West Midlands spring meeting

Saturday 14th April 2018

Mike Woof organised another well-attended joint meeting of the Quekett and the Postal Microscopical Society, held again in 2 rooms at the Haling Dene Centre in Penkridge, Staffordshire. The morning was given over to exhibits and sales (items ranging from brochures and bulbs to a large trinocular microscope outfit), and the afternoon was given over to lectures.

Haling Dene CentreHaling Dene Centre


Colin Lamb showed a book by Michael Shaw (Your microscope hobby: How to make multi-colored filters: Rheinberg, polarizing, darkfield and oblique, ISBN 978-1511421478). The book has black-and-white illustrations but includes a link to a colour version that can be downloaded.

Your Microscope Hobby, by Michael ShawYour microscope hobby, by Michael Shaw

Geoff Mould brought his Leica GZ6 trinocular stereomicroscope fitted with a Nikon D5000 digital SLR camera and 2 LEDs on flexible arms powered from a lead-acid battery. Geoff’s specimens included several types of sand and small electronic components joined by tiny wires to printed circuit boards.

Geoff Mould’s exhibitGeoff Mould’s exhibit

Geoff also showed a few home-made LED illuminators.

Jeremy Poole brought the Zeiss Photomicroscope II that he bought a few years ago and to which he has recently strain-free objectives and added accessories for polarised light (rotating polariser and stage, calibrated rotating analyser, Bertrand lens and strain-free eyepiece with cross hairs). Jeremy showed some of his own slides, a Brian Darnton arrangement of leaf scales and fern scales, and several slides belonging to Robert Ratford. Jeremy also brought a much smaller polarising microscope.

Jeremy Poole and Les FranchiJeremy Poole (seated) and Les Franchi

Terry HopeTerry Hope

Slides for the polarising microscopeSlides for the polarising microscope (borrowed from Robert Ratford)

Jeremy also brought some books, A colour atlas of rocks and minerals in thin section by W. S. MacKenzie & A. E. Adams, The preparation and mounting of thin sections and small whole mounts of rocks and minerals for microscopical examination by Derek D. Underhill, An introduction to crystal optics by P. Gay and Minerals and the microscope by H. G. Smith (revised by M. K. Wells).

Joan Bingley attended the M. C. Cooke Lecture “Why flies” by Dr Erica McAlister on Tuesday 10th April and brought a selection of Diptera slides (including some by Ron Cushing) that we could examine using a simple compound microscope. Erica’s lecture is available in the password-protected area of the Quekett website, and her first book (The secret life of flies) has recently been published.

Joan Bingley’s exhibitJoan Bingley’s exhibit

Diptera slidesDiptera slides

The secret life of flies, by Dr Erica McAlisterThe secret life of flies, by Dr Erica McAlister

John Fletcher brought an elaborate black and chrome monocular microscope with a ½″ NA 0.5 objective constructed as 3 cemented doublets. This construction was common in the 19th century until superceded by the Amici design with a single front element. Computer programs for designing and optimising lens designs now enable us to explore the possibilities of the 3-doublet design.

John Fletcher’s exhibitJohn Fletcher’s exhibit

John Ward brought a brass Wenham binocular microscope fitted with a tourmaline analyser, an uncommon and expensive alternative to a Nicol prism. Compared to a Nicol prism (which John also brought), the tourmaline analyser provided better extinction and an unobstructed field of view. The microscope was fitted with a Smith, Beck & Beck 1½″ objective.

John Ward’s exhibitJohn Ward’s exhibit

John also brought a wooden box with a large range of accessories for the microscope.

Accessories for John Ward’s microscopeWooden box of accessories for John Ward’s microscope

Les Franchi brought a very unusual Watson item, a Waterhouse pattern Museum Microscope with a rotating drum that can hold 12 slides. Museum visitors could change slides by turning a knob on the side and focus by turning a ring around the eyepiece, but the other controls were inside the locked case. Les had rescued the microscope when it was being thrown out by Birmingham Medical School, and fitted his own slides, objective and eyepiece. It was originally supplied with a low-power 1½″ or 2″ objective. Tony Dutton had identified the instrument and provided a page from the 1938 Watson catalogue. Illumination was provided by a hemispherical LED lamp.

