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Mounting style

Posted by Henry Barwood  
Henry Barwood December 10, 2008 03:14AM
I'm curious how many mounters:

1. Mount for maximum visual impact
2. Slap that sucker in a box and take a photo

I'm the No. 2 type mounter. I trim a specimen until I can see, and photograph, a specific mineral and then mount it in a box so that it is protected from dust and damage. My primary objective is to orient the specimen for maximum photographic impact, but I'm indifferent to excess matrix, etc.

Yes, I know real micromounters are the No. 1 type!

Douglas Merson December 10, 2008 04:15AM

Most of my micros would fall into your second category and are in thumbnail boxes. I have a few true micromounts. Some of my micros are miniatures as I do not want to destroy the associations on the piece.

Donald Peck December 11, 2008 04:20PM
I guess I am closer to the first group than the second. I spend time triming and orienting the specimen on the peg. My goal is to have the crystal that is emphasized even with the top of the box, and approximately centered. I am not much into photography.
Jason B. Smith December 11, 2008 04:44PM
I am 50/50. Smaller specimens that fit into a 7/8ths box get mounted. For the rest I just use the proper sized box, mostly the "euro" box. I use the paper inserts for my true mounts so that when its time to photograph it I have no problem removing it from the box.
Malcolm Southwood December 13, 2008 06:24AM
I probably mount mainly for visual impact. Small specimens I tend to do the "proper job" of permanent mounting on a cork pedestal, but in recent years I've become a bit lazy with slightly bigger pieces which I mount on the dreaded mineral tack directly on the bottom of the box. I rarely photograph specimens of this size at the moment but would like to get into that when I have a little more time (i.e. a project for retirement I suspect).
Sebastian Möller December 13, 2008 09:15AM

I am the second type. I trim the specimen down until it fits into a box, then mount it on mineral tack. To me, the paragenesis is more important than a single xl nicely mounted. Most of my objects are far too small for mounting them ´without matrix.


Sebastian Möller
Donald Peck December 13, 2008 07:55PM
Sebastian, I almost never mount a crystal free of matrix. I agree that the associations and what they say for the paragenesis is important. And ;like yours most are too small to mount if they were not in matrix.

For some time, I have had some beta quartz xls that are free (floaters). They are exceedingly tiny and I have yet to figure out how I want to mount them. I will probably end by mounting one on the end of a steel brush bristle.
Sebastian Möller December 13, 2008 09:41PM

Another kind of mounting becomes more and more important to me: small loose xls put only into the box without actual mounting. I have some specimen of this kind, mostly heavy minerals (gold, zircon, monazite) from panning in river sands and some nice pyrochlore and magnesioferrite xls from carbonatite. In a box I have mostly about hundreds of small xls, so mounting them would be a hell of work.

In Germany mounting of specimen on needles or brush bristles is quite uncommon. We mostly use mineral tack only.


Sebastian Möller
Bill Lechner December 14, 2008 02:56AM
It's heartbreaking to lose a lovely crystal because you want the specimen to fit a particular size of box. So my motto is: "If it's too big for the box, use a bigger box". I am more of the micro sticker kind of person rather than a true micro mounter.
Henry Barwood December 14, 2008 03:05AM
I’m glad to know that there are a variety of mounting styles, and that I’m not alone!

One note: I mount my specimens in the lid of the boxes and they hang upside down. This tends to discourage pesky dust accumulations.

When mounted in the lid, I can orient the specimen using my two axis stage (a lazy-Susan bearing and half a tennis ball!) so that optimum imaging of the crystal(s) can take place.

I also use hot glue for mounting. Yes, I know it produces pesky threads, but it is also a relatively instant mount and I have never had a specimen detach since I started using it. My only wish would be for a micro dispenser that would be easier to use with small specimens.

Joe Marty December 14, 2008 04:23AM
Its enjoyable to hear about all of the different mounting techniques. Being a micromounter, I have seen many different styles and have learned a lot from observing other techniques. More important to me is the quality of the specimen, is it damaged, will it stay preserved, and most of all, is the label done well. If you can't read the label, if the locality information is poor or wrong, and if the specimen id is wrong, then how it is mounted seems to be less important.

