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Old 4th March 2016, 09:36 AM   #1
The Sparrow
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I just brought a microscope

Please don't tell me I bought a piece of crap, I'm still riding the wave of excitement.

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005...h_gw_p21_d0_i3

I'm excited to do some first hand viewing of natural biology and such.
I've always wanted one since I was a kid. Got a box of prepared slides too to start me off.

Any other enthusiasts out there? Any good forums I should join?
Any tips or ideas?
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Old 4th March 2016, 09:49 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Please don't tell me I bought a piece of crap, ...
at that price, you usually buy just one objective, I'm tempted
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Old 4th March 2016, 09:52 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by wea View Post
at that price, you usually buy just one objective, I'm tempted
Join me! To the dark side

Have you a scope right now?
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Old 4th March 2016, 09:57 AM   #4
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I've been involved in designing parts of fluorescence microscopes, not an enthusiast but somehow an optical designer
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:06 AM   #5
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ah - interesting.

I'm really becoming more interested in science as I age, and I thought this would be a good area to explore things in nature - how they work and what they are made of. Trying to find my place in the world. (and I love gadgets )
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:17 AM   #6
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It looks like a decent enough one, and because it's monocular at the objective end (rather than fully stereo) it should take standard objectives, which makes it pretty versatile. Using the super powerful objectives is tricky and time consuming with the most powerful of all requiring oil immersion.

I have a couple of old microscopes, though I could hardly be called an enthusiast and don't need them for much. But they're fascinating instruments and loads of fun. Start collecting swamp water.

My grandfather was a biochemist, and rather an important one at that in his day, and when I was a kid, I inherited his old Bausch and Lomb microscope, a grand old thing of brass and cast iron, all its optical bits scrounged from here and there. Even if you don't need it, somehow it seems as if every well appointed home should have a microscope.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:20 AM   #7
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I like those sentiments bruto.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:22 AM   #8
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Making your own slides will take some effort and time to become skilled in but it's definitely worth it; after that, you will probably want to enhance your setup, e.g. add a camera. Looking forward to know how your system works, as soon as you get a feeling with it.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by wea View Post
Making your own slides will take some effort and time to become skilled in but it's definitely worth it; after that, you will probably want to enhance your setup, e.g. add a camera. Looking forward to know how your system works, as soon as you get a feeling with it.
So am I

As you said, looking forward to making my own slides - everything from the wife's aquarium water to the compost pile, and the 2 rivers near by etc etc.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:33 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Any tips or ideas?
https://diybio.org/

H&E has been the go-to stain for more than a century now. I don't work with it myself, but I could probably help interpret the protocol if anything seems unclear about it to you.

I'm looking for some place that sells the stain reagents in single-serving packages (generally called "kits"), but it looks more common by the gallon. Find a diy or biohacking group around you for people to split it with.

[ETA] Here's one, but as is way too typical for biological supply companies, they don't list the prices outright. You just open your wallet and cry. They might be willing to send you a sample if you ask nicely.

[ETAA] One safety note: xylene is some harsh crap. These guys report "adequate" labeling without it or the alcohol, using more distilled water washes and literally drying the slides out instead. That might be worth a try to make the staining easier without access to a fume hood.

Last edited by Beelzebuddy; 4th March 2016 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:43 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Please don't tell me I bought a piece of crap, I'm still riding the wave of excitement.

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005...h_gw_p21_d0_i3

I'm excited to do some first hand viewing of natural biology and such.
I've always wanted one since I was a kid. Got a box of prepared slides too to start me off.

Any other enthusiasts out there? Any good forums I should join?
Any tips or ideas?
I used to play with a microscope as a child with my father. It was great fun. However, I am today involved with other hobbies. I can tell you what we used to do when Dad was alive.

Our big subject was pond water. There are animals in pond water that are too small to see with the unaided eye, but easy to see with a microscope.