Watson Waterhouse pattern Museum MicroscopeWatson Waterhouse pattern Museum Microscope

Les also brought a few other items, including a camera lucida and a simple microscope.

Camera lucida and simple microscopeCamera lucida and simple microscope

Mike Gibson showed his Lomo Biolam С1Ч42 fitted with a Meopta monocular head (no adapter needed). Mike had replaced the bulb in the lamp housing with a hemispherical LED light, now available for just £3 and fitted with an on/off switch. Power came from a power bank available from pound shops. He was also promoting the Annual Exhibition of the Microscopy Section of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society on Sunday 24th June, where Mark Powell will demonstrate how to make slides of lichen.

Ralph Prince and Mike GibsonRalph Prince and Mike Gibson

Lomo microscope with LED illuminationLomo microscope with LED illumination

Mike also brought a book of his photomicrographs.

Book of Mike Gibson’s photomicrographsBook of Mike Gibson’s photomicrographs

Mike Samworth brought a Nikon stereomicroscope so that we could examine 2 slides made by Doug Morgan, the oldest PMS member who had recently passed away aged 98. These 2 slides, of shield-bug egg cases and iron pyrite crystals, were labelled as having been made in February 2000 and having received the Eric Marson Award from the Quekett.

Doug Morgan’s slidesDoug Morgan’s slides

Robert Ratford brought a Vickers M15 binocular microscope, a Russian microscope in its fitted metal case and a box of Biosil slides. He also brought a box of dirty and damaged slides that he had intended to restore, but he has now realised that he will never have the time and so he was giving away the slides to anyone who was interested.

Robert Ratford and Colin LambRobert Ratford (standing) and Colin Lamb

Stephen Parker brought his trinocular Nikon S-Ke microscope fitted with the uncommon interference phase contrast attachment and condenser. This system uses normal Nikon achromat objectives and a birefringent phase ring between a polariser, an analyser and a ¼-wave retardation plate in the attachment. Setting the analyser at 45° and rotating the polariser provides a range of colour contrasts. Stephen used a Chinese inspection camera to show images on a Samsung television.

Stephen Parker’s exhibitStephen Parker’s exhibit


Bill Morris was selling a large poster of the type that used to be used in schools.

School poster of EntomostracaSchool poster of Entomostraca

Colin Kirk was not able to attend the meeting, but he sent along a box of slides of botanical specimens (stained with Astra Blue and safranin) that sold well at just £2 each.

Colin Kirk’s slidesColin Kirk’s slides

Colin Kirk’s slidesColin Kirk’s slides

Colin Lamb was selling a trinocular Nikon S-Ke complete with its external transformer, a monocular Carl Zeiss Jena stand, and a slide ringing turntable.

Nikon S-Ke trinocular microscopeNikon S-Ke trinocular microscope

Geoff Mould had a fiche reader that can be used to show microscope slides on its built-in screen, a variac, lots of pH test papers and an assortment of books.

Geoff Mould’s sales tableGeoff Mould’s sales table

Geoff Mould’s booksGeoff Mould’s books

Jeremy Poole has too many polarising microscopes, so he was selling his Leitz student model.

Leitz student polarising microscopeLeitz student polarising microscope

Lawrence Hartley seems to have a never-ending supply of interesting books, and was also selling sieves, lenses for a Kodak Carousel slide projector and a device for attaching an iPhone to a microscope.

Bill Morris, Spike Walker and Mike GibsonBill Morris, Spike Walker and Mike Gibson

Mike Samworth and Steve Gill were still selling items from the estate of Steve Edgar, included around 20 Zeiss 100× objectives (including a Plan Apo, Neofluars and phase) for just £10 each, some Leitz and other objectives, lots of eyepieces and condensers, enlarging lenses (including Componons and Rodagons) for £10 each, a CTS M72 polarising microscope, a drawing attachment, microtome knives, a Schott fibre-optic unit with a ring light, and lots of other items.

