West Midlands spring meeting

Saturday 18th March 2017

By Jeremy Poole

The joint spring meeting of the Quekett and the Postal Microscopical Society was held at the Haling Dene Centre in Penkridge, Staffordshire, on Saturday 18th March. This followed the well-tried format of exhibits and sales tables in the morning and one or more lectures after lunch. Attendance seemed slightly down on normal, but this made it easier to circulate round the various tables in the morning.


There was a good variety of sales tables, with regulars such as Paul Wheatley and Peter Evennett offering their normal good value. John Millham, despite having retired and sold his stock, was present to sell items he had overlooked earlier. In addition to these tables, various members were selling on surplus equipment and books, and Mike Samworth and Steve Gill were selling off between them Biosil slides, old copies of Balsam Post, Watson Service stands (at £2 each) and microscope boxes (£4). Although the stands were not equipped with any optics they provide a ready source of rack and pinion gears for use on home-made macro stands. (I bought three of them!). As someone who has expended massive effort in making microscope boxes, I leapt at the chance of obtaining a box for a very low price. All I need now is to identify a microscope to house, and adapt the interior to match the chosen stand – all very much quicker than starting from scratch. Nicole Phillips was selling items including a trinocular Leitz Dialux 20 and a Zeiss Standard 25.

Watson Service stands and boxesWatson Service stands and boxes

Zeiss Standard 25 and trinocular Leitz Dialux 20Zeiss Standard 25 and trinocular Leitz Dialux 20


There were plenty of exhibits to view. Among these Mike Gibson was displaying a Reichert Neopan that he had bought at an earlier meeting and coaxed into life. He also had a Visopan projection microscope by the same maker. This was in excellent condition and projecting a high quality image.

Reichert Visopan and NeopanReichert Visopan and Neopan (right)

Geoff Mould was displaying his inspection microscope, bought new off eBay last year. This came with a camera rather than an eyepiece, and Geoff had set his instrument up to display slides of crystals on a large HDMI display. Growth of crystals could be observed in real time using a hot-air blower to warm suitable chemicals.

Colin Kirk was exhibiting an LED microscope light powered via a USB connector, which can be powered either from a computer, a mains adaptor or, as Colin was displaying, via a USB rechargeable powerbank. These lamps, are available on eBay, selling for around £12. The powerbanks and wall chargers can be bought from Poundland (for £1!). Fitted in place of a mirror on older microscopes the USB light provides good results with objectives up to ×40.

USB-powered LED illuminatorUSB-powered LED illuminator

On the same table Simon Kirk was showing a novel use for a Raspberry Pi camera attachment. He had taped the camera over one eyepiece of a stereo microscope and was displaying the resulting image on a monitor. The image quality was remarkably good. Simon has plans to design an attachment to provide a more professional looking mounting arrangement to replace the sticky tape used to “prove the concept”.

Next along Mo Vaughan had brought almost his complete slide collection, inviting people to select and view any slide that attracted their attention. Of particular note were some slides of individual diatoms from the late 19th Century.

John Fletcher was displaying a 19th century binocular microscope designed by Stephenson and manufactured by Ross. This differs from the more common Wenham microscope such as was displayed by Ray Sloss and Mike Gibson at Reading the week before.

Brass Stephenson binocular microscope by RossBrass Stephenson binocular microscope by Ross

James Battersby had brought along a couple of rare Watson-Swift polarising microscopes and accessories. These were a Hilux and a Model 70. He had also brought a Zeiss Standard ICS 25 that he had equipped with Watson objectives.

Watson-Swift polarising microscopesWatson-Swift polarising microscopes and Zeiss Standard 25


We were treated to three afternoon lectures. First John Ward presented the results of his labours to attempt to understand Abbe diffraction theory without too much maths. I think he captured the essence very well. Every time I read about or attend a presentation on this subject I understand a bit more, although I guess many members are perfectly happy to use their microscopes without worrying unduly about what might be going on at the rear focal plane of the objective.

Next up Colin Lamb talked about his efforts to achieve Rheinberg illumination. He observed that in order to achieve a good result it is necessary to have a fairly dense central ring – something that can be overlooked. He spoke of many everyday materials that could be used to construct the filters, including plastic milk bottle tops and printed plastic bags as used to contain fruit in supermarkets. He illustrated his talk with images taken by John Delly, many of which were of a high standard.

Finally, John Birds recounted several amusing anecdotes that he had heard during his employment as a carpenter at a certain stately home. Despite having no connection to microscopy they nonetheless provided great amusement to the audience. Incidentally, John was displaying a photograph of a mahogany slide cabinet that he is in the process of constructing.


Our thanks to Mike Woof for organising another successful meeting.

Report and photographs by Jeremy Poole

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