Dad would modify glass slides, adding a 'well' so that the slides could hold a drop of water. We would go to a nearby pond and take home a jar of water. We would take samples from the jar to look at them.

We had a low power microscope (< 300). Therefore, we could not see unicellular life. Most of the organisms that we saw were very small arthropods. We bought books so that we could name some of these organisms. We seldom saw the same type of organism twice. We also saw algae. We never had to stain these organisms or prepare them in any other way for viewing.

There was a small problem getting them into focus. More on that later.

Here is one example of what we saw. We could see some of them barely with the unaided eye. We would see a piece of dust moving opposite the current in the jar. When we looked close, it was a creature that looked like it had one eye and antennae. It was a crustacean called a Cyclops.

We saw algae. Some of the algae had cells so big we could see the individual cells. However, this was an exception to the rule. The algae were not as impressive as the animals, but they did look very strange. We looked particularly in regions of the ponds that had lots of algae. That is where the animals like to hang out.

We used magnification between 50 and 300. The advantage of this range is that one could follow live animals that were moving. At this range, chromatic aberration is negligible even for cheap microscopes. Furthermore, the depth of field is very large for small magnifications. When the animal moved toward or away from the objective, the image got blurry. We would follow the creature by moving the objective lens up and down.

Organisms are not completely transparent at this range of magnification. Therefore, they don't need staining. However, the animals that we saw were translucent (i.e., partly transparent). You could see their internal organs moving while they were still alive.

We saw these creatures in color. There was some chromatic aberration probably due to the cheap lenses. However, it did not ruin the colorful view. Our cheap microscopes were not diffraction limited. However, even the best microscope at high magnifications has chromatic aberration due to diffraction.

Minerals are interesting to look at with the low magnification powers. Most rocks are polycrystalline, with interesting patterns.

We could not see unicellular life forms like protozoa and bacteria at low magnification. Algae sometimes had cells large enough to be seen. Onion skin has cells large enough to be seen.

We never bought a high power microscope (900 to 2000) because high power microscopy is more involved. Most every organism is transparent at that range. Therefore, one usually has to stain the organisms that you are looking at. Staining kills them, of course. The depth of field is extremely small for high magnifications. This mean that even if they were alive, they would go out of focus when they moved even a small distance up or down.

Aberration is a very bad problem for high magnifications. Don't buy a cheap microscope with high magnification. There are all sorts of aberration at high power, including color aberration. The quality of the lenses are very important for high magnification.

Accessories, accessories. I am afraid that to really appreciate the world of the small, one should buy equipment in addition to the microscope to take advantage. Slides and holders can be fashioned or bought to hold the type of samples that you are most interested in. I mentioned the slides that my father modified to hold pond water. Optical filters can greatly enhance the viewing experience. Microscopic photography is very interesting if you can deal with the photographic equipment. Digital microscopes have all sorts of advantages, especially when it comes to photography. Digital filters can often many of the same things as optical filters, and some extra things.

High magnifications require more accessories than low magnifications. I mentioned the transparency problem, for instance. You may want to look at bacteria after staining. If you want to look at living bacteria, then you may have to buy special polarizing lenses.

Semitransparent objects become more visible between crossed polarizer filters. There is nothing to do about the field of view problem, however. If the creature decides to dive, then you have to dive with it. Contrast enhancement with digital filters can also help see the semitransparent. Sometimes, liquids other than water can be used to make organisms more visible. If the liquid has a different index of refraction than the organism, the organism becomes more visible. This may also kill the organism at first.

Hint: Ever material on earth is transparent in some size range. One can easily make gold foil so thin it is transparent. So imagine what an amoeba looks like that is as large as the foil is thick.

I did grow tired of the microscope after a few years. However, I am looking back now. I realize that it was because I was lazy. I didn't try to make special equipment. My father could have bought extra equipment. Maybe I should have bought a better microscope.

