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Making Your Own Microtome

Making Your Own Microtome

A microtome is a device that allows the researcher or student to cut sections of specimen for preparing them on a microscope slide. Sometimes you have to cut very thin slices or sections from your sample to allow light to pass through them easily. Thin sections make it easier to see the structure of the object under the compound light microscope and the microtome is an equipment used to cut thin samples from the object that you want to examine. It would be easy for a child or a student to create their own simple microtome.

These are the things that youíll need to make your own microtome:

Wooden or plastic spool from thread
Flat head metal bolt (this should fit through the hole of your spool)
Metal nut (this fits the bolt)
Waterproof glue
Popsicle stick
Fine-point waterproof marker
Piece of carrot
Knife or single edged razor blade (kids and children should ask help from their parents or teachers using this)
Bowl of water
Microscope slide and coverslip

If you have everything, then letís begin making our simple microtome for kids. These are the things that you need to do:

First, screw the bolt through the nut. Fit it into the spool to see if itís the right size. If it is, ask help from a parent or teacher to attach the nut to the spool using waterproof glue. Wait for the glue to dry before going over the next step. Attach the head of the bolt to the flat side of the popsicle stick with glue. Make sure that the bolt is placed firmly in the middle of the popsicle stick. Wait for the glue to dry. This will be the microtome handle. Now you can screw the metal bolt through the nut so that the bolt extends up into the spool. Do not tighten the bolt too much, just thread it on the nut with enough space inside the spool for the sample that you want to view under the microscope. Use marker to draw an X on the bottom of the spool. Draw another X on top of this. These Xs would create eight equally spaced lines around the bottom of the spool and these marks will help you to turn the handle of the bolt at the same amount so that the section you are cutting will have the same thickness. Your homemade microtome is now ready to be used.

There will be enough space at the top of your spool where you could fit your biological specimen if the bolt is not fully screwed into the nut. Ask an adult to help you cut a sample from the object that you want to look under a compound microscope so that the pieces would fit into the top of your spool. You could use a small piece of vegetable to fill in empty spaces to support anything that is shaped differently.

Cut across your sample with a knife. Make sure that you ask an adult for assistance before doing this. To take your sample away from the blade of your knife, dip it in water and wait for the small pieces to float away from the blade and into the surface of the water. Use a pair of tweezers to transfer these sections to a blank microscope slide. For objects with fiber in them, like sections of vegetable, make a wet mount slide to be able to see them better.

Making your own microtome can be fun and easy. For professional use, a researcher is recommended to purchase a microtome. But for children wishing to explore the microworld on a limited budget, the simple homemade microtome can add to their adventure.

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