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Found My First Micro Specimen, Need Pointers On Micromounting

Posted by Aidan de Haan  
Aidan de Haan August 19, 2018 12:11AM
Hi I found my first micro specimen, a small cluster of redish orange sphalerite which I found at the Montrose Occurrence in Niagara Falls Ontario. I realy like the look of the specimen and I have heard about mircomounting and was wondering if I could get some helpful pointers on how to set up a proper micromount.

Paul Brandes August 19, 2018 01:26AM
Welcome to Mindat, Aidan!

You will quickly discover that micromounting is very addictive, and that micros have a habit of multiplying rather fast! I'm sure you will get plenty of better tips from our resident micromounters than I could ever give...
Robert Rothenberg August 19, 2018 03:33AM
There are two works on micromounting that may be of interest:

Milton Speckels wrote a pamphlet called "the complete guide to micromounting" in the 1960's.

Quinton Wight wrote a book with the same title in the 1990's. It is a good deal larger.

Both works have good information about making a micromount. As Paul said, it is addictive,. I would add that unless you want to enter competitive displays, the directions about making a micromount in either book should be considered a guideline, not scripture.

I hope you find it as enjoyable as I have over the years.

Alysson Rowan August 19, 2018 08:55AM
Regardless of anything that is said in any forum, book or pamphlet, you have to decide what kind of mounts you want, what size and style of box (or other storage format) suits you .... and what your budget and handicraft skills are like.

There are, broadly, two types of mount - permanent and temporary.

Permanent mounts use glues to attach the specimen to some kind of mount (I use ordinary woodworker's glue for that), and temporary mounts (where you use 'mineral tack' to hold your specimen).

The tiniest specimens are almost invariably permanently attached to some kind of support (pin head, pin point, glass/acrylic fibre etc.), and the support then itself mounted in some manner.

At the end of the day, unless you are going for competitive mounting, as Robert says, you make all of the decisions.

What I would suggest is that you get a hold of some beach shingle, and try out various mounting techniques until you are happy with your technique - and only then start mounting real specimens that you want to preserve. Try mounting grains of sand up to pea-sized fragments - the techniques do vary.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Use any material you find suits your needs - I use balsa for the standoffs for my collection. Painted matt black (modelling paint), they can be shaped however you want with fine (400 or 600 grade) sandpaper and attached to the box (I use UHU, but your mileage may vary).

Labels are important. I make my own (print on a laser printer, and cut to size), and attach them to the BASE of the box (use something like UHU again). Use a reference number to refer to an index card (physical or electronic) and put essential details of the specimen on the label too.

Incidentally, those same boxes can be used for small thumbnail specimens, too!
Kevin Conroy August 19, 2018 01:49PM
If you're interested in getting a copy of The Complete Book of Micromounting look HERE.
Donald B Peck August 19, 2018 04:03PM

First, welcome to the group. Good advice , above.

The one real expense in micromounting (or micro collecting) is the stereo microscope. In the long run, it pays to buy the best you can afford. Otherwise , there seem to be several upgrades. Many times you can get a better scope on the "used" market.

There is no right way to make a micromount. Like Allyson, I mount using wood glue. The advantages: it holds well and if you later want to remove the specimen, it is water soluble. I glue specimens on a blackened balsa wood peg: easy to cut, shape, etc. and try to have the important part of the specimen level with the top of the box. The purpose of the box is to protect the specimen, but at the same time we don't want to hide it. Aesthetically, it is nice to settle on one, maybe two, styles of boxes, but not necessary. Neal Yedlin, an early guru of mm, was asked what to do if your specimen will not fit in the box. His response, "Get a bigger box."

Allyson touched on labeling and cataloging. Sooner or later you are going to want to keep track of your micros. They multiply like rabbits. I strongly advise, " sooner".

Welcome to the club! And as was pointed out, it becomes an addiction.

Dana Morong August 20, 2018 12:43AM
type up Micromounters of New England. They have some interesting information on their website.

