Mounting microminerals

Joe Taggart's mounting technique, presented at the 02/08/2009 meeting of the RMMA

The style is a modification of Quintin Wight’s toothpick/bamboo skewer techniquew The micromount box should be one of the thicker ones, such as those made by Althor or Amac, not the thin/fragile ones.

  1. I prefer to paint the inside of the box bottom with Rust-oleum flat black #7578 with a brush before I drill the hole (keeps paint out of the hole, so glue adheres directly to plastic). If the box is colorless plastic I put on one thin coat of paint, let it dry, then put on a second coat. If the box is black plastic I only need to put on one coat to remove the shine from the plastic. To increase my size options for the pedestals, I use different size wood dowels, and toothpicks.
  2. I buy the 1/4", 3/16" and 1/8" dowels in three foot lengths (at Home Depot) and cut them into 6 inch sections. I sharpen one end of each dowel section with a pencil sharpener, so the point can go through the hole in the bottom of the box easier than a blunt end. I then color an inch of the blunt end with a black permanent marker (I use Sharpie brand).
  3. I glue the sample onto an appropriate diameter dowel with cyanoacrylate gel (I use Super Glue brand Gel). After the sample starts to stick to the dowel, I put the point of the dowel into a lump of clay and tilt it so that gravity keeps the sample oriented properly until it dries. Sometimes I use a jeweler’s “third hand” to keep the sample positioned until the glue hardens.
  4. I then drill (drill press is best if you have one) an appropriate size hole in the center of the bottom of the box (1/4", 3/16", 1/8" for the corresponding size dowels, and 5/64" for toothpicks). Next, using the dowel for a handle, I hold the sample in water in an ultrasonic cleaner (make sure sample is not water soluble!) to remove any last minute dust. I then put the dowel back into the lump of clay until sample and dowel are dry. Now put the dowel’s point through the hole from the inside of the box. Pull and gently turn and tilt the dowel from the outside to test position the sample. When I figure out the optimum orientation, I pull gently on the dowel until the sample is almost all the way down in the box, with the pointed section of the dowel extending outside the box. I then apply Super Glue Gel around the part of the dowel extending out the bottom of the box, exactly where the dowel will be bonded to the box when I push it back in.
  5. Now push the dowel up and rotate the dowel a bit to smear the glue. I then use the dowel to position the sample (you’ve only got about 15 seconds, which is why you figured out the optimum orientation BEFORE you apply the glue). With the dowel technique I can not only position the sample with rotation and tilt, but unlike the balsa/cork pedestals I can also carefully move the dowel up or down to make the sample’s top perfectly even with the lip of the box. I then hold everything still for a minute and finally stick the pointed dowel in the lump of clay again, to set up for a couple of hours.
  6. The cutting of the excess dowel is not done until the very end (I usually wait until the next day) when the mount is essentially finished. The final step is to put the lid on the box (to protect the sample and the flat black interior from saw dust) stabilize the dowel on a desk and cut off the box (don’t let it fall on the floor), even with the bottom using an X-acto razor hobby saw. Save the excess dowel for future micromounts.
  7. To make sure that the dowel and excess glue are even on the bottom of the box, I sand it level with an extra-fine (320 grit) sheet of sandpaper on a desk top. I then put on a 1"x1" label with compete information on the bottom, and a 1"x1/4" label with only essential information on the top.

John Ferrante, "The Micromounter"

Micromounting Preparation and Mounting

Micromounting Pedestals

The History of Micromounting Boxes

Mindat Forums

"How Do You Mount Your Micros?"