Fun Geeky Printing Fact of the Day: Paper is measured in pounds.
If you purchase a new package of printer paper, chances are you’ll find somewhere on the packaging a reference to pounds. Chances are also good that if you’re using standard printer paper, this reference will mention that your paper is 28 pounds.
Really? That pack of paper is 28 pounds? And my 86-year-old grandmother can lift it over her head with one hand?
Actually, your pack of printer paper has been cut from a bigger ream that actually was 28 pounds. This gigantic ream of paper had 500 sheets just like the package you bought, but the dimensions of each piece were much bigger. The paper company sliced that large ream of paper to make the regular sized paper that you bought. Your package of paper plus all the other packages of paper that were cut from that ream equal the 28 pounds.
To give you a better visual, imagine this big ream as a large, yummy, 28-pound chocolate sheet cake. Picture that big cake getting sliced into four equal pieces. You’d end up with four printer paper package sized pieces of cake, which altogether weigh 28 pounds but individually weigh about 7. (Which is why dear Grammie could handle one with such ease.)
This admittedly odd system of measuring paper in pounds does make a bit of sense when you consider that it allows for a measuring stick for thickness of an individual sheet.
Back to our yummy chocolate sheet cake. (Are you hungry yet?) If that same 28-pound sheet cake was cut into 8 pieces instead of 4, each of the pieces would have the same thickness as the slices from the first time we cut the cake, but different dimensions. Therefore, if you found yourself starring on one of those awesome cake-decorating reality shows and you randomly needed two pieces of cake with different shapes but the same thickness, you could get two slices that had both been cut from a 28-pound cake and you’d know their thickness was the same.
If there were two uncut sheet cakes that had the same dimensions, but one cake was lighter than the other, we would know that one of the cakes is less dense. Similarly, if you purchase a ream of 20 pound paper instead of 28 pound paper, each piece of paper is slightly thinner. And regardless of whether you buy 8.5” x 11” paper that is 20 pounds or 8.5” by 14” that is 20 pounds, the sheets are each exactly the same thickness.
Once you get the hang of it, the system is really a piece of cake. (Oh yes, we went there.)