So I suggest starting with the low magnifications and work up to the high magnifications. Buy or make equipment to optimize your experience at each stage. Making it will take more time, but will save money. Maybe it will give more satisfaction, too!

Maybe you could start with minerals (50), go to organisms in pond water and soil (300), look at eukaryotic cells (600) and then go to bacterial cells (> 1000). Get into microscopic photography and digital enhancement. Use those optical filters where appropriate.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Polish those rocks in different ways. Stain the creatures, sometimes. Do experiments with animal behavior. Do experiments in protozoa behavior! Use polarizing filters and color filters. Stick with one microscope scale until you have entirely mastered this scale. Try to get the best photograph possible of any subject that interests you.
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:57 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Darwin123 View Post
I used to play with a microscope as a child with my father. It was great fun. However, I am today involved with other hobbies. I can tell you what we used to do when Dad was alive.

Our big subject was pond water. There are animals in pond water that are too small to see with the unaided eye, but easy to see with a microscope.

Dad would modify glass slides, adding a 'well' so that the slides could hold a drop of water. We would go to a nearby pond and take home a jar of water. We would take samples from the jar to look at them.

We had a low power microscope (< 300). Therefore, we could not see unicellular life. Most of the organisms that we saw were very small arthropods. We bought books so that we could name some of these organisms. We seldom saw the same type of organism twice. We also saw algae. We never had to stain these organisms or prepare them in any other way for viewing.

There was a small problem getting them into focus. More on that later.

Here is one example of what we saw. We could see some of them barely with the unaided eye. We would see a piece of dust moving opposite the current in the jar. When we looked close, it was a creature that looked like it had one eye and antennae. It was a crustacean called a Cyclops.

We saw algae. Some of the algae had cells so big we could see the individual cells. However, this was an exception to the rule. The algae were not as impressive as the animals, but they did look very strange. We looked particularly in regions of the ponds that had lots of algae. That is where the animals like to hang out.

We used magnification between 50 and 300. The advantage of this range is that one could follow live animals that were moving. At this range, chromatic aberration is negligible even for cheap microscopes. Furthermore, the depth of field is very large for small magnifications. When the animal moved toward or away from the objective, the image got blurry. We would follow the creature by moving the objective lens up and down.

Organisms are not completely transparent at this range of magnification. Therefore, they don't need staining. However, the animals that we saw were translucent (i.e., partly transparent). You could see their internal organs moving while they were still alive.

We saw these creatures in color. There was some chromatic aberration probably due to the cheap lenses. However, it did not ruin the colorful view. Our cheap microscopes were not diffraction limited. However, even the best microscope at high magnifications has chromatic aberration due to diffraction.

Minerals are interesting to look at with the low magnification powers. Most rocks are polycrystalline, with interesting patterns.

We could not see unicellular life forms like protozoa and bacteria at low magnification. Algae sometimes had cells large enough to be seen. Onion skin has cells large enough to be seen.

We never bought a high power microscope (900 to 2000) because high power microscopy is more involved. Most every organism is transparent at that range. Therefore, one usually has to stain the organisms that you are looking at. Staining kills them, of course. The depth of field is extremely small for high magnifications. This mean that even if they were alive, they would go out of focus when they moved even a small distance up or down.

Aberration is a very bad problem for high magnifications. Don't buy a cheap microscope with high magnification. There are all sorts of aberration at high power, including color aberration. The quality of the lenses are very important for high magnification.

Accessories, accessories. I am afraid that to really appreciate the world of the small, one should buy equipment in addition to the microscope to take advantage. Slides and holders can be fashioned or bought to hold the type of samples that you are most interested in. I mentioned the slides that my father modified to hold pond water. Optical filters can greatly enhance the viewing experience. Microscopic photography is very interesting if you can deal with the photographic equipment. Digital microscopes have all sorts of advantages, especially when it comes to photography. Digital filters can often many of the same things as optical filters, and some extra things.

