Paper late? Paper WEIGHT! Part I

As my research into paper weight begins, I hear in my teeny, pea-sized brain this song from Genesis;

Anyhoo, my own interest in understanding the standards by which paper types are categorized leaps from the look, feel, and weight of the paper.  Also, how the paper reacts to various inks and the applications therein.  Turns out to be a lofty research goal, but I’m learning to be a patient man.  Join me now, as we explore the intricacies of paper weights.


I guide you first to this fairly easy-to-understand web page from OKI dot com. There’s a lot to digest here, but I’m already intrigued by the information here.  If you’re like me, you generally go to an office supply or crafting store and choose your paper by feeling a sample to understand it’s weight and it’s texture.  When we order  paper from an online source, we don’t have that luxury.

Well, of course one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper weighs far less than 20 pounds.  So, what exactly does the 20 pound delineation mean?  Taken from the link above, we have this semi-understandable info:

If 500 sheets of Bond paper (17 x 22 inches) weigh 20 lbs, then a ream of paper cut to Letter size will be labeled as 20 lb.

Note those dimensions! That 17 x 22 inch Bond sheet is four times the size of our standard 8.5 x 11 sheet.  Hence the ream of 500 sheets can be expected to weigh less than 20 pounds.  In fact, we can easily calculate that an 8.5 x 11 ream of 20 lb. bond would weigh 5 pounds.  Since I rarely trust my own math, and I’m beginning to trust these paper “standards” even less, I asked google.  Google sent me here:

The way we talk about paper in the United States is amazingly convoluted. The short answer is that 500 sheets of bond paper with a size of 17″ by 22″ have a weight of 20 pounds. The manufacturer would cut a sheet that big into four letter-size sheets, so a 500-sheet ream of 20-pound bond paper weighs 5 pounds.

Notice that I have steered you into just one familiar rabbit hole, that being Bond paper.  So, what is bond paper?  I decided to click on this particular clue because I liked the succinct way the answer to my question was described:

Durable, strong, and opaque paper used for writing, typing, printing, and photocopying, it is well suited for office stationery by being free from fuzz and having good finish. Available in basis weight from 13 pounds to 24 pounds (in 17 x 22 inch sheets) it is made with 20 percent to 100 percent cotton rag, and was originally used primarily for bond and share certificates. A ream of 500 sheets of 20-pound bond paper weighs about five pounds.

Ah-HA!  Bond and share certificates.  Another clue as to where the name comes from.

Well, I don’t know about you, but my head is already swimming, and we haven’t even gotten to Book, Bristol, Cover and more.  I will be investigating this further, and posting my findings.  Stay tuned for Part II.  Thanks for reading, ~Tom~

Author: Walter Hitt

Writer. I write. Sometimes I conjugate.

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