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
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.
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 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
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.
The Merz has an interesting design, and not one I have seen before. Most microscopes of this age and style have a solid round bar through which a triangular bar passes. The triangular bar has a screw at one end and a spring at the other and it’s a very effective, simple fine focus mechanism.
The Merz has a rather different set up – it also has a triangular block with a screw at one end and a spring at the other, but instead of passing through a round bar, the triangular block passes through another triangular piece. The outer triangle is constructed from pieces of flat brass which have been joined together by brazing – this might explain why Merz painted these parts rather than lacquering them I think. Using brazed pieces of brass would have saved a lot of wastage and money and it would easily have been strong enough.
A “typical” round Baker fine focus block on the left, the Merz brazed, triangular fine focus mechanism on the right.
Travel could only have occurred in a small area. The solid triangular bar has a cut out area and a small bar is inserted through the corner of the brazed piece which acts as a stop. The pictures make it much easier to understand.
I have so many lovely microscopes that need work and I am like a child in a sweet shop, I don’t know which to do first! I’m overwhelmed with wonderful choices and I need to make a decision. I would like to get something underway this week. I have a beautiful double pillar microscope which needs a screw making and a bit of a clean but I don’t really think it needs re-lacquering. Do let me know if you agree/disagree with this opinion. I enjoy re-lacquering more than anything else so I shall probably leave the double pillar for another day when I’m in more of a making screws mood.
I have the Merz which is simple to do and in need of lacquering, I have “the Beast” which is huge and will take many months to do. a selection of small Hartnacks and the like and a rather nice jug handled microscope which has been painted completely black and really needs some love. When I say it has been painted black, I mean completely painted black – even the objectives. Poor little thing.
I think I’ll start with the Merz and then move on to the jug handled microscope. Decision made. If I don’t post pictures of a dismantled microscope tomorrow feel free to come and beat me with a big stick.
There are lots of pictures to look at today, I have been putting the little Merz under the microscope to check whether it was painted brown or whether it was chemically coloured and then lacquered. I compared the brown foot of the Merz with chemically blackened areas on the Merz and with the paint and lacquer of a very old Reichert that I had to hand. I also looked at a microscope I lacquered myself to see how my lacquering compares to the masters! I used a trinocular Olympus SZ stereomicroscope and a Canon EOS 1100D
First, two pictures of the brown areas on the Merz. Click thumbnails to enlarge.
The picture of the left shows what a small scraping of the “paint” looks like. This scraping was made near the area of corrosion which will have to be replaced anyway. The picture on the right show some intact “paint”
It certainly looks like paint although it is an extremely thin layer. For comparison here are another two pictures. On the left, a chemically blackened area on the Merz, on the right the paint on the foot of a Reichert.
BELOW: The rather interesting pattern made in the “paint” by the corrosion is shown on the left, in the centre is the lacquer on a lovely old reichert and on the right is some of my own lacquering. I’m pleased to say that the surface looks correct. the underlying metal on the piece I did is in worse shape but that is to be expected. It was heavily corroded when I got it. I wouldn’t have needed to lacquer it if it had been in the same condition as the Reichert.
I’m thinking that the microscope was painted, I can see brush marks in one area which also makes me think it was painted rather than chemically coloured/lacquered but it is quite hard to be sure. It could be that the chemical colouring has somehow soaked into the lacquer and coloured it. I may have to consult Henley’s 20th century recipes to check a few old methods of chemically colouring brass before I start doing anything drastic.
I wish I had a mass spectrometer. I asked my husband, he said he’d put it on the shopping list and that as long as they have them in Tesco he’ll get me one.
Pb or not Pb? that is the question. Pb is the chemical symbol for lead, today I shall be talking about lead. Hilarious aren’t I? ( please don’t answer that).
I have a new baby to work on. You can see below that it has a patch of corrosion on the foot which has to be treated before if spreads. I shall treat it with a gentle rust remover, sand the area and prime before painting. Here’s the tricky bit – I like to use ingredients and techniques that are as authentic as possible. I am pretty sure that the original maker would have used a lead oxide primer. I can’t buy lead oxide primer and although I can buy lead oxide powder, it is very expensive and it’s not a clever thing to be working with. Also, the chances of me ingesting some are quite high, because I tend to lick things if I don’t have a damp cloth to hand. I shall be using a commercially available non-ferrous metals primer instead, it won’t show underneath the paint anyway. Interestingly, I can see brush marks in the original paintwork so they weren’t being all that fussy.
I shall be starting on it as soon as some brown paint pigments arrive from my chums at Ingilby. I need to mix my own paint for this one. For a bog standard black and chrome 1950s – 1970’s microscope I tend to use black enamel paint. either Japlac or a reasonably high temperature coach enamel, sometimes with lacquer on top, sometimes not. This baby is special, it is also much older than 1950 and painted brown not black. Below is my paint mixing kit: pigments, linseed oil, a large ground glass sheet and a muller. Hopefully the brown pigments will arrive tomorrow.