High magnifications require more accessories than low magnifications. I mentioned the transparency problem, for instance. You may want to look at bacteria after staining. If you want to look at living bacteria, then you may have to buy special polarizing lenses.

Semitransparent objects become more visible between crossed polarizer filters. There is nothing to do about the field of view problem, however. If the creature decides to dive, then you have to dive with it. Contrast enhancement with digital filters can also help see the semitransparent. Sometimes, liquids other than water can be used to make organisms more visible. If the liquid has a different index of refraction than the organism, the organism becomes more visible. This may also kill the organism at first.

Hint: Ever material on earth is transparent in some size range. One can easily make gold foil so thin it is transparent. So imagine what an amoeba looks like that is as large as the foil is thick.

I did grow tired of the microscope after a few years. However, I am looking back now. I realize that it was because I was lazy. I didn't try to make special equipment. My father could have bought extra equipment. Maybe I should have bought a better microscope.

So I suggest starting with the low magnifications and work up to the high magnifications. Buy or make equipment to optimize your experience at each stage. Making it will take more time, but will save money. Maybe it will give more satisfaction, too!

Maybe you could start with minerals (50), go to organisms in pond water and soil (300), look at eukaryotic cells (600) and then go to bacterial cells (> 1000). Get into microscopic photography and digital enhancement. Use those optical filters where appropriate.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Polish those rocks in different ways. Stain the creatures, sometimes. Do experiments with animal behavior. Do experiments in protozoa behavior! Use polarizing filters and color filters. Stick with one microscope scale until you have entirely mastered this scale. Try to get the best photograph possible of any subject that interests you.
Also, avoid paraedolia.

Fight it! The temptation may be strong to see Elvis Presley's face in the pond scum. Mammalian blood cells in the hematite. Jesus in the water flea.

There is wonder in the mundane. For instance, the social behavior of microorganisms is a weird as paranormal phenomena cited by the woo woos.

You can grow colonies of bacteria and fungi. The colonies usually form these complex shapes. Even if your microscope can't resolve the individual organisms, the structure of the colony can be seen at low magnification. Some of these complex structures look like cities, or like the organs of larger organisms.

A bacterial colony can be fascinating even if it isn't Elvis Presley's face!
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Old 4th March 2016, 10:59 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
https://diybio.org/

H&E has been the go-to stain for more than a century now. I don't work with it myself, but I could probably help interpret the protocol if anything seems unclear about it to you.

I'm looking for some place that sells the stain reagents in single-serving packages (generally called "kits"), but it looks more common by the gallon. Find a diy or biohacking group around you for people to split it with.

[ETA] Here's one, but as is way too typical for biological supply companies, they don't list the prices outright. You just open your wallet and cry. They might be willing to send you a sample if you ask nicely.

[ETAA] One safety note: xylene is some harsh crap. These guys report "adequate" labeling without it or the alcohol, using more distilled water washes and literally drying the slides out instead. That might be worth a try to make the staining easier without access to a fume hood.
Holy crap! Buckets of stuff to read
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Old 4th March 2016, 11:04 AM   #14
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Thanks Darwin. Beautiful post.
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Old 4th March 2016, 11:10 AM   #15
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How could I forget Kohler illumination!

Do this first.
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Old 4th March 2016, 11:31 AM   #16
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Maybe this would be interesting

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Dr. Elaine Ingham has been instrumental in promoting actual science in organic gardening and farming. Part of that campaign is teach people how to use a microscope to view their soil microbiology. Then with that information she also teaches what changes can be made for soil improvement.

