to form the sheet. There are a number of tools available to produce the effect, most of them consisting of scissors or rulers with some kind of rough edge that cuts the paper. I'm inherently cheap, so instead of buying any of the over-priced gadgets I just made one myself.
On the top, a cheap aluminum ruler I bought for $1.50 at WalMart.
On the bottom, the same ruler after a few minutes of work with my beloved Dremel motor tool.
Tada! A faux-deckling cutter for the price of a cup of coffee. After trying it out on a few different weights of paper I was pretty happy with the results. It might need to be ground out a bit more in the future, but it's perfect for the light touch I'm looking for on this project.
Update: I just realized I never described how the cutter is used. In case you were confused, you lay it flat on your document and then tear the paper along the roughened edge. The tear will then follow the little nicks and crannies of the cutting edge, as opposed to the strait tear you would get using the normal edge of the ruler.