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Cleaning Microscope lens


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Bob Saunders

I have read on several websites about how to clean eye piece and objectives. From distilled water only , 90 % Isopropal alcohol,  Vodka, and Everclear liqueur. Lens tissues, and Kimwipes. Q tips yes and no. I am asking more in reference to vintage microscopes than the latest and greatest optics. What is your technique. Microfiber cleaning cloths have come way down in price, as well as eye glass mini cloths.

 I find the ladies soft make up brushes are good for dusting, and my local drugstore carries Elf Brand for $1.00 each. 

Bob

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Thomas.Dodson

I've only ever cleaned "recent" scopes but I doubt the way you clean the lens varies. @LabRatKing has talked about rebuildling/cleaning vintage scopes so he'd know for sure.

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LabRatKing
48 minutes ago, Bob Saunders said:

I have read on several websites about how to clean eye piece and objectives. From distilled water only , 90 % Isopropal alcohol,  Vodka, and Everclear liqueur. Lens tissues, and Kimwipes. Q tips yes and no. I am asking more in reference to vintage microscopes than the latest and greatest optics. What is your technique. Microfiber cleaning cloths have come way down in price, as well as eye glass mini cloths.

 I find the ladies soft make up brushes are good for dusting, and my local drugstore carries Elf Brand for $1.00 each. 

Bob

With vintage scopes, I use the following:

 

Dusting: A camera duster works best. Brushes can be used, but many older scopes were cleaned with silicone based cleaners, which can leave a sticky residue (which is where 90% isopropanol comes in) Cotton and foam swabs tend to have hard particles in them from manufacturing that can scratch lenses and prisms. I use the Giottos AA1910 Medium Rocket Air Blaster (6.6). It is around 15USD and is also what I use as a duster when prepping fossils. They also make a small and large size of this guy. I have about a dozen at work and at least a half dozen at home- super useful for all sorts of stuff.

 

Solvents: I use only 90% isopropanol and/or 95-98% ethanol. I never use distilled or otherwise water as it can be corrosive to older 'scopes- both lenses and metals used. The alcohols mentioned have the right amount of water already in them. One can use high proof clear liquors in a pinch, but I prefer to drink the expensive stuff and use the super cheap 90%+ from the drugstore for cleaning. Never use prescription eyeglass cleaner on microscope lenses, these are handy, but tend to have all sorts of additives that can build up on your scope lenses and attract more dust. Some have additives that will strip off your microscope lens coatings too!

 

Cleaning cloths/wipes: Kimwipes are the best, but make sure you have the proper grade of Kimwipes! Most folks don't realize they have about 150 different sizes/ply/grades!

 

For general purpose, the original Kimwipe is excellent for cleaning every single part of a microscope except for the prisms and mirrors. They are pretty close to lint free, but not perfect...and with microscopes I find they leave a bit too much lint behind. They can also generate static which will attract dust right after you cleaned. They can also fall apart when used with alcohols and other solvents as they are just binder free wood fiber.

 

In my opinion, the gold standard for microscope care is the appropriately named  Kimwipes KimTech Science Brand Delicate Task Wipes single ply, in the 8.4 x 4.4 inch size. These are a natural and synthetic fiber blend, fully recycle/fuel bag ready, and most importantly ANTI STATIC. I just checked, and you can get one box of this wipe for 4-6 USD from the warrior woman. There are 280 sheets per box, which will last you for years. These are safe to use on any surface of your scope and won't hurt your mirrors or prisms!

 

On that note, make sure you have the proper hand tools for the job too. There are specialty spanners you will need to remove lenses from oculars and many objectives to properly clean them. Also don't forget to clean the INSIDE of the ocular, objective, and eyepiece tubes too. Just be careful as many if not most scopes made before 1990 have matte black paint coating the inside which tends to flake off with age. Some prisms and mirrors have this too and can result in spots in your field of view that no amount of lens cleaning will remove. Good news is, hot rod black matte spray paint fixes tube issues, and black nail polish fixes glass mirror and prism issues when coating backers fail!

13 minutes ago, Thomas.Dodson said:

I've only ever cleaned "recent" scopes but I doubt the way you clean the lens varies. @LabRatKing has talked about rebuildling/cleaning vintage scopes so he'd know for sure.

Oh yeah, it is one of my hobbies/requirements at my job.

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Bob Saunders

Thanks for the replies. As a camera buff I have a set of spanner wrenches that I bought for view camera lenses. I am a graduate watchmaker, and have lots of tools and special taps and dies. Plus several lathes, to make what I need. I have in the past taken a few scope lens apart, putting the elements in order on the bench. Many say camera lens cleaner and I have an old bottle of Kodak that says water and Ammonium carbonate CAT 16 7136 .  And a squeeze blow duster somewhere.  Not sure about types silicone based cleaners? 

 Bought this B & L scope years ago and brought it in from the barn a couple weeks ago. it uses a prism to shine light on the specimen when when the objective is blocking the light. And the base has a micrometer like adjustment to raise and lower the stage. I see that it missing the parts and filter to go over the light port. I made a lamp for it years ago but today a LED flashlight works. 

