Tuesday, September 3, 2019

DIY Digital Microscope

Camera Placement

First Adaption
DIY Digital Microscope

Staying with microscopes, I have to build my own digital one. I want one with viewing from underneath.

Using a Dollar store $3 webcam, a piece of plywood, 3 4 inch bolts, 5 washers, 6 nuts, 4 wingnuts and 2 small pieces of 1/4 inch plastic. The only item I purchased was the webcam. Everything else I had laying around. This was just a quick work around I put together to see if it is worth while making.

I wanted to microscopically look at live samples from underneath. It actually works better than I thought it would. It looks to give about 4x the magnification, you are definitely not going to see bacteria. Though, I might be able to see other micro-organisms, I will further test this. As of yet this is not a final build, I will be making many improvements to this setup, especially with the magnification. I would like to at least get to 100x magnification. I just wanted to see if this would be worth while pursuing. And yes it is. And for a very low cost.

In this setup I have the camera is fixed and the sample is moving up and down.

Inspiration for this build came from here, they use a smartphone and laser pointer optics:

Here is another link using cardboard for the build:

There also is the FlyPi that uses the Raspberry Pi system and camera:

I will be looking further into the this version and the FlyPi.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Common Microscopy Stains

Stains found in common stores

I found a few different stains for microscopy at Walmart and a pet store.

At the pet store I found:
Methylene Blue - which is 2.3% and you should at least dilute to be at least 1%. I like to use it at 0.1%. It can also be used for DNA staining.

Malachite Green - is 0.038% therefore I use it as is.

At Walmart as well as many pharmacies I found:
Gentian Violet - is 1% I use as is. This is used as a replacement for crystal violet.

Iodine(tincture) - is 5%, I use it at 1%. Some iodines come as 2%.

India Ink - I use as is.

Another stain you might want is Eosin, many red inks use eosin for the dye, as well as some red food colouring. I am trying different inks, if I find a certain brand containing eosin or one I like I will post it. Trying and experimenting with different products you might find one you like as well.

As you can see there are many stains easily available to you without having to go to a specialty shop for them. Remember to always look at the ingredients of different products, you may find a chemical you need or want.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Web Cam On Old Microscope

Webcam Mounted on Microscope

Parts for Camera Mount

Camera Image

I have an old microscope and I find I can't look through it for long periods of time anymore so I decided to add a webcam to it. As you can see it is mounted on top of the ocular lens (Top Image) giving me the full magnification of the microscope.

It was a very simple build requiring very little to do or obtain (Middle Image). I was lucky that the camera was the same width as the lens. At first I was thinking of 3D printing the camera holder but I had a small plastic container I had picked up from the dollar store. Once the lid was removed and the bottom sawed off, both the camera and microscope lens fit right in. This allowed me to place the camera right on top of the lens.

I use Linux for my system so I am using the program cheese to view and record my samples (Bottom Image).

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

3D Printing

Electrophoresis Chamber


Vessel Holders

3D Printing

3D printing is becoming more accessible to the average person. Maker spaces usually have one or two that would allow you to use. 3D printing is another good way to make lab equipment, here are a few items I have printed:
In the top picture you will see a electrophoresis chamber made from a soap dish and 3D printed gel chamber and comb. I could have printed the whole chamber but I used a soap dish that I already had to save on plastic.

In the next picture I printed the dremelfuge which I have talked about in an earlier post. I printed both with chuck and with-out. So far I only used it with a drill. I still do not feel safe using it with a Dremel without enclosing it in some sort of housing to protect myself.

The last picture shows vessel holders for beakers, flasks and jars that I will attach to a shaker machine. I will talk about this in a later post.

You can find these items at :


There are many other sites you can get 3D objects from.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Water Bath

Water Bath Prototype

Driver Board

With the help of a member from my maker space, we are trying to create a working water bath that uses a arduino to control the temperature. If we are able to make it work properly we will open source it. We are looking to develop either a arduino shield or it's own driver board to run the water bath.

