Here we go…

Here is the Baker microscope with the bent pinion all taken apart. Since taking the photo I have cleaned it, sanded some areas and primed them ready for painting. Tomorrow I shall blacken the stage and do some more sanding and painting. I shall repeat this process about 10 times. It will be worth it in the end.

disassembled Baker

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Stage and paintwork

A customer has asked me to partially restore his microscope, a jug handled Baker. He has specified certain areas that he wants repaired as he wishes to conserve as much of the original paint as possible. He wants me to re-do several areas of the handle, an area on the foot, and the stage. The stage is a little stiff in one direction so the movement needs looking at too.

As you can see, I will also have to make a new pinion as the original pinion attached to the coarse focus is badly bent. Here’s the before photograph – let’s see what we can do! I’ll start by giving it a good clean as it is very dirty.

 

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Perfectionism

Today I have re-lacquered the same piece three times. The first time I did it it came out too orange. I stripped off the lacquer, diluted it and tried again. The colour was better but after staring at it for some time I decided it was still not quite right for the era.

I stripped one piece and I made a further dilution of my lacquer then did a rough and ready re-lacquering of a test area. The colour is better now but I shall have to do the piece properly next week. I am getting impatient and making mistakes now. It’s better to wait.

36131

Re-lacquering a piece numerous times seems to be par for the course. I seek perfection in colour, in shininess and in all round wow factor. No point lacquering a piece absolutely beautifully but in the wrong shade of yellow. I have to feel proud when I have finished. I never feel relaxed if I know there is an error, or the colour isn’t quite right. I don’t suppose this is a bad thing.

 

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Perfection! 

A small two tone Baker microscope appeared on eBay some years ago and I was quite taken with its beauty so when I happened across a very badly damaged Baker in need of re-lacquering I decided to recreate the two tone look.

This little chap has been something of an experimental piece as I have tested various brown and orange lacquers out on it. I am finally happy with it. I just have two small pieces drying and I can reassemble it properly. The slideshow below shows the microscope before and after restoration.

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My workshop

Today I have been tidying my workshop, it might look a bit of a mess still but I have removed a whole car-boot load of old boxes, used nitrile gloves and bits of emery paper today. The room is looking much tidier even if the worktops themselves still need some work. I shall finish tidying tomorrow – I need to use the milling machine so there is no escape!

workshop

I am still not entirely happy with the little Baker microscope in the foreground of the picture, the brown lacquer comes out far too dark after it has been heated. I am making a new, much paler batch at this moment.  I want a muted earthy tone – not dark chocolate. I should have pictures to post at the weekend.

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Polishing

I have been so busy polishing this week that I forgot to blog! I do all my polishing by hand and it can be quite therapeutic. The mind can wander a little while the hands are busy. Whilst polishing I tend to daydream about glistening golden microscopes and my next projects. Today I sanded and polished with various grades of pumice. I have one more extra  fine polish to do before I start lacquering this piece, and tomorrow evening I have another piece to finish which just needs heating and reassembling.

The excitement mounts. I hope I can get it all done, I have to do some gardening to do as well. The penstemon need urgent  attention.

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Different lacquer colours

By varying the amounts of various ingredients, such as Dragon’s Blood, various lacquer colours can be achieved. Below is a picture showing three different batches of lacquer I have made applied to microscope parts.

I am about to make up a fresh batch of yellow as I have a piece to lacquer for a customer, I have some leftover yellow lacquer but I don’t want to risk using it. The lacquer ingredients are dissolved in pure ethanol, over time the ethanol takes up water and water is death to lacquer. Any water in your lacquer and you will get cloudiness and a nasty finish. It’s less trouble to make up fresh.

lacquer colours

Yellow, brown and gold lacquer

 

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A new piece

I am having a nice cup of tea and a sit down, so thought I would write a quick update. Whilst I am waiting for the last lot of lacquering I did to dry, I have started to prepare a new piece for a customer. I have taken the piece apart and have stripped off most of the old lacquer. I have a few little screws and knobs left to strip, hopefully I shall get them finished by the end of the day.

The piece is interesting, most of it is in good shape but a few pieces, those which have been handled the most, have severe wear and pitting. Nothing I cant fix, but it will be fiddly and laborious. It will all be worth it in the end though.

mug

Cup of tea anyone? 

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The lacquering line

Lacquer drying

Not something you see every day -my lacquering washing line. It’s important not to touch the lacquer after it is applied. It needs to dry for several days before being cooked. This re-purposed Ikea wardrobe makes a fine drying cupboard. The wardrobe doors are a good cat deterrent too. Nothing worse than cat hair in the lacquer. I wonder how Victorian microscope makers kept their cats at bay?

I use stiff flexible lubricant hosing and crocodile clips to hold the work while I lacquer it. Once lacquering is complete I can bend the hose and hang it up in the wardrobe. Wire also works but the piece being lacquered can sometimes flop around too much, also wire is not unsuitable for tiny pieces like screws. 

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Brown lacquer

Today, I have been working with an unusual brown lacquer. Brown lacquers were not used a great deal, but it is good to have finally perfected one for those rare occasions when a brown lacquer is called for.  The lacquer uses garnet shellac and is somewhat more tricky to apply than any of my yellow or gold lacquers. It is a fairly muted brown and needs to be applied in a slightly thicker layer than usual. Also, it is a damp, cold, dull day and lacquers are much easier to apply when there is bright light and low humidity.

It’s looking good, I am eager to see what it looks like once it has dried and has been cooked.

garnet shellac lacquer

Brown lacquer applied to microscope limb

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