This article considers how the capitalist practices and organisation of hand papermaking framed the coming of mechanised paper production during the Age of Revolutions. The lived experience of making paper by hand had been as tightly wrapped as the synchronised toil of its workers and the trade's wage system. Neither the ’industrial Enlightenment’ nor an ‘industrious revolution’ had transformed paper production. Instead, the papermaking machine drew on and unravelled a durable web of skilled toil, custom, compensation, worktime, and shopfloor relationships. In doing so, the inventor of this device, Nicolas-Louis Robert, imagined that it would offer the manufacturers unfettered sway over their shops; indeed, he privileged this purpose above efficiency and productivity. That mastery remained incomplete, however, as paper producers still required men who had mastered the trade's tacit knowledge about such matters as pulp, finish, and the proper weather for production.