The Life and Times of Percy Julian

For Teachers

Activity 6A (Lab Activity)
Making and Sizing Paper

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Lesson Overview In this activity students will learn to make and size paper. The activity can be used as an introductory activity to promote student interest. In the early part of the 20th century, the field of chemistry was very involved in industrial processes, like paper manufacturing. Percy Julian was offered a job in the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton, Wisconsin, an offer that was rescinded when it was discovered that Julian was an African-American. Instead, Julian accepted the position of Director of the Soya Products Division at the Glidden Company. Among his soy-related discoveries at Glidden was a more effective product for sizing paper.
Learning Objectives Students will make paper in the classroom and will learn the role of sizing for paper.
Lesson Concepts
  • mold
  • deckle
  • paper making/manufacture
  • paper sizing
  • paper couching
  • absorbency
Materials Required

Per lab group:

  • Mold and deckle (see “Notes” for directions on how to make these easily and inexpensively)
  • Paper stock for making pulp. This may be inexpensive computer paper, typing paper, copy paper, tissue paper, or other uncoated paper. It should not be shiny. Newspaper or newsprint works well.
  • Plastic tub large enough to easily immerse the mold and deckle
  • Newspaper (large amount)
  • White felt sheets (cut slightly larger than the mold and deckle)
  • Small quantity of liquid starch
  • Scissors
  • Heavy books

Per class:

  • Food blend or food processor
Skills Required Ability to follow directions and handle equipment carefully.
Time Required

Two to three class periods.

Student Ability Level and Grouping The activity is suitable for average middle school students.
  1. This activity was adapted from:
  2. Supplies for making paper may be available from the art teacher in your school.
  3. Most craft and hobby books contain instructions for making paper by hand.
  4. Instructions for making the mold and deckle:
    1. From a craft store, purchase small embroidery hoops (two per lab group). Small wooden hoops can be purchased for about $0.60.
    2. Purchase window screening or curtain screening (fine mesh net).
    3. Cut a small piece of screening approximately two inches larger around than the embroidery hoops. Separate the two parts of one hoop. Stretch the screen tightly over the inner part and then secure it with the outer part of the hoop. This hoop is now a mold. Repeat this until you’ve made enough molds so that each lab group will have one mold.
    4. The other embroidery hoops (without the screening) are the deckles.
    5.  Each lab group should be given one mold and one deckle.
    6. Instructions for preparing pulp:
      1. You can save a lot of time by preparing a large supply of pulp in advance of class.
      2. Tear (do not cut) paper to be recycled into pieces the size of postage stamps. You might want to use a paper shredder to do the work for you!
      3. Mix the paper pieces with water. Use about 30 to 40 pieces of torn paper per 4 cups of water. The mixture may be left to soak over night.
      4. Place the paper and water mixture into a blender. Turn on blender. Regular paper takes about 30 seconds; heavier paper requires about 60 seconds. Your blended mixture of paper and water is called paper pulp.
      5. Place each batch in a tub (or large covered container if the pulp is to be stored).
      6. Distribute the pulp to student workstations as needed. Be sure to stir the pulp prior to distributing it to students.
    7. To demonstrate the effect of sizing on paper, assign half the student groups to add liquid laundry starch to their pulp before making the paper. The starch should be stirred into the pulp completely. To investigate the effect of the sizing, assign varying amounts of starch to be added. The minimum volume should be 10 mL of starch per liter of pulp, and the maximum should be 40 mL. When students write on the paper with sizing added, the ink will not bleed or run as much as it does on the paper made without sizing. Julian’s development of paper sizing from soy protein was important in the 1930s and 1940s because magazines were beginning to print more and more colorful ads and being able to print on the paper without the ink bleeding enhanced the age of advertising.
    Procedure Notes
    1. You can save time in step #2 of the student procedure by cutting the newspaper and felt in advance.
    2. You will probably have to demonstrate the correct method of scooping pulp into the mold and deckle.
    Assessment There does not need to be a formal assessment of this lab activity. You might tell students that their paper samples will be posted on a bulletin board or other display area. You might also ask students to compare the effect of adding sizing at the end of the activity.

    This activity meets the following National Science Education Standards (Grades 5-8) and Curriculum Standards for Social Studies.

    National Science Education Standards (Grades 5-8)

    Unifying Concepts and Processes

    • Form and function

    Physical Science

    • Properties and changes of properties in matter

    Science and Technology

    • Understandings about science and technology

    Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    • Science and technology in society

    Curriculum Standards for Social Studies

    • Production, Distribution, and Consumption
    • Science, Technology, and Society

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