Home Introduction Dandy roll


Whilst the paper mash [pulp] is still wet it has to dry during a transport lying on endless moving strip made of copper, bronze [now synthetic fibres]: the so-called wire, forming a felted mass of fibres. [7]

The water leaks out of the pulp through tiny holes in this wire. Depending on the texture of the wire, the wire will leave a fine pattern in the paper surface. The so-called wire-marking. Following drainage on the wire, the paper web is transported past the dandy roll [a cylinder that has the pattern of the watermark stitched to it], and many more drying and improving the surface devices.

The side where the wire-marking can be found is called the wire side, the opposite side the felt side. The felt side is the better side to print on, and therefor the gummed side of the stamp used to be the wire side.

Before 1940 the wire had been woven in such a way that the texture was symmetrical both horizontally and vertically. The so-called plain weave or tabby. The resulting wire-marking, the print of the wire into the paper, is known by philatelists as wove paper. In the late thirties a new method of wire weaving was introduced, no longer giving a symmetrical pattern. This is called twill. Whereas the wove makes the impression of diagonal lines only, this new type of wire-marking shows at first sight fine horizontal lines, but if you turn the paper 45 degrees in its own plane 2 sets of diagonal lines pop up depending on which way you turn it, clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The horizontal lines resemble the old laid paper but be aware, it is not! The term laid paper should only be used in the context of hand-made paper. We are dealing here with machine-made paper.

The direction of paper can be derived from the longitudinal axis of the lozenges [diamond-shapes] in the woven paper. On examining the fibres of the paper you might see that they show a preference in one particular direction, the direction of paper. The axis of curling papers is also always along the direction of paper. This preference is best seen on the wire side, on the felt side the fibres will be distributed more at random. The felt side is normally not as rough as the wire side.

In the 1970's more complex weaving methods had been introduced, also made possible by the use of synthetic fibres. The two main categories of wire-markings however remain those that at first sight, no turnings, give either symmetrical diagonal lines or a horizontal/vertical pattern.


wove, diagonal lines at an angle of -60, +60 degrees respectively; no watermark
I + watermark
horizontal lines predominant, in turning the paper in its own plane two or more sets of diagonal lines pop up; no watermark
III + watermark

A subdivision of III and IV can be made:

  • III/IVb = diagonal lines at an angle of -60, and + 70
  • III/IVd = diagonal lines at an angle of -70, and + 60


All angles relative to the horizontal lines as horizon, and the vertical axis as the direction of paper.

I/II        III/IV b   III/IV d

x-x-x-x-x   x--x--x    --x--x-
-x-x-x-x-   -x--x--    -x--x--
x-x-x-x-x   --x--x-    x--x--x
-x-x-x-x-   x--x--x    --x--x-
x-x-x-x-x   -x--x--    -x--x--
-x-x-x-x-   --x--x-    x--x--x

Uncoated stamp paper usually had the wire-marking on the gummed side. This is not strange for the wire-markings used to be rather uneven and unfit for printing. The introduction of coated papers changed the situation. The uneven, wire-marked side of the paper could be filled and flattened by the coating substance. Printing on the coated side could mean printing on the wire side as well but not necessarily.

Establishing whether the gummed side of the stamp has the wire-markings or not can be quite difficult. The best way to do it is to have sufficient strong light shine on the surface of the paper at an angle of 45 degrees and than turning the stamp slowly clockwise [or the other way around] not changing the plane the stamp is in. The above mentioned diagonal lines of 60 [rather wide apart] or 70 [rather tight] should become visible. When they do become visible you have the wire-markings on top. In the case of thin paper this method may be tricky as the wire-markings influence the other side as well!!

To keep the stamp against a strong light source usually makes it possible to see the horizontal/vertical [and after turning the diagonal] lines but not to establish which side is the wire side and which the felt side.

Copyright © Rein Bakhuizen van den Brink
Last updated on 15 mei 2010

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