Through the microscope

This is one of my first attempts at re-lacquering a Watson Praxis. The old lacquer was almost non-existant so I stripped it off using ammoniated cleaner (nasty stinky stuff), then sanded, polished and grained the tube before applying lacquer.

The lacquer is a turmeric and shellac based lacquer. It’s okay but I feel it needs to be tougher than it is. It doesn’t look like it will last 100 years. This week I shall be trying to perfect my lacquer recipe by adding some resins, wish me luck!

Re-lacquering of Watson Praxis Tube

Re-lacquering of Watson Praxis Tube

I have been playing around with metal lacquer for the last few weeks. I have desperately been trying to figure out how the hot lacquering of microscopes was done. Information on lacquering metal is rather hard to come by and I want to use the original techniques, not modern lacquers. 

I have tried various recipes with varying degrees of success, in the next few days I should be receiving some sandarac and elemi in the post. I think these resins may be my secret weapons.

As soon as I get something close to perfect I shall post a picture. In the meantime here is a link to a very nice blog I stumbled upon; not metal lacquer, but very interesting just the same.

Recreating Western Lacquer using Historic Recipes – Day 1 | Marianne Webb.

The tapeworm of Christmas

Given that he was born in a stable/cave and that “ox and ass before him bowed,” I’m willing to bet there was a tapeworm at the birth of Jesus. Probably not a tapeworm of pig, more likely beef, Jews aren’t terribly keen on eating pork. A wise decision 2000 years ago, most human tapeworm infections come from pork.

The Christmas Tapeworm

The Christmas Tapeworm

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Rotifers photographed using oblique illumination

Rotifer video – dark field

I got rather engrossed in some rotifers yesterday. I was peering down the microsscope when I suddenly felt extremely tired, I looked at the time and discovered it was 3.30am. Oops.

Here is the result of my labours, a video of some rotifers in dark field.

My friend Richard is really into spiders. He loves them, so when I said I might look at one under the microscope he immediately checked that I was not going to harm any. He even went so far as to send me a deceased spider in the post, a lovely Tegenaria. It’s a little dehydrated but it is still very spidery and a fascinating subject. He sent me another one but I had a job interview and haven’t had time to photograph it yet. Such a shame because it’s a real beauty. I should be able to get it done on Monday.

Tegenaria is a common house spider. Several pictures were taken under a stereo microscope using incident lighting and the pictures were stacked using Helicon focus software.  I’m a big fan of Helicon because it’s idiot proof. The pedipalps are shown in the second and third picture. Pedipalps, or palps as they are often called, are the sex organs which the male spiders use to transfer seminal fluid to the females during mating. Mating is a dangerous business for male spiders because the females have a tendency to consume their mates.

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”

“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair
-can ne’er come down again.

By Mary Howitt 1829

Spider eyes

Spider eyes

Spider palp

Spider palp

Underside of spider palp

Underside of spider palp

The match box microscope

This is “the match box microscope” so called because inside the tube is a brass matchbox instead of a stop. My friend thinks that the original stop was lost and was replaced by the match box. The match box itself is quite interesting, these “safety boxes” were brass and had a small hole in the top in which to place a lit match. The match would burn for about 30 seconds- just enough time to hop into bed, and considered safer than taking a candle to bed in an age when beds tended to have curtains around them to keep out the draughts.

Below is a picture of the matchbox taken down the tube of the microscope followed by a series of picures showing the fine focus, paintwork and other features. The microscope was probably made by converting a binocular microscope into a monocular. You can tell it is an early microscope (1840 ish) by the triangular rack and pinion.

The stand is an iron Lister stand, it’s quite badly painted which is peculiar, people tended not to do shoddy paint jobs in 1840…

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Prince Albert’s Safety Box. 100 Patent Vestalights

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Base of Lister stand

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Aperture ring on underside of stage

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Tube and coarse focus knobs

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Fine focus mechanism

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Mirror and base

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Triangular shaped rack and slot in objective tube (no screw in objectives)

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Fine focus mechanism, tube and simple mechanical stage which slides up and down

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