The Novitiate’s Odyssey

Episode Five - Part 1: The Ethics of Medical Homicide and Mutilation

by G. Joseph Wilhelm, Florida Keys, USA


( Editor's note: Previous episodes - part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. )

It is a catchy title. Comes from a 1919 book by Austin O’Malley, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D. It’s an interesting if rather narrowly reasoned philosophically opined treatise on morality, human existence, and natural law of ultimate right and wrong, all of my favorite subjects. And while the subject matter is not the main thrust of this essay (I just used the title to get your attention, you know, the bait and switch routine. No ethics intended.), you can read the entire book at Yes, yes I agree, I have no shame.

But as long as you are here, allow me to present my intended discourse.

In the past few months my microscopy related progress forward has become rather torpid due to circumstances (i.e. summer here, when seat belt buckles become branding irons and steering wheels so hot you realize a car can be driven with just two fingers). The orange crop is done and while we are waiting on the bananas to ripen there are major renovations underway to my combination office/den/study/mini-museum/library/lab room. The installation of four additional display cases and hinged pull out book shelves built into the wall has, for the past two months, left my usually comfortably tranquil sanctuary an abominably chaotic and disordered example of mayhem. This, combined with my wife’s re-landscaping of the outside entertainment area, has left me with precious little time to devote to insouciant sarcasm and furthering my microscopy infatuation with a retro era suite of microscopes & accessories. Not to say there hasn’t been some modicum of impetus.

For the six individuals I know for certain that actually read my drivel, I have prepared a two-part update of my continuing crusade towards microscopy excellence. Part-1 includes a review of aftermarket objectives, and eyepieces for the Zeiss and Spencer Stereo Scope, and a trinocular head for the Zeus system. Part-2 consists of presumably astute comments / observations on education, slide making with common sense use of toxic materials and proper treatment for analogy sufferers.

The Zeus System Improvements

My Argus illuminated Zeiss GFL is now a living breathing entity. There were some condenser clearance issues with my homemade stage (Episode 3), solved by winning the eBay lottery and purchasing a real Zeiss GFL rotating stage for a ridiculously low bid. It has centering adjustments but no degree scale.

Fig. 1

This is the stage obtained by what I am certain now are superior bidding skills.

Still, my homemade stage has some advantages to the Zeiss so I machined off the offending metal and am now looking for a suitable method of applying a degree scale (any suggestions are welcome). Once this is accomplished I believe it will be as versatile or maybe more so than the Zeiss stage.

The objectives of my desire

From my readings I believe it is generally agreed the most important parts of any microscopic system start with the objectives, then eyepieces and the focus mechanism and finally lighting.

For a less than superior stand the easiest and most economically reasonable performance enhancement is with the lighting. Many innovative and practical solutions abound in the Micscape lighting category that precludes spending hundreds of dollars. The slide projector solution (Episode 3) yielded very satisfactory results by placing two plates of fine ground glass where the slide would normally go and making sure the projector lens kept them slightly out of focus. I placed a surplus Spencer condenser iris immediately in front of the lens as a field diaphragm and was able to get absolutely uniform illumination across the field of view from 4x to 60x. This is a 100-watt source and the internal optics are heat (IR) absorbing but before I do anything more than test set ups I intend to put a UV filter in the optical train. A household dimmer switch currently controls the brightness but future plans call for a number of neutral density filters to minimize color temperature change. (Someone please tell me if I am talking thru my hat about this.) Future plans also call for a homemade light using the components from a 500-watt Argus projector. (Or as Mr. Frithjof Sterrenburg has named it “The Argus hellfire lighting system.”)

On the other end of the performance amplification spectrum, the most dramatic augmentation comes with spending obscene amounts on new, or even used, optical components. Below (Fig 2) are the objectives I currently had to putz around with, one Bushnell 4x, two no-name DIN 100x and 40x (anyone recognize the trademark?) a JIS no-name 20x and the only for certain quality one, a Leitz 3.5x. All of them are achromats.

Fig. 2 and Fig 2a

A real hodgepodge of optics

The GFL obviously deserved better but my dilemma was manifold. New or used, Achro, Semi Plan or Plan Achro, Zeiss brand, other brand or aftermarket no name, rational price limitations??? The only thing that was decided for me was they had to be DIN as the arm would not focus down far enough to use JIS objectives. Do I really need the $500,000 Ferrari (Read as: Full set of Zeiss Plan Apochromats in pristine condition) or the Ford Escort (Set of four quality aftermarket Achromats)? What about proper eyepiece match-up? I decided to forge ahead using the ABM (Alphonso Bedoya mindset, see Episode 1) and get what I thought was right.

I could not find a source for new Zeiss 160mm TL objectives (They only make infinity corrected anymore?). A quick look on eBay for Zeiss brand showed 116 objectives of various types with only a few to prehend my interest. Two plan apochromats in rough shape for $499 ea, three plan achromats for premium prices of which two were in Russia/Bulgaria. This with the nagging reminder that these objectives may be subject to delaminating and the chance they may not be par center steered me towards the after market new. I began a search for DIN Plan/160 objectives.