I don't know if you garden or not, but it would maybe give you something a bit more interesting than "ohhhh that looks cool". You could actually do trials and comparisons etc...
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Old 4th March 2016, 02:00 PM   #17
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As a matter of fact I DO garden a little. Great idea!
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Old 4th March 2016, 02:28 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Darwin123 View Post
A bacterial colony can be fascinating even if it isn't Elvis Presley's face!
Interesting fact: Elvis Presley himself was actually an advanced bacterial colony. We use the male pronoun out of habit, but since he was a bacterial colony, he wasn't really a "he" at all.
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Old 5th March 2016, 02:46 AM   #19
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It is worth spending time learning how to set up the light source properly. (Usually the bit at the bottom. The instruction booklets are often poor on this.)

Also do not go straight to high power, there is an amazing world at lower power, bugs are amazing.

Finally even a simple photo adaptor for a smart phone is great.
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Old 5th March 2016, 02:51 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
How could I forget Kohler illumination!

Do this first.
Yes this is a good description of how to do it.
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Old 5th March 2016, 10:59 AM   #21
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Thanks Planigale
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Old 5th March 2016, 12:33 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Please don't tell me I bought a piece of crap, I'm still riding the wave of excitement.

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005...h_gw_p21_d0_i3

I'm excited to do some first hand viewing of natural biology and such.
I've always wanted one since I was a kid. Got a box of prepared slides too to start me off.

Any other enthusiasts out there? Any good forums I should join?
Any tips or ideas?

My Father gave me his old microscope when he bought a new one similar to yours but also with a video display camera. I keep the old one in the truck of my car, it's a very basic model but the optics detach from the stage assembly so it works good as a field micro inspection tool. Which I almost got to use it as on my job just once. A few years back and after working with the new scope for a number of years he offered it to me. With no real need, use or desire for it I recommended he try donating it to the local High School. I'll have to inquire how that turned out.

Hope you get years of enjoyment out of it.
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Old 5th March 2016, 12:45 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by wea View Post
Making your own slides will take some effort and time to become skilled in but it's definitely worth it; after that, you will probably want to enhance your setup, e.g. add a camera. Looking forward to know how your system works, as soon as you get a feeling with it.
Add a digital microscope system - you can photo or video (when observing very small moving things) or just observe on computer screen.
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Old 5th March 2016, 12:55 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
Add a digital microscope system - you can photo or video (when observing very small moving things) or just observe on computer screen.
Like one of these: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...for+microscope
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Old 5th March 2016, 01:01 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
So am I

As you said, looking forward to making my own slides - everything from the wife's aquarium water to the compost pile, and the 2 rivers near by etc etc.
A nice pond and a nice lake are great sources!!!!! If you were near Orlando there are a good number of same and it can be entertaining checking for life form similarities and differences among them. As a just in case, best way to get variety is sample from the bottom, mid-way up the water column and just under the water surface. For starters. (separately, not in the same sample!!)
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Old 5th March 2016, 01:06 PM   #26
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Seems like a microscope that will give you lots of fun time.

Just some ideas for the future:

You may wish to consider buying a cheap microtome to section thick samples into viewable portions.

Ultimately you may wish to consider buying a phase contrast microscope to allow you to visualize many samples without having to stain them. Many have camera ports as well. One place to consider is surplus/used laboratory equipment. A lot of lab microscopes now are very sophisticated and expensive electronic/optical devices such as confocal, etc. The older, but perfectly good phase microscopes may be hitting the used market at substantially reduced prices.
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Old 5th March 2016, 01:09 PM   #27
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At the other range of magnifications, a "dissecting" microscope is low power but can show you amazing features of tiny objects in 3D at say 10x or 20x.
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Old 5th March 2016, 02:03 PM   #28
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Wonderful information and tips. Thanks all.
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Old 5th March 2016, 03:18 PM   #29
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Congrats The Sparrow, you may wish to purchase a telescope to see the macro universe. I have enjoyed both my (crappy 60's high school monocular) microscope and my 1970's vintage Celestron.

Hint, tardigrades. Have fun.
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Old 6th March 2016, 06:15 AM   #30
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It is a decent enough model, just don't let small children fidget with the mechanical stage unsupervised.

