Happy New Year! What will 2022 hold for us I wonder? For me there will certainly be more microscopes and plenty of lacquer. By the end of the year I should have completed my MA in preventive conservation too. I have been doing my MA part time and the first year went very well, my grades were good and I enjoyed it. I know more about relative humidity and antique conservation than I ever wanted to know and I am currently obsessing over the relative humidity in my workshop.
When the workshop was first built it had a few small leaks, the relative humidity was too high and mould developed around the edges of the room. I started monitoring the temperature and relative humidty and I bought a small dehumidifier which helped a great deal. Recently my dehumidifer broke down so I have a new one (a Meaco DD8L) which is much more energy efficient and generally more snazzy. Rather than running constantly like my old one did, it takes a sample of the air every 30 minutes and turns on if necessary saving a great deal of electricity. It certainly does what it says. You can see the humidity gradually increase and then drop again as the machine switches on. My humidity sensor is reading about 5% too low, but you get the idea.
Brass and Glass has a new snazzy website with a new snazzy logo. I’m very pleased with it, I think it looks a bit smarter and it feels more personalized and special now.
My husband is the bearer of a coat of arms (technically his father is the current bearer, but let’s not split hairs). The Thoyts coat of arms consists of gold stars (mullets) on an azure background. In heraldry, the stars originally represented a knight’s spurs although it isn’t always the case. The symbol for the planet Venus is also present and it is unclear what meaning this has, if indeed it has any meaning at all. The meanings of heraldic symbols can be bad puns, their meanings can be lost in time or sometimes they are only there because they look good. The crest is a heath-cock (grouse) rising with the Venus symbol on its chest.
Through marriage the Thoyts family combined their coat of arms with that of the Burfoot family, and I have loosely based my logo on this. My family does not have a coat of arms because I come from a long line of non-conformist peasants, so for my contribution to the new coat of arms I substituted the Burfoot stars for microscopes while keeping the black background. I’m sure the Burfoots would be horrified.
Click on the thumbnails below to see the progression of the Coat of Arms
Here’s the before and after pictures of a microscope I have just finished, a Beck folding binocular microscope. It wasn’t in terrible condition but where it may have got damp at some point because the metal was quite pitted, especially where the lacquer was lost.
Here is the same microscope afterwards, the dark patches are gone, as are the green patches of corrosion. It hasn’t lost all signs of age but it looks much better than it did. The stage clips and the edges of the fine focus knob have been silvered
This is Ernie, he’s a Reichert and he used to work in milk testing. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of him before lacquering. He had some deep scratches. I wasn’t able to get all of them out on the tube because of the enormous amount of engraving on the tube but I managed to get the really bad ones out of the foot.
I did take one picture of Ernie before he was lacquered, just the foot. I took the picture because I was impressed by the difference in colour between the faded and unfaded areas. Where the upright was attached to the foot, no light could penetrate resulting in a dramatic colour difference.
Never, in the history of microscopes has a microscope given me so much trouble. I don’t know why but this piece of a Reichert just did not want to be lacquered. I did it again and again and again. It ran, it dripped, it missed bits. I tried using cloths, pads, brushes, foam, I tried hot, warm and cold metal. The thing was out to get me.
It happens sometimes, you just have a bad day, but the good thing about lacquering microscopes is that if you mess it up you can just take the lacquer off and redo it. Not that that is much comfort on the third day of trying having used up 100 mls of lacquer.
I got there in the end. The Reichert (whose name is Ernie) is now my friend again. Now for the trickier bits.
This Oberhauser drum microscope needed a new mirror and a new condenser. The condenser arm and holder have been made using a coping saw and hand files and special screws were made which allow the condenser arm to be repositioned whilst remaining firm. The condenser mount was made on the lathe. It just needs painting olive green now to match the rest of the microscope. It can be removed and fits neatly into the box with the rest of the microscope as the original would have done.
This microscope does not need any relacquering as the original lacquer is still 99% intact. I have taken some pictures using the microscope – one is of a xylophyte stem and the other is of radiolarians.
The Pillischer is coming along, as you can see I haven’t done the tube holder or bar yet because I have problems with them. The tube holder has been attacked with a wrench at some point and is distorted so that the tube is extremely stiff. I am not entirely sure how to sort it out. You can get the tube in and out but it takes the strength of Atlas.
There’s a spring missing from the fine focus mechanism too so that will have to be replaced. At least the paint is off. That took a lot of sandpaper and hard work.
This one is going to take a long time for a small microscope. A Pillischer International, the serial number is 2905 for those that have records of such things. It’s my own microscope and I can only imagine I decided self torture was cool on the day I bought it. It has been spray painted a copper pink colour. The spray painter did quite a good job in that they took the microscope to pieces (mostly) but the paint has etched the surface really badly and stained it too. The metal is so badly damaged that I have spent a day just on the foot.
I have had to be quite aggressive, I have stripped the paint off with paint stripper and then I have filed the metal and used 600 grit sandpaper. I would usually not use such harsh abrasives. That was just enough to remove the last traces of paint. Once I had removed the paint I used pumice and rouge as normal. There are still some flaws in the metal but I have to console myself with the fact that the flaws are part of its history.
I have only done the foot so far. My hands are aching from polishing so it’s time for a break.
This Henry Crouch had been converted from monocular to binocular at some point in its history but the additional tube had never been lacquered. The lacquer on the original tube was mostly intact apart from a few knocks and bumps so it was only necessary to lacquer the one, unlacquered tube. The original lacquered tube was a beautiful colour, a rich yellow with a hint of chocolate brown. I was somewhat surprised when I saw this microscope because I have never seen such an eye catching colour before. The photos don’t do it justice, in some lights it appears chocolate brown and in other lights it appears yellow. I did wonder if I would be able to match the colour when I first saw it but the use of aniline dye made it much simpler than I first feared. Henry Crouch microscopes often used aniline dyes. The rest of the microscope was lacquered with yellow, a lovely two-tone specimen.
The microscope was missing an aperture wheel and tensioning screws for the rack. The mirror gimbal was broken in two (held together with string) and the mirror holder was thin and cracked. I made new screws, stage clips, an aperture wheel and a mirror gimbal and holder. The stage had lost all its colour so that was blackened and the foot which had peeling paint on it was stripped and chemically blackened as it would have been originally. The rack now moves as it should and it looks very smart indeed. The before and after pictures are below
Just some quick before and after pictures of the Watson Edinburgh I did this week. It just needed new lacquer, no spare parts. As always, I made the lacquer myself from turmeric and shellac and applied it by hand. No spray guns, no nitrocellulose lacquer.