Now I have to admit to some phobias about purchasing “precision” manufactured items from countries other than those with established reputations relating to the particular item i.e. optics from Germany, watches from Switzerland, Samurai swords from Japan, whiskey from Tennessee etc. I was therefore encouraged by Mr. Robert Pavlis’ splendid article on microscope component compatibility (Micscape April 2010) where, if I may quote, he states:

Recently many objectives of Chinese origin have become available, usually they are sold for quite low prices. Many of these are DIN objectives of very high quality. They very often do not carry a manufacturer's mark. The quality tends to vary from extremely high to poor.”

I found four viable sites for the objectives described above, two of which offered what appeared to be the same objectives Mr. Pavlis had in the pictures of his scopes shown in his article. Here is the comparison:


SMS Optical Co. (USA)

Offer Plan DIN 2x, 4x, 10x, 20x, 40x, 50x, 60x, and 100x.

Sold individually. A set of four, the 4x, 10x, 40x and 100x = $472.00 + shipping.

Not the same as Mr. Pavlis’


Precision World / Amscope (USA)

Offer Plan DIN 4x, 10x, 40x and 100x

Sold individually. Above set of four = $351.98 Free shipping.

Appear the same as Mr. Pavlis’


Microscopes India (India)

Offer Plan DIN 4x, 10x, 40x, and 100x.

Sold as a set only = $199.00 offer 98% flat field. Free shipping

Not the same as Mr. Pavlis’


Microscopenet (Canada)

Offer Plan DIN 4x, 10x, 20x, 40x, 60x, 100x, (and a 2x Semi-Plan)

Sold individually or as a set of four 4x, 10x, 40x, 100x $202.00 Free shipping

Appear same as Mr. Pavlis’ and identical to those offered by Precision World.

The Canucks won hands down and even though I was taking a chance, I could get my money back. I ordered the set of four.

I placed the 4x, 10x, 40x and my original achromat 40x in the nosepiece. Some Konus prepared slides (absolutely horrid quality but all I had) were used as sample objects, the Argus illumination was adjusted, and I took the objectives for a test ride. It is now that I must offer my mea culpa for not having photographic attestation to the following observations but this was done weeks ago and with the current construction underway all of my delicate instruments have been safely but temporarily inaccessibly stored.

The objectives appeared to be excellent. Crisp imaging and running thru the gears from 4x to 40x required extremely minimal fine focus adjustments indicating excellent parfocal performance as well as minimal mechanical stage adjustments, which attest to the parcenter precision. Side by side comparison to my 40x achromat showed an in-focus image to the edge of the field of view and better color correction. Yup, happy camper here. I immediately ordered the 20x Plan and the 60x Plan and upon arrival was rewarded with the same level of quality and efficacy. I was not yet predisposed to preview the 100x capabilities but suspect it will be of no less quality of function. I also bought the 2x Semi Plan just…because. I am tempted to purchase the SMS 2x Plan as the odd man out because parfocal and parcenter capabilities are not as critical at such low power. Final tally was six Plan objectives plus a Semi Plan for under $400.00.

Fig. 3

By all appearances a quality set of objectives

The Spencer Model 26 LF Greenough Binocular Stereoscopic Dissecting Wide Field Low Power Microscope Improvements

Ah yes, a delightful instrument. Ever since Episode 2, while dealing with the snails pace of the Zeus System development, I have been using it to bond with the entomological civilization that I must share the interior, exterior and air that constitutes my commorancy. These and other minute objects in the proximity of my domicile have provided me with immense enjoyment. No fuss, no muss, no slides, just murder the little grubbers and put them on the stage. I really cannot say enough about this scope. Spencer made a quality instrument, versatile, excellent optics, and a wide range of magnifications, user serviceable and uses the same eyepieces as my Zeiss. Mine was a 26 LA without a revolving nosepiece.

Spencer made quite a few variants of this microscope. The basic stand model #s were the 23, 25, 26 and 28. The vertical head models had a single letter suffix of A, B, C, F or G, depending on which combination of a revolving or non-revolving nosepiece, objectives and eyepieces you desired. The inclined head models placed an L to the suffix i.e. LA, LB, LC etc. Paired objectives were available in magnifications of .7x, 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 6x and 8x. Eyepieces were offered in 9x, 12x, 15x and 18x. A comprehensive explanation with illustrations can be viewed on the AO Blue Book .pdf on Gordon Couger's excellent reference site: .

In my humble opinion this is probably the most underrated stereoscopic stand on the used market. I wanted to elevate the capabilities of my current stand so I pursued the additional paired objectives originally offered by Spencer and received some pleasant surprises.

As with the Zeiss objectives no new offerings were available, only used, and no new after market options were procurable. So vintage Spencer it had to be. How much is reasonable for a microscope objective? The compound objectives range from about $50 to $150 and the new stereo-microscope auxiliary lenses were from about $50 to $65 so with that in mind as parameters here is what I have concluded.

