At the mini-Maker Faire in Portland I met a lot interesting people including a local collector of vintage microscopes. We chatted a bit about a time when science, art and craftsmanship melded in a golden age of instrument makers that includes both the cameras that inspire my work and the amazing works of art that are the early brass microscopes. He had been looking for a new machinist to do restoration work on his collection and we talked a bit about the requirements for that work.
I later had the opportunity to see this amazing collection and, as an interesting aside, was introduced to another microscope collector in New York. As a result of that connection, I ended up doing some restoration work on one of these classic instruments.
A complete original example
The subject was a very small field microscope - less than 5 inches in height. It was missing the stage section on which specimens are placed for viewing. The collector sent along a series of photographs of both his microscope and some additional photos of a complete example. The photo above shows the complete unit resting in its case. The task would be to reproduce the stage using only these photos as a reference.
The completed stage assembly
A bit of deductive analysis and measurement resulted in the reproduction stage shown above. Upon seeing the result, the owner sent along a further photo that helped to clarify the shape of the bend along the top of the springs.
Preparing to bend spring
The back bend of the springs was done via a bit of custom tooling and a small arbor press. The springs were made of standard half-hard 360 brass.
Bend under way
Fitting the stage to the shaft mount.
Once the stage was fabricated, it was then fitted onto the original mount that hold it in place on the microscope shaft. A test fit during the operation to clean up old solder from the mount is shown above.
The completed project
Another view of the complete microscope.
The final result is pretty good after a bit of traditional chemical blackening. A slight highlighting of the edges helps to make the stage look a bit more like the other original blackened components.
Fitted into the case
Nicely fit into the case, the microscope is ready to shop back to its owner. I've done a bit of camera restoration over the years so this was a welcome variation on the typical challenges. I look forward to doing more of this interesting and challenging work.