A few hints: 1. when trimming, use a small plastic bag to catch bits that fly off (this was mentioned by Neal Yedlin back in 1948 but I hadn't read it yet by the time I lost a tiny crystal in the rug. Oh, yes, be patient about trimming. Don't try out new trimming techniques on your best material. 2. When buying micromount boxes, first ask others about quality. I once bought from a company that sold me lots of boxes with loose-fitting lids (even though their sales slip said "friction-fit"! I have heard that their quality control is still bad, yet they are somehow still in business). I have lately bought good boxes, more cost, from another company (which I would recommend if it were allowed, but you can PM me to get a reply by Private Message), and prefer them, as the loose ones were a constant nuisance. I now have the loose ones in a box in trunk of car to give away and get rid of them (no, I won't send them to you - you don't need the hassle!). It is worth the money, even though I really don't have so much to spare, to get the good ones that don't cause mental aggravation - "Nothing is a good deal if it doesn't work" 3. Get a GOOD magnifying glass (there has been some posts on good magnifying glasses on mindat in past few years, I think) and use it in the field. A good one is worth the cost. put it on a long string round your belt loop or something so you don't lose it. 4. When you get a microscope, always check it out (or one of the same type and brand) with your eyes first, no matter how well others like it. Eyes differ, and some like one type more than another. One may also need some help in learning to use a good binocular microscope (adjusting one side for eyes that are not evenly sighted, as mine are). 5. Be careful about gluing specimens (or pedestals) directly to bottom of box. What if you want to get it out to look at its side later? A liner is super for this, as one can glue to the liner, and it is held in good when the lid is on, but one can get to it later, if and when. But I have growled when I've gotten specimens (such as old ones from others) glued in bottom of box (sometimes the best side isn't even up) and I cannot get it out, to remount it, without possible damage. A little bit of care beforehand can reduce the amount of growleries!
Keith Compton August 20, 2018 06:13AM
Doesn’t look like much trimming is involved for Aidan’s first micro :-))
Donald B Peck August 20, 2018 03:42PM
Dana's suggestion of using liners in the box is a good one. I do the same thing.

On Labeling: If I were starting over, I would mot glue labels to the outside of my boxes. I would print "cross shaped" labels on plain paper of light cardstock that fold and fit snugly inside the bottom of a clear box. I would still use the black liners, but put the label between the box and the liner. I have seen other micro collectors do this and it is very neat, with plenty of space. Labels can't fall off over time, and they do not suffer any damage. I think it is a great solution. I would guess that it takes a little design work, if one is to use the computer to print them, but I am sure it can be done.
Robert Rothenberg August 20, 2018 07:52PM
I have printed labels using Excel for many years. A little experimenting with fonts and line sizes is necessary to get a useful template for the size box(es) you might use. I also put the label between the black paper liner and the box. It is much harder to ruin or mix up a label residing in the box than one that is on the top or bottom. There are also (IMHO) advantages in using black paper liners, but that is another discussion.

Donald B Peck August 21, 2018 03:34PM
Bob, could you post a photo of one of your labels and boxes? I thing it would help. I know I would like to see one. Thanks.
Mark Kucera August 21, 2018 08:18PM

The referenced books are an excellent start. Are you living somewhere close
to a club or decent sized show? Chances are good that you should be able to find
a micromount collector or dealer. There is probably a finite number of ways to
mount something but that number is large. I'd strongly suggest not mounting
anything important to you until you've seen numerous methods. Some methods
are great - but strongly reduce the potential to ever get a photo (or even view)
from other than directly above the mount. The paper liners can solve that.
Some methods are very good for multiple photo/viewing angles but not very
protective. Plenty of trade offs to consider. There are plenty of micromount
conferences if you really want to see variety. "Plenty" is a relative term, not as
plentiful as shows or clubs but more than most of us can get around to. Drop a PM
is you can't find something local.

Alan Pribula August 21, 2018 08:44PM
Picking up on one of Mark's suggestions: The Baltimore Mineral Society's Desautels Micromount Symposium will be held on October 19-21. Lots of folks there to talk with who have many years of experience in micromounting, as well as talks, Micromount Hall of Fame induction, silent and voice auctions, and dealers. It's a great weekend, and we're not at all prejudiced against newbies such as yourself. You can get more information (including the program and registration information) at the BMS website.
Luca Baralis August 22, 2018 08:03AM
Currently I glue micros directly on the lid of a 25x25mm see-through plastic box, with hot glue. This way you can see the specimen from 5 side (up, right, left, front and back). Then I fix a label to the bottom of the lid, and this is actually not so satisfactory as aesthetics.
The use of paper liners looks interesting, and I know it is a widespread system, but I'm afraid it 1) requires a lot of time and 2) the specimen can drop or tap on the lid if the box flips upside down.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/22/2018 08:04AM by Luca Baralis.
Robert Rothenberg August 22, 2018 12:39PM
Hi Don,

I'm not at home at the moment, but will try to post some images this weekend.

