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people are Larry's friends

Fancy having a go yourself with a kit? Great! I found this - it looks good!

Hi there. I'm Larry Legg and I guess if you're dropping by it's because you want to have a go yourself at getting started in Amateur Microscopy. Yup, I know - it's a bit of a mouthful but that's about the worst part of actually getting to grips with this AMAZING past-time. I hope to show you how to get started, and how to get really involved without a lot of fuss, cos - if you're like me - you just want to get stuck in without having to spend hour upon hour learning complex issues bottom up.

Take a note of these symbols and use them to find quick tips on doing things in my pages:-

TIP - The right way of doing it!
Larry shows a SECRET way!
Using HOUSEHOLD stuff!
Speed SKIP to next BIG thing!
DONT MISS this item!
(You click on the button to SKIP boring or non-essential stuff. The other icons are just signposts!)

Making your first slide!

Did you ever make your own slide? You did, huh?! Well, maybe you did or maybe you didn't but what I want to do is tell you here right now how to make a slide using NON-VOLATILE CHEMICALS. I also want to show you how easy it is to make a batch of slides all in one evening.

We've gotta get a few things straight right away though if we're gonna be working together: first of all - I aint no scientist or purist. I like a beer, I like to do a lot of other things besides messing around with looking into small stuff... so if you would prefer to hunt around the web and find yourself a 10 year lesson on how to suss out this Microscopy stuff, then that's fine by me. But I'll tell you something right away, it just aint necessary. If you don't believe me then hang on in thru this first lesson and see how easy it is to make a REAL specimen slide yourself. Now most of the super Amateur Microscopists spend years before they try this so if you stick with me, you'll slip into the fast lane and get your first slide made about 365x quicker than most people and without doing a degree in chemistry.

One more thing... I like to write how I speak so you might find my use and distortion of the old Brit language a bit strange. I hope you stay with me though cos (er... that means 'because') there's lots to learn and I aint the kinda (kind of) guy to hang around doing things slowly.

Let's look at the hard way!

Why have specimen slides?
Some things can be seen straight away under a microscope with little or no preparation. But if you want to KEEP something for a while to see over and over again, you have to give it a place to stay where it will keep without going rotten. That place is on a glass slide, fixed in position, and covered with a glass slip sealed away from the atmosphere.

A lot of very small things just have to be prepared (more on this later) and 'mounted' onto a glass slide to even be able to study them at all: they are just too small or unsuitable for examination by any other means.

Preparation - general
Imagine for a moment that you want to preserve a delicate thing for a period of time; for example - an item of clothing, a boat, a car or something even bigger: a house! As long as any of these objects are exposed to the air, wind, rain, dust, and sunlight they will continue to be affected by interaction with these variable conditions. Let's consider the house. To KEEP it safe and in the same constant condition, we would need to enclose it within something which will act a barrier to all the external things that would slowly transform it. One way would be to put the house in a big container and take all the air out, effectively creating a vacuum inside of it. The container would need to be made of glass or plastic though if we still wish to look at it and enjoy its structure. We might encounter a small problem when removing the air because as it was drawn out of the container, the windows might break due to the sudden rush of air and the forces it creates as it leaves the box.

Another possible solution is to put the house into a glass container and replace the air with something else - a chemical or a solution of some kind which would not react with any of the materials that the house was made of. Some of the problems with this is that the house is made of many different substances: brick, cement, wood, ceramics, glass, paint, etc., Whatever solution used would have to be chemically inert (non-reactive) with a wide range of materials. Also, structures such as bricks, are porous; that is - they contain tiny bubbles of air. Our solution needed to fill the container would have to be able to seep into the tiny spaces in the bricks and push the air out of them. We would have to make certain too that the solution filled the INSIDE of the house or else the pressure from the weight of solution outside would be greater than inside - effectively smashing the windows and possibly distorting the roof structure through pressure and weight.

If we were unable to find a PERFECT solution or liquid to cater for all these problems, we would have to find one which suited best and find additional ways of preventing some of the problems from happening. For example, lets say we had this MAGIC chemical called 'MOUNT-IT' which seemed like it would do most of the things required except it has a peculiar trait of melting paint. Could we use it?

We could, providing we first coat the paint with something which would FIX it so that it would no longer react with our magic 'MOUNT-IT' solution. Possibly a varnish of some kind.

What has all this to do with mounting specimens on a slide?

Well there is NO difference! A tiny, microscopic, thing is itself made of different materials and forms a structure much like (and often more fragile than) our example house. Similar problems exist. Some specimens need hardly any major preparation at all, while others need a lot of work involving various chemical treatments. It is unfortunate that many of these techniques involve substances which are considered likely to cause hazard to health or safety if not used properly.

To make our first slide quickly and safely, I will show you now a way of mounting a wide variety of things using safe commonly found materials which are either completely safe or not so threatening to your health and safety. I also propose to dismiss some aspects of preparation for our first ones knowing that this will create less than perfect specimens for some subjects. Don't worry about this because you'll still create something worthy of looking at time and time again.

Preparation - stages
Just for the record, these are the stages you would normally have to consider in the process of preparing specimens for permanent mounting of PLANT material on glass slides. We will NOT be doing the majority of these when we make our first slides together!


Materials - basic needs!
You need some glass slides. After all is said and done, you can't escape this requirement. Glass has a 'see-through' trait despite the fact that it is considered a material that can easily cut and cause injury. You just have to be careful how you handle it. You also need cover slips. These wafer thin 'slips' of glass will be used to cover the specimens you place on the larger glass slides. I'm currently using cover slips which are 22mm square and glass specimen slides 76mmm long, 21mm wide, and 1mm thick (3 x 1 inch).

Where do you get 'em from?

Well this is the part where you just have to contact a small company that sells them. You can't pick them up from your local shop so you need to order some. We have some of these small businesses in our Professional Services Section so take a look in there first.

If any of you know some place in your country where you can get glass slides and cover slips from, let me know! and I'll update this page to give a more comprehensive list.

You need a bit more stuff to get going but I'm gonna show you now how to use things easily available. So as soon as you're ready Let's move on to the next page!

Ask Larry something

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