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Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:50 pm
by charlie
What do you think of this microtome? LAB MICROSCOPY HAND CYLINDER MICROTOME IN BOX ... fresh=true
It can be had for $40 delivered - It looks nicer to me than the $32 delivered one from Amazon. ... XX1GIAJ28F

As a noob, either should be all I am likely to need for a long time correct? :-)


Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:13 am
by mrsonchus
No contest Charlie - the grisly-looking glorified nut & bolt on Amazon looks absolutely laughable! The other for $40(US) appears to be a substantial and good 'handful' of a microtome. It also has a stainless-steel knife and is the kind that grips the subject as well as advancing it up the cylinder for successive sections. The top-plate looks sound. Personally, I'd jump at one - at that price you really can't go wrong Charlie.
Good luck, it looks spot-on to me. :D

p.s. - As far as all you'll need, maybe, but, as you start to enjoy making sections you may just end up on the road to full-blown sectioning and slide making! :D I started with a very similar hand microtome, was seduced by a rocking-microtome and now have a 40kg Shandon rotary microtome sitting on my now reinforced desk! :D :D

Good times await you Charlie - go get that $40 one. :)


Posted: Wed Nov 25, 2015 3:36 am
by charlie
Thanks for your thoughts John. I was kind of partial to the one that looks like a micrometer vs the bolt-like one too. :-)

I have read about some of your adventures. You really have come far and fast! I don't understand what you do with bunches of samples? Seems like it would take too much time to examine so many?


Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 12:48 am
by mrsonchus
One can never have too many samples! :D Hussar! :D

I use a lot for simply practice of technique, my interest lies in the comparative morphology and anatomy of British wildflowers - in the context of systematics and taxonomy. This type of comparative work is greatly aided by extended series of sections that enable a 'boring down' into a subject as seen for example in my posts re Sonchus flower-heads. Also of course specimens may be preserved at several stages, the 'wet' stage in fixative, the embedded stage as a wax-block containing tissue or the sectioned and 'still in the wax' dried onto a slide prior to de-waxing and further processing condition, and of course as permanently stained and mounted slides.
I have a great love of slide sets/series - say for example a set of 20-30 slides taken progressively through a root in XS, or my recent LS of Sonchus stems to reveal successive layers of vascular tissue...

The list is endless, the enjoyment equally so! :D

I've also got several aphids in such a 'wet stage' that I'm going to attempt several different techniques with when I get the chance, whole-mount would be a good start then maybe even a full-blown sectioning.... I need to read a bit first though, I've very little experience with non-botanical subjects, and only about 9 months experience with those! :D Great fun, great challenges, the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, the beautiful end-products - a good stained and mounted slide is a beautiful thing, especially when it's one of your own! :D

Get sectioning Charlie, you may find yourself on a rollercoaster-ride! :D

Here's a hand-section I cut with a microtome like the one you are considering.. They can give very good results easily.
ws_enhanced_aloe_leaf_stitch.jpg (164.43 KiB) Viewed 6037 times
This was very simple to cut, and in many ways easily as good as if not preferable to the paraffin-sections I also cut and mounted of Aloe leaf..
If you then go on to add some simple stains.... the rest is history!

'I love the smell of Histoclear in the morning - smells like histology!'... :D


Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 3:09 am
by Dale
A pox on you, now my paypal acct is empty, but I'll have a good microtome. Do you have
any recollection on the thickness of that aloe sample?
Future sectioner,


Posted: Thu Nov 26, 2015 1:54 pm
by mrsonchus
Aha! Good man Dale! :D Let the slicing begin! :D

Hmm, the thickness, I'm really not sure but maybe between 100-200µ if I had to estimate. Hand-sectioning has a slightly different goal to paraffin-wax embedded sections in that the overall morphology is most evident and desired, as in my section. The original colours are also obviously present and the tissue is to a large extent still alive and as a result cytoplasmic flows etc may be observed with practice if desired.

It can be seen in my section that the gelatinous-core of the (succulent) Aloe leaf is entirely present and visible - this isn't the case with the fully processed histological sections. In a nutshell the thicker and living tissue from a hand microtome gives a different perspective to that of the paraffin-wax sections that I cut between about 4µ and 15µ (a good range for botanicals).

Remember also that it is entirely possible and honestly quite easy to permanently-mount hand sections onto slides for virtually permanent collection and leisurely perusal! Every time I revisit my slides I discover something new - I often 'wander about' a slide because new details and information always 'pop up', especially as each time I return to my slides I have the benefit of more knowledge (hopefully :) ).

Here are a couple of examples, some close-ups of the hand section,
ws_700x525_aloe_leaf_xs-4.jpg (89.73 KiB) Viewed 6025 times
and vasculature also visible,
websize_vessels_in_aloe_leaf.JPG (160.34 KiB) Viewed 6025 times
These are from the paraffin-wax sections for comparison,
The sections straight from the microtome before de-waxing and processing,
ws_700x525_DSCN2073.jpg (61.32 KiB) Viewed 6025 times
This could be though of as an equivalent 'overall' view as seen of a fully processed, sectioned, stained and mounted sample,
ws_x4_aloe_leaf_xs.jpg (127.13 KiB) Viewed 6025 times
As you can see, the hand sections have very different and perhaps more beautiful properties to the 10 & 16µ versions.

A little staining can really bring out details too - have a look at my posts on hand sectioning, there are lots of pictures and examples of what may be achieved.

