MAKE A SIMPLE MICROTOME WITH A SPOOL

When making section mount slides, you slice a very thin section of specimen and then lay it flat on a blank slide and cover it with a coverslip. By slicing the section across the width of the specimen, you make cross section preparation. You can make a longitudinal section by slicing across the length of the specimen.

To make these sections thin enough to view, you need to use an instrument called a microtome. You can make a simple microtome with a thread spool. To do this, you will need a ¼” diameter bolt at least 2” long, a ¼” nut, a spool and a large flat washer. Take an empty thread spool with flat ends, and, using epoxy or some other strong adhesive, center and glue the nut over one hole on the end of the spool.   When the nut is secured, screw the bolt into the nut so that the tip of the bolt enters the spool. The dowel in the diagram is optional.  On the other end of the spool, glue on the washer with the holes centered.  Ideally, use a washer with a hole close to the size of the spool opening.

To use the spool microtome, cut a specimen that will fit snugly at least a quarter of the way into the center hole of the spool. Screw in the bolt until it pushes against the specimen. Using a single-edge razor blade, slice the specimen that is sticking out of the spool so that it is even with the end of the spool. Turn the bolt a little further and slice the specimen so that the end will be even with the end of the spool again. This will give a very thin section suitable for your cross-section mount. You can adjust the thickness of the section by how far you turn the bolt.

Some things that you may try in making your section mounts are: plant stems, fruit pieces, celery, carrots, potatoes, green beans, rolled up leaves, insects, and meat. Some items may cut cleaner if frozen first


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