Bryan Manke December 14, 2008 05:24AM
I'm beginning my quest into micromounting and these types of posts are great (wish there was more of them). If anyone is willing upload pics of their methods that would be helpful for a beginner like me. I'm starting from scratch, so to speak. I also hope to get a scope in early 2009.

Also, I bought some micros at a show recently and it almost looks like their mounted on clear thumbtacks. Is this a method? I don't want to pull the package apart to find out (foam is glued to the base).

Happy hunting.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/14/2008 05:26AM by Bryan Manke.
Henry Barwood December 14, 2008 03:21PM
Don and Sebastian,

I remember the old foram mounts that were slides (paper, I think - in aluminum holders) that had wells in them. You put the forams in the wells and then covered the whole thing with a specially cut coverslip. They were sealed in, but you could examine them with a scope. I don't even know if they still make them, but it seems to me that an insert for a micro box could be made that would house a loose crystal (or crystals) so you could view/image them, but they wouldn't just rattle around in a a large box. I'm way beyond the days when I could mount a crystal on a hair of some sort without a disaster ensuing! I has been years since I mounted mineral fragments on needles to examine on the spindle stage and that was nerve wracking.

Alysson Rowan December 14, 2008 04:40PM

You can still obtain foram mounts, but for some specimens, a microscope slide with a ring-mount is excellent - attach the specimen using Gum Arabic, and then seal with a cover slip. You can even get different depths of ring.

When you invited me to see your etchings, I didn't expect to
see so much degraded quartz. Really.
Tom Trebisky December 15, 2008 12:46AM
I am definitely a type 1 mounter by this division. In fact, I was holding a mount I was gluing in one hand and typing
with the other when I found this thread! My aim is to make a permanent mount and to strive to make the best mounts
that I can make. Mineral tack is for temporary storage, and frankly is not the ideal media even for that. I was just
mounting a piece of Creaseyite that had been sold to me on tack, and the tack had liquefied and made a huge mess
(and that isn't the first time I have seen that happen). I would rather buy/trade material that has been white glued
on cardboard and soak in water to dissolve the glue off (I have 3 pieces in a little bowl of water right now doing just

But -- it is GREAT to see discussion of mounting techniques on this forum! I use balsa for pegs and taper with
a sharp knife and blacken with india ink applied with a small artists brush. I then set these on top of a vent on my
desk lamp to dry and they are ready to go as soon as I finish shaping the next one. I use a high quality white glue
like weldbond or "tacky glue" to mount on the pegs and in the box (I use paper liners). It does take time. I have 7
mounts done this afternoon, 2 in progress and another couple getting ready, so that is 10 mounts in an afternoon,
and they still need to be trimmed to length, glued into the box and labelled. But I have been doing other things as
well (chores around the house, fussing with my pet birds, not just mounting non-stop). I suppose I have just convinced
a bunch of people to keep using mineral tack. I guess it is the difference between putting a photo on your wall with
thumbtacks and having it mounted on foam-board and framed. For me it is definitely how I want to do it.
Henry Barwood December 15, 2008 02:05AM
Hi Tom,

Actually, I hate mineral tack! I generally store my micros in small plastic bags with the locations and suspected identification written on the bag. I rip apart a lot of material and remove anything that looks odd or photogenic. I ususally give each specimen an initial +, -, * or ** for rarity and potential for photography. Sometimes that rating changes when I find better material. Once I've accumulated a bunch of specimens, I pick out the ones I want to work with and mount them. The rest are safe until I need research material. Some specimens of a delicate nature get stored in boxes until I can mount them, but the plastic bags are surprisingly gentle on micromounts.

Donald Peck December 15, 2008 03:53PM
Allyson, ring mounts make a lot of sense for small loose crystals. I think I will give it a try. The only disadvantage I can see is that orienting crystals to see some of the forms or perspectives might be difficult to impossible.

Tom, I use balsa pegs also, but I have found that using a permanent felt marker is a lot easier than India ink for coating them. I buy the balsa in about 30 inch lengths, coat all four sides, and then chop them into approximate length. I use different sizes so I seldom have to taper a peg.

Henry, I agree with you! I don't like mineral tack either. Also, it has a tendency to dry out over time.