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LabRatKing
50 minutes ago, Bob Saunders said:

Thanks for the replies. As a camera buff I have a set of spanner wrenches that I bought for view camera lenses. I am a graduate watchmaker, and have lots of tools and special taps and dies. Plus several lathes, to make what I need. I have in the past taken a few scope lens apart, putting the elements in order on the bench. Many say camera lens cleaner and I have an old bottle of Kodak that says water and Ammonium carbonate CAT 16 7136 .  And a squeeze blow duster somewhere.  Not sure about types silicone based cleaners? 

 Bought this B & L scope years ago and brought it in from the barn a couple weeks ago. it uses a prism to shine light on the specimen when when the objective is blocking the light. And the base has a micrometer like adjustment to raise and lower the stage. I see that it missing the parts and filter to go over the light port. I made a lamp for it years ago but today a LED flashlight works. 

P1010388.jpg

P1010389.jpg

P1010390.jpg

Oh sweet, youre set on tools then! I have a similar vintage Clark in my collection at home. Of my collection, my personal favorite is a brass and cast iron 1918 Student dual objective scope built by the company that would become Spencer. Stage clips missing, but other than that it is great. Cant clean the lenses or prisms on that one as the bakelite pieces are so brittle with age, they would break if I attempted to remove them.

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Bob Saunders

Thanks, I thought that Clark was an area company not not  supply house? Of Bakelite!  it is  very flammable and will gas out. I have seen pieces from ladies dresser sets and a table clock  deform. Caution, many early pocket knives have Bakelite scales I'e handles. Many have completely rusted as well as caused knives near them to do the same.  Sorry I had Celluloid in mind. Which is unstable. It sounds like you have a fine scope but not able to clean or restore them.  I got out my  Catalog 1952, 

SCIENTIFIC GLASS
APPARATUS CO. INC.

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. 

 

and found information on the one I shown. Along with many Spencer scopes and accessories. As well as a PDF of a 1907 B & L catalog. 

Edited by Bob Saunders
in correct info.
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LabRatKing
1 hour ago, Bob Saunders said:

Thanks, I thought that Clark was an area company not not  supply house? Of Bakelite, it is  very flammable and will gas out. I have seen pieces from ladies dresser sets and a table clock  deform. Caution, many early pocket knives have Bakelite scales I'e handles. Many have completely rusted as well as caused knives near them to do the same. It sounds like you have a fine scope but not able to clean or restore them.  I got out my  Catalog 1952, 

SCIENTIFIC GLASS
APPARATUS CO. INC.

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. 

 

and found information on the one I shown. Along with many Spencer scopes and accessories. As well as a PDF of a 1907 B & L catalog. 

Clark was a supplier, but fairly prolific back then. There were a number of “student” style scopes branded by them all fairly similar. This is still done today with modern scopes. In fact one of the things I found is that Fisher Scientific, a scope, and a few others are all actually made in the same factory, but are rebranded accordingly. Only difference beyond labels is the optics.

 

AO, Spencer, and BL did this for years too to the point the parts are completely interchangeable.

 

as for my brass and Bakelite scopes, I rararely restore them as they are meeely show pieces

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Bob Saunders

Not a microscope but thought you all might be interested. Need to try it out. Lansing, Michigan has a surveyors museum next to the Olds museum down town.  

13      THS Model 7100 Transit, No. 41632 Japan with Swiss tripod.                    
     Domed shape metal case, leather straps changed to web. 

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Bob Saunders
On 2/17/2021 at 7:50 PM, Bob Saunders said:

Thanks, I thought that Clark was an area company not not  supply house? Of Bakelite, it is  very flammable and will gas out. I have seen pieces from ladies dresser sets and a table clock  deform. Caution, many early pocket knives have Bakelite scales I'e handles. Many have completely rusted as well as caused knives near them to do the same. It sounds like you have a fine scope but not able to clean or restore them.  I got out my  Catalog 1952, 

SCIENTIFIC GLASS
APPARATUS CO. INC.

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. 

 

and found information on the one I shown. Along with many Spencer scopes and accessories. As well as a PDF of a 1907 B & L catalog. 

Sorry about my answer here. Bakelite should be stable. I was thinking about Celluloid which is the pre modern plastics. It is out gassing and many early movie films are stored in a fire resistant vault. I have the measuring microscope I picture in the early post. One eye piece is cracked and a tiny piece of Bakelite is chipped off on the inner side. I will leave it alone.  

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LabRatKing
1 hour ago, Bob Saunders said:

Sorry about my answer here. Bakelite should be stable. I was thinking about Celluloid which is the pre modern plastics. It is out gassing and many early movie films are stored in a fire resistant vault. I have the measuring microscope I picture in the early post. One eye piece is cracked and a tiny piece of Bakelite is chipped off on the inner side. I will leave it alone.  

Yep, I figured as much. Bakelite is very stable, but was notoriously brittle even when new.

