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Some thoughts on micromounting

Posted by OT. Ljøstad  
OT. Ljøstad October 02, 2008 09:39PM
The traditional way to mount a micro mineral specimen in a box is to put it inside a black box so that it is only possible to view it from above. This is the worst possible way to present a mineral specimen in my opinion. Only collectors of micromounts will present their precious specimens in such a bad way.

I mount my specimens in white boxes. White boxes brings light to the collection compared to the darkness if mounted in black boxes. I want to see as much as possible of my specimens, even the matrix, so I try to mount my specimens as high as possible, preferably so that there are only one millimetre clearance between the top of the specimen and the lid. If mounted in this way the specimens can be viewed from almost all angles.

The photos shows a small part of my collection mounted in white boxes (Emeralds from Byrud, Norway) and a detail photo of a specimen (yttrofluorite with nice, twinned hundholmenite crystals) mounted in a white box. Pedestal of hot melt glue.
open | download - white_boxes.jpg (145.3 KB)
open | download - detail_white_box.jpg (49.5 KB)
Alfredo Petrov October 03, 2008 01:46AM
I used to do it the traditional way, intended for viewing from the top, but I agree with OT about the disadvantages. Now I do it upside down: mount the specimen on the lid, and use the rest of the box as the cover - now visible from all sides except the bottom.
Ray Hill October 03, 2008 06:58AM
You have some nice TN specimens there. I specially am impressed with your emerald and beryl specimens. The use of a pillar of glue gun glue is quite innovative and does seem to show the specimens to good advantage. As for myself, I find that I can only use the glue gun stuff , if I can hide it under the mounting peg, or a larger specimen mounted on the lid, like Alfredo. I get irritated with those fine little threads of glue that seem to spider web out from the glue when you pull away, and they really jump out at you under the scope.
I appreciate your view point on the mounting of specimens. In my case, the solution I found for being able to view the specimen more fully and still protect it from breaking away from the box, was to put the pins, pegs and mounting paraphenalia onto a precut black paper insert. It has better holding power with more flex than directly attaching to a box, but can be removed for a complete viewing of all aspects of the specimen without endangering the specimen. But still unacceptable in the OT school of mounting , because it still very effectively blocks out the light, when in the box. Each to their own.
Steve Sorrell October 03, 2008 09:46AM
Lids rock!
Bill Gordon October 03, 2008 10:21AM
If the specimen is firmly secured to the base, (black or white), a label can be stuck on the outside of the base and the box stored upside down. The specimen can be seen without removing its cover if there is any fear of someone touching it.

Bill G

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/03/2008 10:25AM by Bill Gordon.
Don Saathoff October 03, 2008 03:40PM
I totally agree with the necessity of seeing the whole specimen....the matrix is important. I simply mount high in a very shallow box with a high lid allowing the box to be turned in any direction. I also often remove the hinged lid when studying a specimen I've mounted. I always re-mount trade specimens into my favored boxes for these reasons.

Don S.

P.S. NO mount is made permanant because I NEVER know when a report on a new species or form appears requiring re-study of the ENTIRE specimen.
OT. Ljøstad October 03, 2008 07:07PM
If the specimen to be mounted is so large that it do not need to be mounted on a pedestal I fasten it to the bottom of the white lid of the box with the help of a drop of hot melt glue. If the specimen size is smaller and need a pedestal to be presented in the way I think is best, I use hot melt glue to form the pedestal. With a little bit of practice it is possible to mount a specimen without any of the ugly, thin threads that Ray H. mention.

I do not think that a visible pedestal lover the estetism of a well-mounted specimen.

Hot melt glue has two unique advantages that I like very much: By using this glue the specimens are permanently mounted, but the specimen can easily be removed by soaking the whole box in water for a fairly short time. I have not found these advantages in any other glue.

