Some time ago, I acquired an Olympus CT-4 phase telescope for the bargain price of £2 because its focusing was jammed solid. I was confident that I could fix it because a few years ago I fixed one with a similar problem by slowly dripping 100% isopropyl alcohol just below the black top. However, this time it didn’t work, even though I tried several times, so I needed to try a different approach. I knew that the bottom lens unscrewed easily to reveal a disc with a small central hole, so I used a pipette to squirt isopropyl alcohol through the hole so that it would reach the bottom of the focusing helix. I kept the tube almost horizontal, so that the alcohol would not run onto the lens at the top. This approach also failed, so I turned to Google and found a recommendation to use acetone. This still did not let me unscrew the two parts, not even with my Boa Constrictor strap wrenches. So I tried desperate measures, clamping the lower part in a vice and trying to turn the top with a wrench, using Plastazote strips to protect the metalwork. Eventually I tried a Mole grip with no protection to hold the top, and with a lot of force this finally allowed me to unscrew the two parts, although it did damage the knurling. Then I cleaned out the hardened green grease with isopropyl alcohol, kitchen tissue and an old toothbrush, left it to dry, and lubricated the threads with Vaseline petroleum jelly. Finally I touched up the damaged knurling with matt black Humbrol Enamel paint.
It is four years since the last Quekett excursion to the Warnham Local Nature Reserve, so I was keen to go this year despite the forecast of heavy rain from Storm Antoni. I could only carry one bag plus an umbrella, so I took my camera but not a microscope. We were based in the new Discovery Hub, close to the café and the new pond.
A week later was Microscopium, the Quekett’s annual sales event, in Letchworth Garden City. There was an overtime ban affecting the trains, but fortunately the ones that I needed were running almost normally. There are sometimes bargains to be had, and this year I picked up a used BH2-5RE nosepiece, a new 45-LBD-IF filter (new version of the 43LBD-W45 filter, without the metal mount) for my CK2, and two new spare bulbs for my BH2-DO dual-oberver attachments. I had accumulated some Nikon caps for eyepiece tubes, an Olympus BH-CD Abbe condenser and a spare Olympus IF 550 green filter, and I managed to sell them.
My website seemed to be running well with my new Internet Service Provider (ISP), until I noticed that I was getting hardly any e-mails from the contact form. The contact form that I had used for about 20 years did not work with the new ISP, because it was written using version 4 of the PHP scripting language and I could not work out how to update it to run under the current version 8. So I had installed a new one that had good reviews, but when I checked the validation I discovered that it was only allowing a small range of characters, so anything with numbers, question marks, accented or foreign characters could not be sent. Now I have found another new one from Kontaktformular.com. It seems to be working o.k., but I have not yet worked out how to change its appearance.
I attended 3 events this month. The first was a Home Counties Meeting in the Eastbrookend Discovery Centre in Dagenham, where there are lakes, woodlands and grasslands for collecting. I took my Olympus CH-2 compound microscope for another attempt at a moss safari, and found a few nematodes, a couple of rotifers moving around in the debris, and some small ciliates. There were also lots of dead rotifers, but no sign of any tardigrades.
Neil Henry, Paul Smith and I participated in the Wimbledon Common Weekend of Nature as part of the Club’s outreach programme. I took my Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope to show some specimens from the Common, but I spent most of my time on the guided walks.
The final event of the month was the Workshop on polarised light, held in the Natural History Museum. I took some polarisers, analysers and retarders to show how my accessories have evolved. My first ones were a linear polarising filter for a camera, and a disc of polarising film bought on eBay as the analyser. I eventually found the proper Olympus items on eBay, and found that they provided only a small change in the quality of images. Much later, I acquired the Olympus “Simple Polarizing Attachment” and whole wave and quarter wave tint plates at bargain prices, but found that they were not very versatile becase they are intended for quantitative work and so the tint plates cannot be rotated. I made my first retarders from various plastic films held in plastic 35 mm slide mounts. The aperture was only just big enough to avoid vignetting, so I changed to annular cardboard mounts that I cut from cornflake boxes using a compass cutter.
I have known for a few years that the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge web browsers were making it difficult for people to download my PDFs of Olympus microscope manuals and brochures, because my website did not have an SSL certificate and therefore was regarded as not secure. My Internet Service Provider charged a lot for a certificate, so I needed to switch to another one, and because they do not give refunds I wanted to time the switch just before renewal. This year I managed it, so users can now see a padlock icon, and the address is now https://www.alanwood.net/olympus/downloads.html.
As a contribution to London Rivers Week, CPRE London coordinated a family-friendly Nature Discovery Day in Chinbrook Meadows, and the Quekett was invited to provide some microscopes for observing specimens collected from the River Quaggy. As part of the outreach programme, Paul Smith and I took some simple microscopes and some books and leaflets, and had a good time explaining things to children and adults.
Paul Smith ran a workshop on epi-illumination in the Natural History Museum, and I took my Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope and home-made shadowless illuminator to show how well it works with metallurgical specimens as well as biological ones.
There were some simple epi-illumination adapters on display, but nothing like the ones for Olympus microscopes. I couldn’t carry my Olympus BHMJ metallurgical microscope as well as my stereo, so I took some photos to add to the meeting report.
Later in the month, Paul Smith and I attended the 2023 Members’ Day and AGM of the Amateur Entomologists’ Society, held in the Natural History Museum, as part of the Club’s outreach programme. I took my trinocular Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope and my Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, and Paul kindly brought a portable monitor to attach to the camera.
Several of the AES members stopped by to see our displays, and we were able to help with advice on buying and using microscopes, and taking photomicrographs with digital cameras and mobile phones.
On the first of March, a new version of the software behind the Quekett website was launched, after lots of work by the new webmaster, Peter Wyn-Jones. It now runs on the latest version of WordPress and PHP, so it should be faster. The arrangement for signing in has changed too, so that members are verified in the membership database and will not need a new password each year.
The Reading Convention is now run by the Quekett, and has had to move to a new venue, Sonning Common Village Hall. It is not very far from the Reading, but there is only one bus per hour. It is a long journey for me, but a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and look for bargains. The new webmaster was there, but he was busy selling items from the estate of Peter Massingham, so I took some photos and wrote the meeting report for the website.
The first Home Counties meeting of the year was held in the main hall of Church Gate House Centre, where the South Thames Discussion Group met for several years, adjacent to St Andrews Church in Cobham, Surrey.
I prepared some of my home-made ball tables for the gossip in the afternoon, but there was so much else to see that I decided to keep them for another occasion.
The Wimbledon Common Nature Club has re-started after a break because of Covid-19. It is run by Auriel Glanville and two teenage assistants (Alexander and Oliver Mallett) and welcomes children from 6–14 years old to come and discover the world of nature on the Common. They meet for 2 hours each month in the Information Centre, the same venue as used by Quekett members on excursions, the Weekend of Nature and the Open Day. Auriel asked the Quekett if anyone could help with their first meeting of 2023, and Paul Smith and I took an assortment of simple microscopes and some interesting slides.
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