 

good news is it is easily repaired if thick enough.

 

As for celluloid, we have some old reels we use for demonstrating certain reactions. Nothing like a picture show fire to wake the students up!

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Bob Saunders

In my years of looking used microscopes at antique shows, shops, flea markets. I see B & L as more common, then Spencer, and a few American Optical. Were all around the same quality and optics? I had an brass Gundlacht-Manhattan and likely sold it. 

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LabRatKing
2 hours ago, Bob Saunders said:

In my years of looking used microscopes at antique shows, shops, flea markets. I see B & L as more common, then Spencer, and a few American Optical. Were all around the same quality and optics? I had an brass Gundlacht-Manhattan and likely sold it. 

 

It depends on where you live. I grew up on Spencer and AO in Pennsylvania, with AO being the most common. B&L was the "premium" educational scope.

Here in the southern plains I rarely see anything but AO, though that is because most labs hold onto their B&L, Meji, and Olympus until there is nothing left but scrap.

AO was the standard for high schools just about everywhere in the 60s 70s and 80s.

 

I have this hypothesis that the higher the college and university density in an area, the more of the higher priced scopes one will find.

 

As for optics, the older the scope, the more variation there is. AO & Spencer used the same exact lenses from the same factory until they merged. Then they went to the Made in China lenses pretty much all scopes use. with B&L it takes research as sometimes they made their own lenses, sometimes the used Spencer or B&L, and sometimes they used Zeiss. The advent of plan, semi-plan, achromatic, and filter coated lenses really mixed things up due to licensing. It is not unusual to find B&L or Zeiss lenses in Spencer and AO scopes and vice versa...even though the physical housing (objectives and oculars) were made by the branded manufacturer.

 

Olympus and Meji used the same made in Japan lenses, made by either Nikon or Canon depending on the year.

 

Most other brands used any number of European lens makers (Germany, France, Switzerland and even Italy), with Zeiss being the top of the crop.

 

For British and American scopes made from the mid-60s through the mid 80s all the prisms were either Waterford "crystal" or Bliley Electric synthetic quartz (made in my home town of Erie, PA where my grandfather was the head of QC hence how I got interested in microscopes at an early age). Swarovski made the prisms for the German and Swiss made scopes of the time.

 

Most brass body scopes were all handmade, so the lenses were made by whoever made the scope. The exception here is the later (1918is through 1945ish) brass bodies, which used whatever lenses they could get due to the various world wars.

 

 

If you want to see a real horror, look up Soviet made student/university/clinical scopes. It is a wonder they could see anything with them in the USSR! Green and blue glass used for optics!

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Before I went all in on Paleontology, I collected antique cameras. Picked up a few microscopes along the way. I'm not even sure what these two are. Left is Bausch, right is Ernst Leitz. :zen:

D89CE1F9-7D05-4E69-9D8D-60DB14D52FC6.jpeg

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LabRatKing

There is a run on AO scopes among collectors in recent years for some reason. I have no idea why, they are good, but not that good!

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LabRatKing
1 minute ago, cngodles said:

Before I went all in on Paleontology, I collected antique cameras. Picked up a few microscopes along the way. I'm not even sure what these two are. Left is Bausch, right is Ernst Leitz. :zen:

D89CE1F9-7D05-4E69-9D8D-60DB14D52FC6.jpeg

DROOOOL....My Leitz is missing the objective ... been looking for parts for years!

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My other favorite is an American Optical Forty. It was my go-to stereo scope until I bought an Amscope.

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Bob Saunders

Generally single tube objective is a student type, Followed by 2 lens, 3 is medical, 4 is research if I remember correctly? I collected some antique cameras when the had camera shows and sold most at auction. It is good to know that the threads are interchangeable among the three American scopes.    

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LabRatKing
5 hours ago, Bob Saunders said:

Generally single tube objective is a student type, Followed by 2 lens, 3 is medical, 4 is research if I remember correctly? I collected some antique cameras when the had camera shows and sold most at auction. It is good to know that the threads are interchangeable among the three American scopes.    

Generally, yeah! Though the newer they get, it’s generally student or clinical, either the quality of the optics being the deciding factor 

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Bob Saunders

If you want to see a real horror, look up Soviet made student/university/clinical scopes. It is a wonder they could see anything with them in the USSR! Green and blue glass used for optics! 

 

I assume that you mean tinted in color not solid. I have an old unmarked microscope tube only, no base. It has a solid green color with a black target circle and doesn't seem to be transparent. Any idea of use or if a drop in filter? 

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LabRatKing
3 hours ago, Bob Saunders said:

If you want to see a real horror, look up Soviet made student/university/clinical scopes. It is a wonder they could see anything with them in the USSR! Green and blue glass used for optics! 

 

I assume that you mean tinted in color not solid. I have an old unmarked microscope tube only, no base. It has a solid green color with a black target circle and doesn't seem to be transparent. Any idea of use or if a drop in filter? 

Not sure on that one.

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