Customizing A Stereo 'Scope For Archaeological Studies

by Ian MacGregor, Burnaby, BC, Canada


Until recently, most of my microscopy focused on living critters but about a year ago I became interested in Early Iron Age metal artefacts so I decided to customize one of my Zeiss IVb stereo microscopes ( Photo 1 ) specifically for archaeology.

Photo 1: Zeiss IVb stereo microscope fitted with a photo attachment from a Zeiss SV-8, a double diaphragm from a Zeiss OPMI and a Volpi 250HL fibre optic ring light.

The depth-of-field was greatly improved by adding a double diaphragm accessory used on a Zeiss OPMI surgical microscope ( Photos 2 and 3 ).

Photo 2: A double diaphragm attachment from a Zeiss OPMI surgical microscope.

Photo 3: The double diaphragm mounts between the binocular head and the microscope body.

I have been studying bronze arrowheads ( ca 300 BCE ) from the Early Iron Age and I first tried using an inexpensive "third hand" tweezers ( Photo 4 ) ... but it had limitations when taking a consistent series of photos of the each of the 3 sides of the specimens.

Photo 4: A " third hand " tweezers purchased from a rock and gem shop.

Photo 5: I removed the mirror from the IVb's illuminator stage plate ( photo inset ) and replaced it with a custom made mandrel with a pin point so that I could mount arrowheads temporarily with plastic putty. I also added a thumbscrew ( socket head set machine screw ) to lock the mandrel in position. In practice, this mandrel allows rapid and consistent photos of the artefact's three faces, but it restricts examination to the horizontal axis.

Photo 6: My solution to the problem of multi-axis viewing is this simple, but versatile tilting stage made from plastic pipe fittings, a lead shot filled ping-pong ball and some metal washers.

Photo 7: I was so pleased with the performance of the small tilting stage that I made a larger version and an auxiliary stage table to accommodate longer artefacts.

Photo 8: The stage table is also very handy for sorting!

All comments to the author Ian MacGregor are welcomed.

Microscopy UK Front Page
Micscape Magazine
Article Library

Microscopy UK or their contributors.

Published in the May 2008 edition of Micscape Magazine.

Please report any Web problems or offer general comments to the Micscape Editor .

Micscape is the on-line monthly magazine of the Microscopy UK website at Microscopy-UK . Ltd, Microscopy-UK, and all contributors 1995 onwards. All rights reserved. Main site is at with full mirror at .