Sorry, I am basing this on a similar display model I have in the store.
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Old 10th March 2016, 03:58 PM   #31
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Just a couple quick shots holding my camera up to the eyepiece!. The possibilities are endlessly appealing!
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Old 10th March 2016, 04:26 PM   #32
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Small idea about microtomes. I heard once that a crude but workable microtome could be created from a large nut and bolt, each with a matching fine thread. Back off the bolt until is is almost readily to fall off the nut, place the specimen in the hollow formed by the nut and bolt, add melted wax to embed the specimen and let the wax cool. Then, by gradually tightening the bolt to slightly extrude the wax/specimen, you can use a razor blade to slice off thin pieces which you can fix on a slide, stain them, and view them through the microscope.
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Old 10th March 2016, 04:27 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Just a couple quick shots holding my camera up to the eyepiece!. The possibilities are endlessly appealing!
Very, very nice work!
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Old 10th March 2016, 08:05 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
Small idea about microtomes. I heard once that a crude but workable microtome could be created from a large nut and bolt, each with a matching fine thread. Back off the bolt until is is almost readily to fall off the nut, place the specimen in the hollow formed by the nut and bolt, add melted wax to embed the specimen and let the wax cool. Then, by gradually tightening the bolt to slightly extrude the wax/specimen, you can use a razor blade to slice off thin pieces which you can fix on a slide, stain them, and view them through the microscope.
That's a pretty clever idea, which I might just have to try one of these days. It ought to work pretty well, especially if you take time to sand a smooth surface on the nut.

I bet you could slice up a fly pretty nicely with that!
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Old 11th March 2016, 05:05 AM   #35
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Kind of barbaric sounding, but I like it!
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Old 11th March 2016, 08:44 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
Small idea about microtomes. I heard once that a crude but workable microtome could be created from a large nut and bolt, each with a matching fine thread. Back off the bolt until is is almost readily to fall off the nut, place the specimen in the hollow formed by the nut and bolt, add melted wax to embed the specimen and let the wax cool. Then, by gradually tightening the bolt to slightly extrude the wax/specimen, you can use a razor blade to slice off thin pieces which you can fix on a slide, stain them, and view them through the microscope.
That's ingenious! I can offer a couple of tips as well:
  • Use a fresh safety razor blade for the sectioning. Sharp, cheap, ubiquitous.
  • Slice with a sawing motion, like a deli slicer. You want as little pressure on the tissue as you can manage, to ensure an even thickness.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Good hand-sectioning is a thing of muscle memory - the more you do it the better it will turn out.
  • Wax (paraffin wax is a common standard) can be removed afterwards with xylene and ethanol.

[ETA] Regarding the highlighted, the tissue should be fixed (treated with formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde) before paraffin embedding, to render it shelf-stable. Otherwise it'll start to decay unless you section and fix it immediately.

Last edited by Beelzebuddy; 11th March 2016 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 11th March 2016, 09:16 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
That's ingenious! I can offer a couple of tips as well:
  • Use a fresh safety razor blade for the sectioning. Sharp, cheap, ubiquitous.
  • Slice with a sawing motion, like a deli slicer. You want as little pressure on the tissue as you can manage, to ensure an even thickness.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Good hand-sectioning is a thing of muscle memory - the more you do it the better it will turn out.
  • Wax (paraffin wax is a common standard) can be removed afterwards with xylene and ethanol.

[ETA] Regarding the highlighted, the tissue should be fixed (treated with formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde) before paraffin embedding, to render it shelf-stable. Otherwise it'll start to decay unless you section and fix it immediately.
Very good ideas. Even with an expensive dedicated microtome one needs a lot of practice to optimize the sections. The more you practice the better.

Also the fixation can be very critical, depends on the nature of the sample, and there are different ways of doing it. For very soft things like brains sometimes the ideal way is to fix it in place by perfusion before even removing it by dissection (rat brains of course).

