Lots of people ask me where they can buy an adjustable pin wrench to undo the screws often seen on the pivot point of a microscope. Here’s my top tool recommendation. You will need two, one for each side.
This is a Watson Edinburgh that has been mistreated. I have taken it apart now and starting removing the traces of old lacquer with ultrafine wire wool and ethanol. Once that is complete I will have to decorrode and polish. I have recruited my husband to help me with thepolishing.
The Watson Edinburgh doesn’t need any new parts, the rack and pinion are fine and no screws are missing. It’s all down to the lacquer. I’m not going to to much to the foot or other chemically blackened areas, just a clean for them.
Let’s see what we can do for this little one…
The Ross has turned out well, it had heavy pitting and took a lot of work. As you can see it does not look brand new, it still has signs of its age. The Ross was polished entirely by hand before lacquering. It needed several new screws at the rear and on the bar of the microscope as the original metal used contained a lot of lead which shears easily.
This is a complex microscope, every single screw was hand made to fit each screw hole. The left hand screw of a pair is not interchangeable with the right hand screw so it was important to write down and photograph where each and every screw came from as the microscope was taken apart. I’m a big fan of standardisation but that came later.
Not all of the screws were put in straight either! The legs which should be interchangeable, being identical shapes, were not interchangeable as whoever made the microscope screwed one of the screws in at an angle of about 20 degrees. Nobody could ever argue this was anything but completely handmade. A handmade microscope deserves hand polishing and hand lacquering. I have a new respect for (and a few new grudges against) Mr Ross.
The only parts I have not relacquered is the Wenham Prism. The heat involved in hot lacquering could easily damage the prism so it’s best left as it is. The mirror being very chunky acts as a great heat sink so I was able to relacquer that.
The Spencer is complete. If you recall, this poor Spencer had been spray painted black from top to bottom including the condenser, objectives and brass areas. It was quite a job to remove the spray paint and restore this but I’m really very pleased with it. The new paint is not perfect but it is much improved. The spray paint had been removed from the condenser iris and that is now moving smoothly and all in all it looks and functions very well. The knobs and brass areas had the spray paint removed and were relacquered with a rather lovely deep gold colour. My family are quite taken with it and they are usually somewhat immune to the charms of microscopes.
I just need to make a mirror for it, that’s on the to do list.
I’m working my way up, almost everything is lacquered now but there are quite a few broken or missing screws that need replacing. These screws are not made to any standard I can find. Not completely surprising given the age of the microscope. Machinists often set their lathes up at x threads per inch and made everything at that pitch regardless of the size of the screw or what it was doing. Makes it a real pig to make new ones. Standardization is a blessing.
The stage is now lacquered – an odd thing to do but it was definitely lacquered originally. Just a few bits and bobs left. Not that this means it will be swift!
Slowly but surely the Ross is coming together, literally. I have reassembled the base. It’s much shiner now. You can see that it is not going to look “as new” the pitting is too deep, and I don’t want to destroy all signs of its history by sanding it heavily. In this case to do so would be to remove enormous amounts of metal and it is really not possible. To get the name plate to a perfect finish would result in the removal of the engraving which obviously would be foolish. The pitting is still present in places but the corrosion has been treated so it should be good for another 100 years. There’s still lots to do though and this microscope is definitely one of the worst I’ve done, it’s in a worse state than my experimental Dunscombe which was black all over when I got it. Each piece is taking hours of work. It is enormously satisfying though when it starts to take shape. Onward and upward – the tubes are already done so really I’m heading middle-ward, to the REALLY tricky bits.
This Ross Wenham Prism microscope has come to me to be relacquered. It was actually a lot worse than it first appeared, the pitting is very deep and it has taken hours and hours of work to get the microscope into a suitable state for lacquering. It isn’t finished yet but
I have got the first coat of lacquer on the legs. Pictures below show the before, the microscope taken apart and after the first coat of lacquer. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with this one.
Work on the Spencer jug handled microscope continues. The final coat of paint is on and once that is polished up I can get on with the bit I like – lacquering.
I was asked to make a new nosepiece for a Hartnack microscope which would enable the owner to use RMS objectives as he finds Hartnack objectives very fiddly. The Hartnack has a small diameter male Thury thread whereas the RMS is a larger female Whitworth thread. The nosepiece maintains the tube length but the Harnack has an adjustable tube length anyway and the new nose piece works just fine. As you can see there is quite a difference in the width where the objective attaches. The new RMS nosepiece looks a little clumsy compared to the original.
Oh the poor little Verick! In a photograph there didn’t seem much wrong with this Verick apart from the total lack of lacquer but it had serious issues. The Tube holder was stuck fast, the tube was stuck fast in the tube holder and it took several hours to get it all unstuck. The cause? Brasso. Don’t use brasso on your microscopes, it removes the lacquer and clogs up the moving parts it’s like glue. Below is a picture of the aperture ring which was also stuck fast and what it looked like inside when I finally got it apart.
There is hope though, if you can get the microscope apart the brasso can be removed quite easily. Here is the little Verick before and after lacquering, all parts are now moving smoothly and it is ready to return home.