I think it was said earlier that micromounting is an individual process (unless entering competitive displays). There has been much discussion at symposia and on other threads of what is the best way to _____ (use of glues, paper liners or not, labeling, etc.. In the end, I believe we each find our own way to make mounts and it works for us. That doesn't mean we cannot be inspired by others.

Above all, have fun!!!

Dana Morong August 23, 2018 01:32AM
Re paper liners, it only took a lot of time for me, when I made a lot of them at once. Afterwards not so much time. As for the problem of the box flipping upside-down (it is always wise to be aware of such possibilities), I made the liners just the right size so that they are just up to the top of box, under the lid. Then, if the lid is the good type which fits snugly, it will still be held in good. However, if the lid is either a type which runs up over the top of the box, or is the loose type that falls off, there is room for disaster. I decided to get rid of my remaining stock of loose-lidded boxes, and only now use the good snugly-fitting lids and boxes.

I have heard that some use the 'Perky' boxes (about 30 or 31 mm square) instead, as then less trimming is needed, as well as no liner. This seems like a good way, but once I got stuck on my habit, you know how habits are! It is something to consider, though.

That little book by Milton Speckels is a very interesting little book. I don't know whether there are any still available.
Robert Rothenberg August 23, 2018 01:59AM
I just checked and Amazon has three available starting at $20.

Douglas Schonewald August 23, 2018 02:34PM
Thanks to all the contributors here. A lot of good information for a neophyte micro mounter.
Joseph Taggart August 24, 2018 06:56PM
Over the years I have experimented with a number of mounting techniques, so I can give a few recommendations. For black paper liners I spent some time making one "perfect" paper liner in the shape of an X, to fit my then current sized plastic boxes. I took that one paper liner and traced it onto a piece of aluminum sheet metal (from a beer can). I cut the beer can with an old pair of cheap desk scissors. The metal template can then be used to cut paper liners with an X-acto knife.
As web master for the Rocky Mountain Micromineral Association web page, I have collected a number of "hot links" from the internet for mounting techniques, and have posted them here http://rocky-mountain-micromineral-association.com/how_to_mount_micros My current method of mounting is at the end of the above hot link. For those of you who mentioned having problems with loose fitting lids, I also have that problem, so put a coat of black paint around the lip of the bottom part of the box at the same time I am painting the inside of the box. Wait until the paint drys before putting the lid and bottom together!
Robert Rothenberg September 02, 2018 08:28PM
Hi Don,

First, my apologies for the quality of the images - I am not set up to photograph the labels or boxes, and didn't have time to prepare a proper set-up.

The image marked "label" is what I generally use. I have templates for locations that I use frequently, and for the last few years have been using Mindat locations for all my new mounts. I accumulate 66 specimens before printing a sheet of labels. I have developed a system for doing this and it works for me. I trim the labels with a razor or scissors, and insert 66 of them at a sitting. (I have several of these holding trays, in case I get on a mounting run.)

The images marked Box 1 & Box 2 show the top and front of the box. I will prepare a second message showing the bottom of the box. I like to include the source of the specimen (somewhere about the middle of the label); if it is self-collected, I show the date near the bottom. I also include a specimen number at the bottom of the label (in this case the number is incomplete; 14240 is the number of the chunk of rock, but there were several mounts made. They need to be -1, -2, etc..) The last line is for my name; in this case, Robin Tibbit and I collected material together (which we often do) and I mounted many of them. I included his name as they were mounted before we shared them.

My labels have changed somewhat over time - note that the Anatase font is larger than the Fluorite font. I do sometimes have to vary the sizes of the fonts to get things to fit; it also changes with the software one uses. I like Excel and use an apple; recently I bought a new computer and had to make some adjustments in the processing of the labels. Still, I hate writing by hand, especially multiple labels, and my handwriting is terrible. This has been a wonderful invention for me. (When computers first became popular, I was known to ave remarked: "I cannot imagine why anyone needs a computer at home.")

One of the issues I do have is that the liners are not made by the same peopole who make the boxes and I have to trim a tiny bit off the front edge to get the label to fit properly.

If anyone wants a copy of my template(s), let me know and I will be happy to send some by e-mail.

Hope this is of interest.


Robert Rothenberg September 02, 2018 08:29PM
This is part 2 of the message:

Tom Tucker September 02, 2018 11:04PM
Bob has the best label system around. His mounted micros stand out from any collection of micros - neat, distinctive, informative, reasonably permanent. They can't get lost off of the box. I have some mounts gained from other collections perhaps 20 years old, and they still stand out, and the labels haven't come off. Tom
Donald B Peck September 03, 2018 01:36AM
Bob, I like your system. If I were starting over, I would use it.

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