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Making your first slide

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A few more materials

Here's a little picture of some extra things you need to make your first slide. There's one more thing, not shown here, that I'll explain to you in a moment... but first of all, let me talk you through these items. Most of them are easy to obtain from around the house or a local store so don't panic about how you're gonna get them. It's easy!

This is not ordinary water! It is De-ionised water - the type used in car batteries and electric steam irons. You can normally buy it cheaply at a garage or a motor shop or from a super-store. It is perfectly safe in every respect and differs only from normal water by the fact that it is very pure and clear. We're gonna use it to help make a really safe mounting solution. I hope you recall from page1 that this is used to support and hold the specimen in an air-free condition on the glass slide.

Not so safe! I got my glass bits by breaking up a cover slip into smaller pieces. These will be used to hold the cover slip in position just above the specimen, effectively acting as 'spacers' between the glass slide and the cover slip. I'll show you as we progress how you can use something safer than bits of glass to do this.

The jar is very small. We'll use it to make-up and hold the mounting solution we are gonna make. When we make the solution, we will make enough to make loads of slides and since we won't use it all at once, we need a place to keep it.

You could wash out one of those small jars used to hold fish or meat paste. If you don't have one, what about one of those tiny jars you can buy jam in - you know - they look like samples rather than jam jars. Take a look in the larder or fridge and see if you can find a small container you can adapt. You must wash it out properly and make sure it has an air-tight cap or lid.

What are you going to mount? I managed to find a flea on my dog and popped it in a jar while I thought about how I would kill him without hurting him. this is exactly how I found him (her?). By luck, he just went naturally... honestly! I opened the little container the day after I put him in it, and he was just laying there dead. I know you don't believe me so let me show you the evidence.

Some of you may not wish to kill little animals, so why not choose something else like some pollen from a flower, hairs from a nettle, or something else. The smaller the specimen, the easier it will be to make your slide. I'll show you how I mounted pollen and some plant hairs too as part of this lesson so you can see how easy it is.

Our first shared secret: Fructose! This is a type of sugar found naturally in foods like fruit. Natural Health food shops sell it by the box quite cheaply as an altenative to cane sugar. It is useful to us microscopists because it provides a clear sticky liquid, when mixed with the right quantity of water, which by complete coincidence is ideally suited as a mounting medium for a lot of microscopic specimens. It is safe, not toxic, and cheap! It will not enable you to make a slide that will last for ever, but it will allow you to make one which will last at least a year and maybe much longer (a few years) with little deterioration.

There are a few items not shown in the picture. The first is a bottle of nail varnish, the type used by women to paint there nails. You can borrow some from your mum, girlfriend, wife etc., if you don't normally use the stuff yourself. I went out and bought some CLEAR nail varnish rather than be stuck with a coloured one. Yuu will use this to seal the edge of the cover slip to the glass slide.

If you do not wish to use a broken cover slip as a spacer, there is a better way if your specimen is nice and small and flat. You need to purchase some PVA glue from an ART shop. This is that milky-white type glue which drys clear. Its normally used in COLLAGE work to stick bits of card and paper together and is quite cheap to buy.

You will need a small artists type paint brush too. One with a fine narrow point. The one I use has written on it: 000 DALER HP 70, if that helps you at all. You will need two of these if you wish to make a better job of making the slide by using enamel paint: see below!

One more thing which you don't absolutely need (but it helps to make a nice job) is a small tin of ENAMEL PAINT. I'm using some stuff left over from building Airfix plastic models. It's made by Humbrol and comes in a very tiny can and in many different colours. I recommend black or very dark blue. This is used in the very final stage to paint over the narrow band of nail varnish, thereby providing a stronger seal and great protection where the cover slip edges meet and seal with the glass slide.

Once you know what you need from this page, let's move on and get started on making our Fructose Mounting Solution

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