Mike Samworth and Steve GillMike Samworth and Steve Gill

Steve Edgar’s objectives, eyepieces and condensersSteve Edgar’s objectives, eyepieces and condensers

Steve Edgar’s microscopes and accessoriesSteve Edgar’s microscopes and accessories

Paul Wheatley had several microscopes, including a Wild M11 with gliding stage, Olympus CK inverted and KHC compounds, Swift polarising, a Zeiss GFL and a Zeiss Junior stand. Paul also had an assortment of bulbs, and eyepieces and objectives by Beck, Kyowa, Leica and Olympus, and an Olympus CT-5 phase telescope.

Paul Wheatley’s microscopesPaul Wheatley’s microscopes

Joan Bingley and Robert Ratford brought items for the Quekett Shop, where books, ties and USB drives with the Journal archive were available.

Ralph Prince was selling a Watson Service microscope.

Watson Service microscopeWatson Service microscope

Stephen Parker was selling 3 microscopes, a Vickers M74 polarising microscope, an unbranded monocular student microscope, and a Myacope zoom monocular in its wooden case.

Stephen Parker’s microscopesStephen Parker’s microscopes

Spike Walker was offering lots of Zeiss brochures and leaflets, back numbers of Balsam Post, and a few small accessories.

John Birds and Peter MassingtonJohn Birds, ? and Peter Massington browsing Zeiss brochures

Steve Gill was selling a Reichert Zetopan outfit that included monocular, binocular and trinocular heads, normal objectives and condenser, and phase contrast objectives and condenser.

Reichert Zetopan microscope outfitReichert Zetopan microscope outfit


After a break for lunch, we set out chairs in the larger room for 3 talks.

Bill Morris lecturingBill Morris giving his talk

Bill Morris spoke on “Making microscopes: Optical construction kits since the 1930’s”. Bill is fascinated by kits for children that can be used to construct microscopes. It is possible to construct microscopes using Meccano or Lego, but Bill concentrated on optical kits. Brands that he has bought (mostly on eBay) and tested include Construments, Optic-Variant, Clubman, Optik Montage, Optikit, Optical Science and Scope Constructor. He is still trying to find a FischerTechnik at a reasonable price. Bill showed us photographs of the kits and the assembled microscopes, and photomicrographs taken with them. Sadly, none of them have good design, good instructions and good lenses. Bill’s favourite is the Construments kit.

John Birds worked for many years at Chatsworth House and has many stories to tell about his time there. His reminiscences today including rounding up the deer during a foot-and-mouth epidemic to prevent them being infected by visitors, stringing fairy lights for the first Christmas opening, his first industrial accident after more than 20 years of safe working, his alarm at a broken window and blood and tissue on him that turned out to be from a pheasant caught in a very strong wind and blown through a window and into a woodworking machine, and many rooms full of items that were once ordinary but were never thrown away and are now valuable

John BirdsJohn Birds

Mike Gibson spoke on “The enigma of Elgar’s microscope”. In 2015, Mike and Ray Sloss visited the Elgar Birthplace Museum and ran a Micro-Science Activity Weekend there. Soon after, they returned and photographed all of the slides in the Museum. Another Quekett member, Eric Impey, had been to the Museum earlier and wrote an article “Sir Edward Elgar and the microscope” for the Journal. While he was living in Hampstead in 1911–1921, Sir Edward developed an interest in microscopy, owned 6 or 7 microscopes and several hundred slides, and collected specimens from Hampstead Heath and Highgate Ponds The only surviving microscope is his Ross No. 1 in the Museum, and they only have about 130 of his slides. Mike showed us photographs and photomicrographs of many of the slides in the Museum. Mike and Ray wrote an article “Elgar and the microscope” for the Summer 2016 issue of the Journal.

Mike Gibson lecturingMike Gibson

The talks by Bill Morris and Mike Gibson were recorded and will be available in the password-protected area of the Quekett website.

Photo competition

Entries for photo competitionEntries for the photo competition

Photo competition winning entryWinning entry by Mike Samworth


Our thanks to Mike Woof for organising another enjoyable day for microscopists, to everyone who brought exhibits and items for sale, and to the speakers who informed and entertained us in the afternoon.

Report and photographs by Alan Wood

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