Just one minor caution- formaldehyde is considered a low level carcinogen- if you use it, then use it in open air and wear gloves. Formaldehyde is technically the gaseous form, so you will probably a liquid solution (called formalin) which also reduces the risk. Still, when you see what it does to your specimens you will realize that you don't want it to happen to your own cells.
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Old 11th March 2016, 02:17 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by The Sparrow View Post
Please don't tell me I bought a piece of crap, I'm still riding the wave of excitement.



http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B005...h_gw_p21_d0_i3



I'm excited to do some first hand viewing of natural biology and such.

I've always wanted one since I was a kid. Got a box of prepared slides too to start me off.



Any other enthusiasts out there? Any good forums I should join?

Any tips or ideas?


Looks like a nice student scope.
I can offer a few tips as I have spent a great deal of time looking through microscopes.

Focusing the light source is very important. That is step one. A well focused light source will give you the best image in a specimen such as the cardiac muscle you showed. When viewing something like live protozoans or algae you may see them better with the light source de focused a bit which will give better contrast.

The next most important tip is to always start with low power, focus, then bring the next higher power objective in, increasing magnification stepwise. It is easy to get lost in a very small area a high power. When in doubt switch back to low power for orientation.


A prepared specimen like the muscle you show is typically 10 microns thick. If you look at high power you will see that even at that thinness there are superimposed features in the cells. You will have a hard time cutting anything that thin by hand. Originally soft material was cut at an angle and only the thin edge was viewed.

Soft tissues must be infiltrated with a support medium, most commonly paraffin, in order to section them thin enough to see cellular structures. This is somewhat laborious and does involve the use of alcohol and organic solvents best used under a fume hood.
Mounting 10 micron thick sections on slides without folding and wrinkling them is also a bit tedious. Typically the sections are floated on a warm water bath and picked up onto gelatin coated glass slides, then dried.

Living tissue is pigmented only sparsely with very specific pigments (melanin, hemoglobin and derivatives, chlorophyll) so you can't see much without adding artificial stains. Basically cell components will be basophilic (chromatin), or acidophilic (cytoplasm). Staining is also an involved process if you are looking for a time consuming hobby.

Hard materials (bone, rock) must be ground down thin enough to transmit light and not have too much superposition of elements.

Things like insects are difficult to look at with a compound microscope. These are better appreciated with a dissecting scope as someone suggested.

The easiest things to look at at home are the protozoans which can collect yourself from pond water or a hay infusion. The little critters can be numerous and are of many different kinds. They do not require staining, just a clear slide and cover glass.

O that reminds me, never put anything on your microscope stage unless it is covered by a cover glass ! The objectives are the most critical part of your microscope and you do not want to soil or scratch them!
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Old 11th March 2016, 08:42 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
Small idea about microtomes. I heard once that a crude but workable microtome could be created from a large nut and bolt, each with a matching fine thread. Back off the bolt until is is almost readily to fall off the nut, place the specimen in the hollow formed by the nut and bolt, add melted wax to embed the specimen and let the wax cool. Then, by gradually tightening the bolt to slightly extrude the wax/specimen, you can use a razor blade to slice off thin pieces which you can fix on a slide, stain them, and view them through the microscope.
Correct!! First time I heard of that was in the early/mid 60s in Popular Science or Mechanics.
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Old 11th March 2016, 08:48 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
Small idea about microtomes. I heard once that a crude but workable microtome could be created from a large nut and bolt, each with a matching fine thread. Back off the bolt until is is almost readily to fall off the nut, place the specimen in the hollow formed by the nut and bolt, add melted wax to embed the specimen and let the wax cool. Then, by gradually tightening the bolt to slightly extrude the wax/specimen, you can use a razor blade to slice off thin pieces which you can fix on a slide, stain them, and view them through the microscope.
It is like this one, this is just more precise: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...f_rd_i=desktop
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