A friend of mine uses a glue called "484 Tacky Bond" and mounts really small stuff on short pieces of covered steel fishing leader. He says that he needs to just touch the end of the leader to a drop of glue and then to the crystal and it is an instant bond. I have been going to order some ot the Tacky Bond, but like a lot of things, haven't done it yet.
Edward Johnson December 16, 2008 09:46PM
I don't photograph my micros, so I guess I fall into mounting type #1.
When I have a batch of tiny xls or grains to mount, I punch out a piece of heavy paper stock of the appropriate size, give it a very thin coating of glue, let that dry just a little so that its tacky but not gooey, and then either sprinkle the xls onto the surface, or alternatively, lightly press the glued surface onto the xls. The paper circle with the xls is mounted to a pedestal of the proper height, and there you go. When done properly, you don't even see the glue after it has dried.

For pedestals, I use strips of neoprene rubber, which I get from a friend who makes conveyor belts. The rubber strips are about 1/2 inch wide at the base, and taper up to a rounded top about 3/4 inch high. The rubber is easy to cut with an xacto knife, and its already black, so there is no need for painting.

However, I have to say that I have been using mineral tack for years, with no real problems. An occasional mount has become loose and fallen off its pedestal, but this is the exception, rather than the rule. It generally doesn't hold well on an earthy/powdery matrix. That's when the glue comes out.
Rock Currier December 18, 2008 09:14AM
You can mount you specimens how ever you want, but unless the end result is attractive with good visual impact, and this means having well written or machine printed labels, the chances are good that when you die your collection will be much more likely thrown out in the trash. If you store your collection in beer flats, the chances of it just being thrown out in the trash are high as well.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Donald Peck December 18, 2008 04:00PM
Rock, I agree. I do all my labels with my computer. The problem I run into with micro labels is that I can't get as much info on them as I would like. Currently, I place the principle label on the bottom of the box, a small strip with the name of the mineral on the top, and a third small strip with the catalog number on the side that gives the best view when placed towards the viewer.
Rock Currier December 20, 2008 11:43AM
Donald, what font size do you use for your labels. I find that anything smaller than 5 point is difficult to read but with five point fonts I can put about twice or three times the text on micro labels than I could ever write by hand on my best day and they are a lot more readable.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Donald Peck December 20, 2008 03:07PM
I am using 8 pt type. Two reasons: 1) I don't have the kind of vision I used to have; and 2) my labelling program has 8pt as its smallest font. Maybe I should look into another labelling program. :)
Rock Currier December 21, 2008 03:17AM
Eight point font is really big for labeling micros, it is no wonder that you can't put much on your labels. Most of the time I use 6 point font but often go down to five point if there is a lot of data I want to put on the label. What labeling program are you using?

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Donald Peck December 21, 2008 02:09PM
I am using Labels Unlimited. It is easy to use. One sets up a template. Then an internal dedicated database is established where the info is entered. I use Excel for my catalog, and I believe I could establish a labelling function for it that would automatically use the data that exists. The problem might be that the catalog would need two labelling programs. One for macro specimens and one for micros.
Rock Currier December 22, 2008 08:59PM
So your Labels Unlimited program limits you to a minimum of 8 point font? How close to the edge of your labels will it let you print? Some programs like the Avery label making program that uses their commercial stick on labels of various sizes will only let you print in the central part of the labels and you loose all the space around the edges. I think this must be because of the sloppy registration positioning of the paper in most printers. There are database programs out there where you can enter your collection data and then print labels and reports from the data in the database and they can be of any size or kind. The problem is that you have to cut out the labels and glue them on your specimens, micro boxes, etc. I use sheets of the self adhesive paper for my micros, but they are a bit of a PIA to peal the back off of and position neatly on the micro boxes, but when they are done they look good. You can customize your labels them however you want, but the program that you need to use to do this is not terribly user friendly though it does come with an extensive help manual and is included with the database program.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Ray Hill December 30, 2008 09:35AM
Hi Henry et al
I mount using a variety of methods , but mostly I try to mount under magnification, so that I am sure that the best view of the crystal in question is seen when the box is set up normally underneath the scope. I have had varying success with different glues, but still opt quite a lot for Elmers glue since it is strong but is also water soluble has the added advantage of soaking into porous matrices to allow a better grip on the cork or whatever medium I am putting it on..which is sometimes directly on a paper liner. If matrix stability is a problem, I will stabilize by putting some Elmers on the part of the matrix that I plan to stick to the inside of the box somehow, and when it is dry , then I add a few drops more for the final stickdown onto the paper liner or cork or pedestal.. I like using bases for the crystal specimens that are slightly porous like cork or paper, since that means that the glue will stand up better to the rare but unfortunate drop of a box and the paper has give which allows for shock without breaking the bond.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/13/2009 03:58AM by Ray Hill.
Donald Peck December 31, 2008 03:43PM
Hi Rock,