Good luck! :D

p.s. shame you're in the US, I've just decided to sell my rocking-microtome as I now have a rotary.. You'll start looking at rockers soon after starting with the hand microtome..........that's what happened to me!
Enjoy! :D


Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:29 pm
by charlie
3x1024.jpg (257.13 KiB) Viewed 6002 times
I sure am glad I didn't order "the bolt" This thing is pretty sweet looking - even a purple felted box for it! :-)

Can anyone explain the function of the brass spring clip?


Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 10:07 pm
by mrsonchus
That's a nicely built bit of kit - and so reasonably-priced! erm.... I can't really see a brass spring clip, which bit is it? :oops:
You my friend are in for a treat! Start with something very likely to turn out well, perhaps a medium-firm stem such as a young Geranium etc, remember you can put a tight bunch into it and 'cherry-pick' the best sections, usually from the middle of the bunch put in...

Good luck, let us know how it goes, it's exciting to see how you get on at your beginning! :D


Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2015 11:35 pm
by charlie
Thanks for the encouragement John. I am looking forward to finally getting started too!

The brass spring clip:


Posted: Tue Dec 01, 2015 12:05 am
by mrsonchus
Perhaps it just stops the piston/clamp falling out if the side-screw is undone all the way?

Looks a good buy - great to give it a try! :)


Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 4:33 am
by Interference
I can't work out where the spring clip is in relation to the rest. Perhaps it just holds the parts in tension . Is there a "click" when you turn the adjuster? Is it for that?

I have a simple thing which is one up from a bolt, which clicks at 10 micron increments. This one -older version anyway.

There are currently 2 rotary 'tomes on ebay at about $120. Shipping to UK not specified :lol:
The Swift one looks to be in good nick.

The knife with yours looks nice. I'm a bit surprised that normal designs don't have a lateral movement on the knife blade, Surely they'd cut better? A rotary or to and fro motion on the blade holder wouldn't be very hard to achieve, given the complexity of some of the machines. There are Vibrotomes of course.

I admire your sections John, but without any bio knowledge I doubt I'll get far. "Carrot" I know, but what's "pith"? I thought it was for making Victorian explorers' helmets!


Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 5:21 am
by billbillt
" Pith" is what you say when it does not work!.... :lol:



Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:17 am
by Interference

Now then Bill, I am rather of the opinion that you are taking it.

I was referring to the Brunel description:
The section platform has a smooth and durable surface with a four inch diameter cutting area. The unit is ideally suited for producing hand cut sections of botanical material where the specimen is supported by carrot wedges or pith rather than paraffin wax processing.
Whencefrom com'st thou, O Pith?

I obviously have a thing about "tools to do things with". Something in the psyche; warm fuzzies from being able to say "I could do that".
(The depression bit doesn't happen, as long as one doesn't actually try it. I might rest, easy, with that knowledge.)

It occurs to me that a microtome is like a sewing machine - needle as the knife, foot as the feed.
The parallel is nestling on a mind-shelf for the day when Wave asks, "What the hell have you got that for?"

There's a thought - would a zigzagging knife make a cleaner cut? Could the feed be reduced?

"Wave dearest, do you use that sewing machine...?"


Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:22 am
by Interference
The spring - :idea: is it to push up on the piston, to take up the play in the screw thread?
Otherwise the cutting of the knife could tend to press the piston in, or more likely pull it out, and you'd get (more) erratic thicknesses.


Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:06 pm
by charlie
A bit of a necro thread but here is a better image I hope. It is clear the spring clip is designed to hold an object against the scalloped piston but I can't envision how that object relates to the piece being sectioned. Presumably the actual piece being sectioned is the diameter of the piston. For instance, if a carrot the diameter of the piston is being pushed up to be sliced, is the bottom of the carrot cut toughly in half and forced into the scalloped piece to be held? If so, that spring clip wouldn't raise enough to apply pressure to anything nearly as large as that.


Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:29 am
by Interference
Still can't really make out what's where. Could the spring hold a stem against the toothed edge?


Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 12:43 am
by billben74
Not sure if you really want to know but...
Pith is the central part of the stem of a plant.
Truth is I think your better off with carrot sticks anyway.
I tried a hand microtome with cork as well, but that was lame as it wasn't firm enough.

Charlie (and all)
I echo John B's sentiments... Join the sectioning guild.
I skipped and jumped to Slicer, John B's microtome's sister.

But there are nice things you can see with the hand microtome e.g. spiraling xylem in depth.

Here is another, diy, option from the late great Walter Dionoi ... icera.html

Get slicing...


Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 1:34 am
by Interference
Pith is the central part of the stem of a plant.
Well sure, but the Brunel's piston is 30mm diameter or so , so you'd need to take a lot of, er, elderberry plant.

Baobabs are fast growing and pithy, but the last one I saw was in Madagascar ;)

I think your thing may have a smaller piston? There's a Ranvier type on the net which has an 11mm hole. You will find an instruction pdf, but it's poor.

If you follow this link: ... 183&t=1093
you'll see la méthode carrottistique :) and carry on to the last post, where there are links to other thread with pictures.
Note that in one of those there's a picture of a superior looking Reichert tool, which appears to have TWO of your grippy, moon shaped inserts.

Styrodur, mentioned there, is a form of something like expanded polystyrene
as: Image

Something which they describe is the cutting blade edge, which does NOT have a sharpened lower face such as a razor blade would have. It is either flat or concave (hollow ground). That makes sense, one would not want to compress the face of the next slice, while cutting.


Posted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 10:29 pm
by einman
I purchased the one on E-bay several months ago. It is very nice for the money.