These Spencer paired objectives were available on eBay with a little patience. The gaps in my heterogeneous collection were the .7x, 2x, 4x, 6x and 8x. An eBay search under “Spencer Microscope” yielded the following:

A Spencer paired 2x objective. The good part; it was a “'Buy it Now'” price of $45. The better part; It came attached to a complete model 25 with base, revolving nosepiece, 1x and 3x objectives and associated vintage 10x WF eyepieces. Done deal.

Second find, a 6x objective for $60 attached to a model 26 with what I now consider a rare solid brass base with period 15x HEP eyepieces, another done deal.

Third was a set of three paired objectives with a .7x, 3x, and 6x for a winning bid of $19, final done deal.

So now with the three stands and duplicate objectives I will dedicate one to observations, one to slide preparation and the third as a field microscope. Still searching for the 4x and



The eyes have it

With the additional eyepieces from the Spencer stereoscopes and the generic wide field purchases already obtained I found a few good deals on paired Spencer oculars to round out the field so to speak. Here is the collection. (Fig.5 & 5a)

Fig.5 and Fig 5a

Generic on the left, Spencer/AO on the right. The generic 10x HKW are suspect as compensated eyepieces, purchased as such from Microscopes.india but I haven’t tested them yet. (More about this site below.)

Seeking the third eye


This is a self-portrait digitally enhanced to make me look good

One of the last major components needed to complete the Zeus was a trinocular head. Once again, I was unable to fully justify the cost the used Zeiss heads were commanding. Searching “microscope heads” brought up this offering from Microscopes.India for $159 with a custom sized dovetail ring and free shipping. (Fig.7 & 7a)

Fig.7 and Fig 7a

Looks like a Leitz or late Olympus. No compatible artistic design contours to the Zeiss whatsoever.

I hadn’t dealt with this company before. From all indications this was manufactured in India. The phobia (described earlier) resulted in an inordinate amount of neuron synapse activity being expended pondering the possible performance inadequacies eventuating from such a purchase, not to mention the aesthetics were entirely wrong. I proceeded with the only rational course of action available. I flipped a coin and bought it. I ordered it with a 43mm dovetail.

Examination upon arrival showed this to be a very well made piece of equipment (to my relief). The optics are coated and had a fungus inhibitor ingredient. The View was 100% eyepiece or 100% phototube via a side slider knob. Very smooth operation and a precise Zeiss-compatible dovetail mount ring and substantial heft. Side-by-side comparison with the Zeiss binocular head revealed a slightly better image (don’t know when the Zeiss was last cleaned) and perfect collimation. In summary, I could live with the incompatibly clashing aesthetics…for now.


A few notes about Microscopes.India:

Shortly after the microscope head arrived I purchased a pair of 10x HKW eyepieces. I had emailed them prior to purchase to confirm that these were indeed High eyepoint Compensated Widefield and received an affirmative. The listed price was in Indian Rupees with the USD conversion next to it. After clicking the 'Buy it Now' button and confirming the purchase, the only payment option was thru PayAsia and if I wanted to use PayPal I would have to submit a special request which was granted over a week later all the while receiving requests for payment from a different branch of their company. It took about two weeks to and lots of emails to sort it out. I finally received the eyepieces which are good but do not appear to be compensating. Their web site has changed they no longer offer the trinocular head the whole product line has shrunk and they are selling wholesale lots of microscopes. Be cautious if you deal with them.

Slip sliding away…the future

Some see a vintage semi operational but un-repairable 1939 Singer sewing machine. But I, with my keen sense of and aptitude for the unthinkable, see a period correct motorized slide-ringing table…really (if there ever was such a thing). It’s all in how you visualize the mechanical realignment and associative inter action of the mechanisms. More on this epiphany later. Lets talk about slides.

As some of you have gathered I am a vintage biased sort of fellow. To me, the papered slides of the 19th century simply reek of that bygone era I love so when artistic style was imbued unto even the most basic and utilitarian articles. As mentioned in Episode 4, I fully intend to explore replicating the style, borrowing techniques from several period mounters.

The major stumbling block to this endeavor is the availability of the top paper. Gift wrapping paper will do for the bottom but I could find no replicated top covering. Thinking it shouldn’t be too difficult to design my own to capture the flavor of the era I present two designs, one art deco-ish and the other sort of Victorian/Art Nouveau. (Fig.8)

Fig. 8 Art Deco

Fig. 8a Art Nouveau / Victorian

These designs were originally drawn 2” x 6” and reduced to make the lines very fine. What do you think? I am looking into having these crude renderings cleaned up and printed in gold or black on colored thin paper, perhaps black on gold paper? Still investigating what the cost may be.

So ends the hardware improvement update. I haven’t had any mental software improvements since last, other than figuring out why the alphabet is in the order that it’s in…’s because of that song.



Take a break, stretch your feet, get a pizza or whatever. Stand by for part 2 bombast.

Exclamations of awe and inspiration can be sent to me: Joseph Wilhelm



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