The microscope blog – microscopes and microscope restoration

My favourite slides

Tell Tale Tit,
Your tongue shall be slit;
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit.

I don’t just enjoy microscopes, I’m also very interested in certain types of slides, I have quite a collection of tongue slides. Why tongues? I really have no idea, I think it is because my father’s dissertation was on cat tongue. For many years our cupboards at home were filled with slides of cat tongue. Nobody ever looked at them, they just sat there in boxes. When my father died the slides were thrown away; he was an excellent histopathologist but I had studied plants so never looked at the slides of cat tongue..

It was a few years after my father’s death that I started to become interested in microscopy, I had a microscope I bought as a student but no slides so I bought one on eBay – a slide of cat tongue. Later, I saw rabbit tongue on eBay, then rat, and so it went on. I don’t have a vast collection but tongue slides are the only slides I can get quite silly about.

The parrot is particularly interesting, I can only imagine from the lack of taste buds that they have very little sense of taste. Otter looks like it’s a cross between dog and cat, and I always think that dog tongue looks like bacon. It probably tastes like bacon too, not that I’m suggesting you try it… but tongue is a muscle and on the whole muscles taste good. I’m sure people would be less keen on rump steak if it was called cow’s butt.

Here’s a selection of my tongue slides:

The first video shows what happens when copper wire and silver nitrate are allowed to react under the microscope. The video was recorded using Gladys, the Zeiss universal with transmitted light. Because the silver formed is not transparent it appears in silhouette. The pink background was achieved using a rheinberg filter.

The second video shows the same reaction viewed under a stereomicroscope using incident light. The magnification is not as great using the stereomicroscope but it is fun to see how the different types of microscope give a different perspective on the same reaction.

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Some pictures I have taken recently using Gladys the Zeiss Universal microscope. These pictures are at 63X as I remember. Salicine (aspirin), safranin O (a stain having the formula C20H19ClN4) and Platinocyanide of magnesium, the latter is an antique one with an antique name. Nowadays it would be called magnesium platinocyanide. Slides of crystals are very easy […]

This is the piece I have practiced and learned lacquering on. I hope you agree it is a dramatic improvement!

It is a Dunscombe microscope. Dunscombe was the son-in-law of Braham and took over his father-in-law’s optical business. In fact, there is still a Dunscombe Optician’s in Bristol UK where they lived and worked.

This microscope has been stripped, cleaned, polished, straight grained and lacquered about 20 times over the last couple of years while I have practiced the art. I have to admit that I intend to strip it again because there are a couple of pieces that are not quite up to my exacting standards. For now it will stay as it is. I have other microscopes to work on and I have had enough of this particular microscope for a while.


A new screw was made for the top to replace the nasty steel wood screw that had been shoved in there and two new screws were made to hold the microscope onto the foot. A new rack was cut on the milling machine and a new pinion was also made as the original rack and pinion were badly damaged and unusable. The stage was chemically blackened using a commercially available selenious acid based product. Not too shoddy I think.

dunscombe new pinion

New pinion (right) to replace original worn pinion


Dunscombe of Bristol

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This gallery contains 14 photos.

Diatoms taken using a Lomo anoptral phase system 90X 40X

Here it is, my first perfect piece of lacquering. It’s been six months since I started this mission. I have messed around with lacquer recipes, I have altered resin proportions, I have tried different polishing methods, different cloths and brushes, different temperatures and finally I have success.

One of the keys to success has been a sunny day – not generally something I can control but it certainly makes a difference.

Getting the finish on the metal right has been challenging. I don’t want the microscope to look like a reproduction but I don’t want it to be full of pits and bumps either. Restoring an antique microscope has to be done sensitively, I’m going for old but in good nick, not brand-new-reproduction made in a  Chinese factory.

I’m very pleased. Now I have to do the rest of the microscope to the same standard.

No flash was used on these pictures. 

lacquering 3 lacquering 2 lacquering 1

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