The Labels Unlimited software lets me run right up to the edge of the label. I use 1 x 4" Avery labels. On each I print four full labels (bottom of the box), four species labels (strips on one top edge of the box) and four catalog numbers (strips on the side of the box - indicate side toward the viewer for best view). I do have to cut them apart with a razor knife, but that is not too arduous.

Colleen Thomson January 01, 2009 08:14PM
Hi Guys,
I too have used the Labels Unlimited software in the past with guite good results.
Now however, i use the Ososoft Mineral Label 5.0 (freeware) -with excellent results. The font size goes down to a 2 (if your printer and eyesight could handle that!!) but I usually use about 6 or7 for most micro labels. All labels are customisable, although there are several dozen templates available to choose from. I usually choose to print onto plain copier paper and hand glue the labels to the box (no preference as to where, but I do prefer to view the specimen through the lid, so I guess the label is on the base or side) often with a smaller strip label on top /lower lip with species name and/or the region/ locality.

I fall into the second category too - most of my specimens are mounted on mineral tack, except where the matrix is earthy/ crumbly in which case i use glue (either epoxy/ waterbased copydex or occasionally for larger specimens - 'no more nails') hot glue is far too messy.
I do occasionally mount very small or fragile (and single crystals) on pedestals made from a variety of materials, including toothpicks (cut to size after blackening with permanet marker) and nylon bristles (even tried one of my cats whiskers!!) obviously I did'nt hold down the cat and remove the whisker.....too many sharp bits to contend with........ouch.

cheers, Colleen
Steve Rust January 02, 2009 01:39PM
Being a micromineral collector rather than a micromounter the majority of my specimens will not fit into the standard micromount box. I have not mount a specimen on a stick for years.
And I use white tack, or glue which ever is the most appropriate. My label squares are printed out on A4 permanent white, if there is enough of a particular species to be dealt with I print with all the relevant details copying the detals in to each box. Or if there are a mixture of specimens with differant species I print out a sheet of labels and hand wright the details. My lables are all 35x30mm, which fits just right on the size box I mostly use, or bigger boxes.
Eddy Vervloet January 09, 2009 01:51PM
I am with Sebastian on this one. I think in Europe as a whole, 'true micromounting' , in the way that term is understood in the USA, is very rare. I only know a handful of people who would glue a 1 mm chrystal on a cactus needle for instance. Like myself, I guess for most europeans micromounting means collecting minerals that are best seen/enjoyed under a binocular scope, but ideally we collect specimens that have thumbnail size matrix, with several chrystal occurances on the piece. The paragenesis surely counts!
I do not even use the typical micro boxes, I only use the smalles Jousi boxes. I prefer those because the bottom is very low, making it possible to view the entire piece. I use black bottoms by the way. And I use tack in 99 percent of the case.

Greetings from France,

Brent Thorne January 09, 2009 08:32PM
I am not a micromounter per se, it's just that most of the rare species that I like to collect occur in micro sized crystals. I like my specimens to have some matrix attached so I can see the associations. So, most of my specimens are larger than would fit in a micromount box. When I do have a specimen that is a true micromount, I use the hinged lid micro boxes with a shallow black base and a clear top. I will attach the specimen with either white mineral tack or for really small samples, I will use a small square of 3M foam double stick tape. I usually use two labels for the box. The first label is placed inside the box at the back of the clear hinged lid. This label contains the name of the specimen, the locality, and a dot or dots signifying the quality of the specimen. Five dots being the best quality and one dot for a below average quality specimen. The other label I place on the bottom of the box. This label contains as much information as I can get on the label. Most of my specimens are in drawers. The clear lid box makes it handy to see the specimen and the label before taking it out to look at it through a microscope.
Ray Hill January 10, 2009 12:08PM
Just would like to know how come my last entry has a bunch of lines all through it...smells kind of rude to me
Can this be corrected or amended ?
Anonymous User January 10, 2009 02:32PM

edit your post and remove < s > < /s > - its the code for strike-through.

