Adding a light touch to a "classic" microscope.

Old tech meets new tech... you have to vote for this, its got LEDs and stuff.

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Replacing some vintage unobtainium with a modern lotsa-lumens LED source.

This probably comes under the "not much of a hack" banner...

I guess some purists would suggest that replacing a flat filament tungsten bulb, whopping great wire wound pot, and a large transformer with an LED headlight bulb, cheap'n cheerful LED PWM controller for the ubiquitous LED strips and a 12V wall wart is a little obvious for a hack... however I hope to add a little "value" with the construction log.

The LED bulb I used here probably produces something in the order of 200 lumens, depending on which cheap'n cheerful white LEDs this particular manufacturer used. This was more than adequate for this conversion.

If you want some serious light, (1000+ Lumens) then you could go for something like the Cree XM-L series LEDs ( ) - but bear in mind that excessive amounts of light can be bad for both the sample being observed through the microscope, and more importantly, your eyes.

Cree bulbs can be found on ebay for a few bucks more than the headlight bulb, or even liberated from one of the many Cree LED torches. However these bulbs will require a different power supply, at the bare minimum they will need a suitable current limiting resistor, but if you intend to drive them really hard, you will may need to add a heatsink and perhaps a constant current supply. The single bulb option does have the distinct advantage of being closer in nature to a single point source, which means less messing about to focus all of the useful light on to the subject.

  • 1 × A smidgen of solder and some heatshrink. To keep it all neat and presentable.
  • 1 × Bulb holder - assuming you can't reuse the existing one Search for Socket Xenon LED Light Bulb Car Truck Connector Extension S25 1157/BAY15D MPH
  • 1 × LED headlight bulb - BAY-15D 12V - the brighter the better - within reason. Search for 1157 BAY15D 18 LED SMD 5050 Car Brake Turn Signal Light Bulb Lamp Pure White 12V
  • 1 × Holder for the above. (or modfiy the existing holder for more hacker points)
  • 1 × LED PWM Controller Search for 1pcs White portable Min Single Color Dimmer For 3528/5050 LED Light/Strip

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  • History lesson

    andyhull08/01/2014 at 23:35 0 comments

    The microscopes in question seem to be a little on the "rare" side. This doesn't mean they are worth anything, in fact, far from it, given their age and condition, however they are a little difficult to research, and very little information was obtained from an hour or so of google trawling. 

    What I did eventually discover about "GS"  (Gillet & Sibert) microscopes of this vintage,  is that despite having a  London makers mark stamped on them they were built in Neilston in Scotland (so locally made.. since I live in Scotland), and were popular mainly due to their robust construction and fine optics. 

    They even made a similar model for export, with a 12V input to allow the use of a car battery to light the bulb. This was intended for use in labs and doctors surgeries in remote rural communities throughout the world.

    See here for the most recent Gillet & Sibert "tropical" model, which is also no longer in production.

    Light microscopes are fascinating devices, if you haven't played with them much, I suggest you remedy that as soon as possible.

  • First sedate the patient.

    andyhull08/01/2014 at 22:58 0 comments

    Since the microscope in question was actually a pile of broken microscopes (dumpster find), with just about enough parts to make two working 'scopes, the majority of the work in this project was spent cleaning repairing and re-assembling the optics and the stages. Cleaning microscope optics is an art in itself, and involves a lot of patience, lint free cloths, suitable glass safe solvents, bamboo skewers and a steady hand. The least little speck of dust can ruin the whole operation. Cleaning the prisms alone, must have taken at least an hour. The transformation was pretty startling. When I started the repair process, I could barely see through the right hand eyepiece due to decades of neglect, and  rough handling.  By the time I had finished, things were almost as clear as the day it left the factory. Be prepared to spend a little extra effort here, as it makes all the difference to the final results. Given the financial value of a second hand microscope, you might argue it isn't worth the time, but I wasn't doing this for monetary reward.

    Once this was done, the original transformer, wire-wound pot/resistor and mains cable was removed, and the wires from the bulb holder stripped, tinned and soldered to the PWM board. One point worth mentioning is that the socket for the tungsten bulb is a classic bayonet fit, but a headlight bulb actually has the pins on the shaft (as opposed to the pins on the base) offset, one higher than the other, so you can only fit the bulb in a similar socket, and only if it is the correct way round.

    The reason for the difference is that car bulbs are dual filament, but the original microscope bulb was not. It also means that the original bulb holder required a little "Dremmelwerk" to allow me to fit the new LED bulb. Furthermore  the negative (0V) needs to be attached to the can of the holder, and the positive (+12V) is attached to both pins of the socket base. It is also worth remembering that low voltage LED bulbs generally have a polarity, but filament bulbs don't. If you swap the wires round, the bulb wont light 

    One safety tip, if you have any doubts about the quality of your wall wart, it would also be a good idea to insulate the bulb holder from the metalwork, since the body of the microscope will no longer be earthed. This shouldn't matter for a well behaved triple insulated wall wart, but some of the devices at the lower price points have some pretty dodgy mains isolation. This has been discussed here on HAD in the past. I opted for some strategically placed electrical tape, just in case.. I don't want my hair standing on end for all the wrong reasons when I look through the eyepieces.

    Once the bulb holder was dealt with, the 2.5mm (or is it 2.1mm 'cant remember.. whatever)... input socket was un-soldered, the wires passed through the old rubber strain relief grommet (a tricky operation, involving brute force and cunning, a little swearing, and a near miss with the pointy end of my pliers and my knee), and re-soldered. 

    The original bakelite knob was a perfect fit for the new nylon potentiometer shaft on the LED dimmer, so everything went back together without any trouble, and the microscope looks pretty much as it originally did, with the exception of the wall wart attached to the 2.5mm power socket pigtail.  

    The new bulb is not exactly a perfect point source, but with some imagination and an improvised foil reflector, I have a very brightly illuminated stage. More than good enough for seeing very small things (much smaller than the usual SMD components often gracing these pages, we are talking really small.. down to the limits of light microscopes in fact).  One other minor grouch is that the light spectrum of "white" LEDs is somewhat non linear, so digital pictures tend to have a blue cast to them (fixable in post processing) . Tungsten bulbs also have a non linear light curve, but it tends to be a warmer, redder bias.

    Finally, what can we see with our...

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