I have not found the ultimate mounting technique for my really tiny specimens, of the size a millimetre or less. I used to glue such specimens directly to some kind of pedestals. Specimens mounted in this way are impossible to remove without any damage, which I think is a bad thing. Now I mount such tiny specimens with the help of a piece of flat acryl plastic with a drilled hole which is covered by two pieces of thin glasses. The specimens are lying loose in the hole in the acryl plastic protected by the glasses. Seea a photo of one of my specimens mounted in this way in the attached photo (the left sitinakite specimen. The right koashvite specimen is mounted in a sealed glass tube).
open | download - tiny_mounting.jpg (44.8 KB)
Dominik Schläfli October 03, 2008 07:16PM
White boxes are very problematic when taking photographs. A large part of the box, though not visible in the field of view, may still be brightly illuminated, and sends off-axis light into the imaging system, which can then be reflected on various surfaces and still reach the detector, leading to the addition of a background level of light and ultimately a reduction in contrast.
Ray Hill October 04, 2008 08:45AM
Dear O J
Perhaps you have not heard of Elmers School Glue. I have used it for many years as it dries clear, colourless and is strong, but is totally water soluble. It is non toxic and as far as I know, relatively neutral as regards possible chemical interractions. It requires a bit more patience than hot glue, since it takes a while for the water to evaporate from the glue and let it harden. {dry time seems to be about 1 -2 hours depending on temp and humidity} This sometimes necessitates the use of a couple of clamps and/or supports while drying. This glue also works better on paper than on plastic, and hence the use of precut black paper inserts...Just a possible answer to your search, if you are interested.
Frank Ruehlicke October 04, 2008 02:02PM
I've recently started photographing my micros and as a result have gained a new appreciation for mounting on paper liners rather than on the box. Unfortunately my pieces are the latter rather than the former. Going forward I'm thinking of changing. I've found that die cut liners are available for the Althor P1 box.
Is there a source of die cut paper liners for other, larger boxes?

Lou Rector October 04, 2008 03:13PM
Hi Ray,

I am relatively new to micro collecting (notice I did not say micromounting).

Can you share a couple of pictures of your representative mounts?


Ray Hill October 06, 2008 02:09AM
Email me, Lou , at
and send me your mailing address,and I will send you some mounts free.

Frank , why not ask Althor if they can die cut some in other sizes that suit you...they are
in business to supply us or at least may have a source they can refer you to...good luck

Otherwise, you can get similar quality sheet papers from art and craft supply stores/ experiment around
with what size fits in your boxes and cut and fold your own. The secret is to find the exact size, cut out a
permanent model in either stiff plastic or sheet metal and that will be the model against which you cut with a
razor blade knife for all future liners. It saves a ton of time and you never have to wait for a delivery.
I cut and folded paper liners long before I enjoyed the luxury of precut.
Ray Hill October 06, 2008 02:10AM
I dont know what happened in the transcription but the system garbled my email address...
it is
Ray Hill October 06, 2008 02:16AM
what the heck...anyway ignore the part of the email address before the little greater-than mark...the email begins with Opalus not that other stuff...after 2 failed tries, I give up.
David Von Bargen October 06, 2008 01:01PM
Ray, you can use the icon for email addresses to insert a proper email address (seventh icon from right.)
Frank Ruehlicke October 07, 2008 10:48PM
Thanks for the advice.
Donald Peck October 19, 2008 04:10PM
I use Sorbo white glue, like Elmers, but somewhat more viscous. I believe it is used by librarians. Anyway, there is necessary drying time; and to keep the specimen in place, I stick the pedestal in oil-based modeling clay and support the piece with two or three toothpicks, also pushed into the clay. By the time I have mounted a half dozen, the first one is dry.

A friend uses 484 Tacky Bond. He says it siezes up on contact. He uses snips of wrapped steel fishing leader as a post. I haven't tried it yet, but he claims that for small specimens it is simply a matter of touching the end of the leader to the glue and then to the specimen.

I have always glued my specimens to a post (blackened balsa) and then cut the post so the crystals of interest are at or just above the top of the box. I have to admit that I am intrigued by the idea of mounting them to the inside top of the box, and using the box body as a lid. But I see two problems. 1) The box and lid often are difficult to separate. This, I think, would make damage to the specimen easy when opening. 2) At mineral shows, at least around here, we show our micros on a turntable. In order for that to be effective, the top of all specimens must be at the same height. I suppose they could still be mounted at uniform heights, but the reference level of the box is gone.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/19/2008 05:13PM by Donald Peck.
Dominik Schläfli October 19, 2008 05:37PM
Regarding hot melt adhesive, there is a way to avoid pulling fine threads when removing the gun: deposit a small bead of glue and quickly wrap the thread around the hot bead until it breaks. It works best when the glue is as hot as possible.
Ray Hill October 23, 2008 09:44AM
I have been doing that for TN's Dominik, but find that it still shows up a bit in micros, unless I hide the gluey parts under something that obscures them from the direct view of the microscope.
Hi Donald, interesting note re the Librarian's glue, and I will ask my librarian wife, if she is aware of it.
As for holding onto the balsa base, I sometimes use one of those modelers third hand devices , and mine has two separate spring loaded jaws which are on a ball bearing base allowing for multiple positionings...allowing for different angles of being held so the end product even if on an angle in relation to the pedestal, is held in a line that is vertical for the specimens attachment plane,so it won't slip off before the glue is hardened.
Donald Peck October 23, 2008 03:46PM
Interesting, Ray, I have one of those universal bases. I will have to try it!
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