The Construction of a Victorian Type
Dry-mounted Slide.

by Brian Darnton, UK


Last month an article was published on the investigation of an old slide from 1871, in order to find out as much as possible about both the material and the construction of the cell. This month the article goes on to follow the reconstruction of such a cell using materials that are available to us today. The development not only revealed a certain aesthetic potential but it seemed to be very inexpensive since it mainly uses everyday materials excluding only the cover-slips of course.


The first question was how to cut out the rectangular hole from picture-mounting board. Mounting board (from an art shop) 1.5mm thick was cut down to a 3" x 1" strip with a scalpel, and a second similar board was cut for the basal portion. A modern glass slide was used as a template.

The rectangular cavity was marked centrally 15mm wide and 25mm long on one of the pieces. Again a scalpel was the best tool for cutting. This configuration, before the glass was applied, lacked rigidity and could easily be bent. The substitution of a piece of 3" x 1" wood 1.5 mm thick for the lower piece improved this aspect. This very thin hardwood can be purchased in one of the growing number of dolls-house retailers. This improvement then allowed me to use not the heavy 3" x 1" slide-glass, but a large rectangular cover-slip.

At this point we may note that the Hailes slide had a total weight of 15 grams and indicates that the mounter must have used pretty thick heavy glass in the structure. The completed slide was 4.5mm thick, whereas my prototype weighed only 2.0 grams and was marginally over 3mm thick.


During the dissection of another broken Victorian slide, I had discovered that large rectangular cover-slips could be simply fixed to cells, not by gumming under the edges, but by fixing the slip first to the paper, which had been rendered with adhesive. The 3M spray-on Photo-mount contact adhesive did the trick very neatly indeed.


The area where the objects are to be dry-mounted can be treated with matt paint or a photographically produced matrix could be gummed onto the top of the lower slide. In practice elaborate grids can actually be sandwiched between the two component 3" x 1" parts and held initially with 3M spray adhesive on surfaces which would be covered at a later stage.


As with ordinary dry-mounts, gum tragacanth may be mixed with a suitable amount of distilled water.


Many of our modern parcel papers have garish patterns or are often fluorescent in appearance. The impressions they gave, were not at all compatible with the Victorian decor required! In an old art shop I discovered some bright red paper which has linear striations which helped with marking out and lining up. The maximum size required is 95 mm x 45 mm and again a 3" x 1" glass slide is an ideal template for marking out. The window in the paper, over which the cover-slip is secured, can be cut out using the scalpel on a hard board. A plastic ruler can ensure a straight line. The 3M spray was again useful before gumming together, and then the labels can be added later. It's a good idea to secure a 3" x 1" self adhesive label on the reverse of the slide of the completed work with all relevant information, because this ties in the paper and secures what could become loose ends.


In order to shortcut the construction stage I discovered that 3mm thick 1" wide hardwood could also be purchased at the Dolls-house shop and after marking out, the cavity could be cut with a small router machine to be later smoothed with sandpaper. The optimal depth is 1mm plus the thickness of any artwork inserted. This was an ideal solution and gave a much neater compact finish.
The Hailes slide had only survived so well because it had been stored in ideal conditions but a certain amount of greying would be expected in a normal dusty environment after a few decades.
The cell slide is only suitable for dry mounting. It is rather too thick to fit into slot-in slide boxes but is very suitable for the cabinet or the Victorian pine boxes.
Plastic at first seemed to be a possible alternative but again rigidity became a problem until the thickness neared 3mm. Any flexibility or bending can cause the objects to be thrown from the surface on which they are mounted.


The reconstruction of the Victorian dry-mount can be a rewarding and inexpensive experience for the enthusiast with a good supply of suitable material like Foraminifera, Radiolaria, fabrics, feathers and suchlike things. In early microscopy dry mounting was for some workers the main method of mounting. The potentially greater suface area available for mounting has advantages over the constraints of the standard 19mm aluminium ring. The ornamental aspects of Victoriana can be thoroughly indulged in this form of invesigational development.

Comments to the author Brian Darnton welcomed.

Visit Brian Darnton's home pages.



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Published in the February 2000 edition of Micscape Magazine.

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