Ray Hill January 13, 2009 04:00AM
Thanks philippe
It was a simple solution and relieves me greatly, as I have a great respect for all the contributors and this lifts the veil of doubt and concern that that struck-through entry had elicited in me.
Bryan Manke February 10, 2009 01:36AM
I just received some of the Euro slip-fit boxes, black cork pedestal, etc today to start my journey into MM. These were the first I bought. I like them much better than the perky boxes. Plus I made my first two mounts today with cork pedestals, first of many I hope. My first attempt was not successful though....I was trying to mount a superb apatite from Palermo #1 and it fell into a pool of glue. I was waiting almost 2yrs to mount that :X

I prefer the looks of the black pedestal compared to the tack, but I understand the reasons why some would want to use tack.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2009 01:39AM by Bryan Manke.
Henry Barwood February 10, 2009 03:51PM

What kind of glue? Can you salvage it by dissolving the glue without taking the apatite? I know how you feel. I've "glued" a few specimens myself. One reason I prefer hot glue.

Alysson Rowan February 10, 2009 06:11PM
I have been using a syringe pack of PVA caulk - it dries translucent and is chemically close to ordinary wood glue (water based!) - it is also about the consistency of mineral tack (in small amounts)

Unfortunately, I can't get balsa anywhere in the area, so I've been using 6mm and 10mm hardwood dowelling. It is easily cut with a hacksaw or razor saw, or even a heavy craft-knife, and shaped by carving and/or sanding.

All in all, my move to micro-minerals is looking like a success. (so far).

When you invited me to see your etchings, I didn't expect to
see so much degraded quartz. Really.
David Von Bargen February 10, 2009 09:22PM
You don't have any hobby shops in the area? (there are some shops that sell mail order also that have extensive inventories of balsa).
Alysson Rowan February 10, 2009 10:10PM
Not a hobby shop within 50 miles, and the only mail-order balsa is assorted packs - and I really don't want 3kg of mixed blocks and strip just for a couple of pieces of balsa dowel.

The hardwood dowel is cheap and easily worked.

When you invited me to see your etchings, I didn't expect to
see so much degraded quartz. Really.
David Von Bargen February 10, 2009 11:35PM
I don't know how much their postage would be.
materials - wood - balsa (squares 48", dowels 36")
Bryan Manke February 11, 2009 12:04AM
Henry, I have been using Duco Cement. I think the apatite is a "goner"
David Von Bargen February 11, 2009 12:47AM
I believe Duco is soluble in acetone (safety precautions should be in place when using flameable organic solvents - and prevent, breathing and skin contact).
Henry Barwood February 11, 2009 01:00AM

Duco is soluble in several organics. I believe David is correct about acetone, but the rate is slow. Seems like I used to use MEK and xylenes, and back in the good old days, regular gasoline (wouldn't recommend modern gas with its witch’s brew of components!). A quick search should turn up others. Apatite is likely not going to be hurt by any of the organic solvents.

Bryan Manke February 11, 2009 02:47AM
Thanks guys, I was looking for nail polish remover (acetone) last night, but my wife must have used it all. Should I let the apatite/matrix sit in the acetone for a while? I know that acetone evaporates quickly.
Lou Rector February 11, 2009 03:14AM

I would suggest using 2-3 ml of acetone in a covered container. A shot glass firmly covered with aluminum foil should work. Please remember that acetone is flammable (as discussed above), so keep the container in a well ventillated area away from ignition sources.

Let the apatite soak for a day or so at room temperature and the cement should be swollen (somewhat gooey) with acetone. At this point you can pick it off (with a tool softer than apatite - a toothpick?)


Alysson Rowan February 11, 2009 02:17PM
A couple of warnings first:-

Most cosmetic "Nail Polish Removers" are a mixture of acetone and an oil to prevent damage to the nail and surrounding skin. Be prepared to de-oil a specimen soaked in it using either pure acetone or lighter fluid.