We trying to have it set to 42 degrees C. This is the temperature used for bacterial transformation(the heat shock method). It is working very steady with about 0.25 degree C on either side of 42 C. We are going to try at different temperatures next.

The top picture shows the setup, it is a power supply(top middle of picture), an arduino on a driver board(black box next to the power supply) built by a member of my maker space, a heating pad, LM35 temperature sensor and a plastic container(sitting on the heating pad). The lid must be on to bring up the heat and keep it at a steady temperature.

The next picture shows an arduino temperature driver board.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Maker Spaces

Maker spaces or hacker spaces(as some are called) are a great place to meet people and learn from them as well.

From spaces.makerspace.com/

What’s a Makerspace?

To describe them simply, makerspaces are community centers with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.


They have tools from hand tools to drill presses to 3D printers to CNC machines to laser cutters. Some are even biological groups opening up spaces for people with that interest to do experiments with the maker spaces equipment and supplies.

Most maker spaces have a membership fee which can be costly, but I believe that many have open house days where you can visit the spaces and even get help with your projects.

I belong to the one in my city and have built different projects there for my lab. In one of my next posts I will be discussing some of the pieces that I have 3D printed at my maker space. I don't have a 3D printer but there is one at my maker space. There is so much different expertise there to help with electronics and programming, etc. I am glad I found this space.

If you don't have tools or space to work in, need help in learning how to use an arduino, etc. you should look into one today.

You can look for a space near you at:



google "hacker spaces", "maker spaces" your "city".

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Revisiting the Incubator Repair


I have been working on improving my incubator. I picked up this incubator (see an earlier post) and had to repair it to get it to work. It is basically an old metal box. As you can see I have adding corrugated plastic to the sides and top. This will help keep the temperature stable for my cultures to grow in. It also makes it much easier to clean, disinfect and sterilize . The metal had a acid type smell of old metal. Once cleaned up and the plastic inserted this helped take away the small. I am not sure how long the plastic will last but it is inexpensive and can be found at hardware stores. Therefore I can replace it when needed.

New Centrifuge From the Old

New Incubator

I found this inexpensive centrifuge and brought it home to find it not working. I took it apart and cleaned it up. It only needed rewiring to get it up and running. Now with this I am able to retire my blenderfuge. In the blenderfuge the center piece kept warping and had to be replaced. I believe this was caused by the very high speeds of the blender. The blenderfuge was much faster than this centrifuge but this one will work for my needs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sample Rotator


Front View

Side View

With very simple items I had laying around I was able to build this sample rotator. It rotates very slowly. This will allow samples to be mixed. I hope to place it in my incubator to attempt to use as a shaker for the media broth for cultures (continual mixing).

Parts: the motor came from an old hand-held vacuum, I bolted a disk from the bottom of a cd holder on to it. The frame is from an old computer power supply box (the top half). I use 1 inch PVC conduit clamps to hold the motor in place. I use broom handle wall clips to hold my culture tubes. They had to be adjusted to fit both 15 ml and 50 ml tubes. They are mounted on the plastic disk with nuts and bolts. It runs using a power supply that ranges from 1.5v - 12 v.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Older Incubator
I picked this old incubator up very inexpensively. It was not working. I took it apart and the wiring was removed. I rewired it and tested it out. The heating panel works and so does the thermostat.

It is an old metal box. I intend to add some insulation, either Styrofoam or corrugated cardboard or plastic to keep the temperature more stable. At first I thought maybe I would mount it on the outside of the incubator but as I think more about it I believe it might work better on the inside as this might be easier to clean than metal walls.

I will revisit this when it is finished.

I now have 2 incubators the earlier one I built which goes up to about 30 degrees C and this one which goes up to at least 40 degrees.

I found this link to the pdf file for The Amateur Scientist by C. L. Stong. This is a classic with experiments in archaeology, biology, physics, electronics, etc. These are projects from Scientific American's The Amateur Scientist column.