Isopropanol (as supplied as tape head cleaner etc) has the disadvantage of being extremely hygroscopic - it will de-water a specimen of its water of crystallisation long before it dissolves glues, so use with caution. (and adding a little water to the alcohol destroys its solvent properties).

Now the fun stuff:-

For anyone who needs a stronger "petroleum" type solvent, there are three excellent products:-

"Evo-Stik" glue cleaner (for removing the glue of that name in the UK, presumably other countries will have something similar) - it's a vicious mixture of solvents (mainly aliphatic, but the smell suggests a few aromatics in there too).

"Hammerite" do a thinners/brush cleaner for their paint products - it used to be xylene, but these days it's mainly acetone (propanone)

Lighter fluid (for the old-fashioned petrol lighters) This is commonly known as petroleum ether - light petroleum fractions without any additives. (I use this for removing sticky-label residues from plastics as well as removing glue from things)

Usual precautions required - these solvents are all extremely flammable, and are hazardous by both inhalation and skin contact (degreasants which remove the skin's natural oils, use only VINYL disposable gloves as polyethylene and latex are transparent to these solvents). All form explosive mixtures with air, and none are miscible with water.

For those ultra-light cleaning moments -
Spray car-de-icer is usually a mixture of isopropanol and diethyl ether,
Easy Start is probably a mixture of diethyl ether and possibly ethyl-methyl and diethyl ethers (Warning:- DAMP START is an oil product akin to WD40, and is not recommended unless you want an oily mess on your hands)

These last two are both extremely volatile at low temperatures, so don't expect them to hang around for long while you use them. These two products have a strong anaesthetic action (ethers), so lots of fresh air or sealed containers please.

When you invited me to see your etchings, I didn't expect to
see so much degraded quartz. Really.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/2009 02:27PM by Alysson Rowan.
Bryan Manke February 11, 2009 08:39PM
Thanks for all the info!!
Keith Compton February 14, 2009 12:04AM
Why not simply use Excel to creat a label
One cell for name
One for mine
One for locality
One for Number etc
Place a wide border for appearance and ease of trimming

Select your font size and print

Then laminate the label (protect from greasy hands and small annoying insects) and then trim to size You can print a great number of labels on one page.

It will take a bit of trial and error to get down to the size that you want
Generally for thumbnails I stick to 8 point with the print output reduced to 80% which gives the standard size I want. Output can be reduced more than 80% if you wish.
By selecting a small font and then reducing the overall print output you should be able to get pretty much any size and ultimately shape label - widen or shorten the cells.
You should be able to print out labels on paper - no bigger than half inch square with name, mine locality and number and they should be able to be attached to any size box that you use.
Donald Peck February 15, 2009 04:51PM
Keith, Great tip! I had never noticed the option under Print Preferences to reduce the pirint size by a given percentage.
Alan Rice July 17, 2009 12:50AM

Get a hypodermic needle with a metal hub and solder it to the tip of you low temp glue gun. That would give you finer control.
Henry Barwood July 18, 2009 11:08PM
Excellent idea, I'll give it a try!

Henry Barwood
Troy University
Troy, Alabama USA
Ray Hill July 21, 2009 01:46PM
That actually sounds interesting...where do you find hypodermics with metal hubs, and secondly, the back pressure with such a fine tip, would be hunormous wouldn't it, and last but not least , doesn't it clog badly when the glue cools..
Alan Rice July 22, 2009 05:32PM
Well Ray good questions.
Metal hubbed needles can be found on the internet and some retail stores that sale vet supplies like for horses.

As far as back pressure goes, yes it would increase but you push push lighter on the glue stick or pull lighter on the trigger.

And yes it clogs badly when the glue cools just like the metal tip clogs on the glue gun when it is unplugged. The needle being metal hubbed and soldered to the metal tip of the gun would transfer the heat and make the glue flow.

I found this one site using metal hub needle in google.
I have never ordered from them. 20g x1/2" box of 10 $3.25

Best Regards,


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2009 05:44PM by Alan Rice.
wendell October 01, 2009 10:25PM
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