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About Microscopes

How to Use a Microscope

1. When transporting the microscope, carry it close to your body with one hand on the arm and the other on the base.

2. Once you have removed the dust cover, and have plugged the microscope in, arrange the excess cord in a manner that will prevent you from tripping on it and knocking the microscope over.

3. As a general rule, always start and end with the lowest power objective (usually 4X) as it is easiest to focus on a lower power. Also, since it is the shortest objective lens, there is less chance of scratching the lens when situating and removing the slide.


4. Turn on the microscope and place the slide on the microscope stage with the specimen directly over the circle of light. Doing this will give you a 90% chance of finding the specimen as soon as you look through the eyepiece.If your microscope is monocular (it has only one eyepiece), close or cover your other eye. If your microscope is binocular, adjust the interpupillary distance (the distance between the eyepieces) by either sliding or rotating the eyepieces appropriately until you can see only one circle of light with both eyes open.

NOTE: If you wear glasses, take them off; if you see only your eyelashes, move closer. If your microscope  comes with high-eyepoint eyepieces (like those of our SM and ZM stereo zoom microscopes), you do not need to take off your glasses.

5. If you are on the lowest magnification level, focus the image by first turning the coarse focus knob. If you can't get it at all into focus using the coarse knob, then switch to the fine focus knob.

6. Adjust the diaphragm as you look through the eyepiece. You will begin to notice that more detail is visible when you allow in less light.  Too much light tends to give the specimen a washed-out appearance.

7. Once you have focused the specimen on low power (usually a 4X objective), center the specimen in your field of view, then, without changing the focus knobs, switch it to a higher magnification objective (10X objective, then 40X objective). If you don’t center the specimen you will lose it when you switch to higher powers.

8. Once you have it on a higher power magnification, remember to only use the fine focus knob to bring the image into focus. Since the higher power objectives are very close to the slide, using the coarse focus knob can scratch the lens and crack the slide.

9. Use the 100X objective with extreme care. As it is an oil immersion lens, using it without the oil to lubricate the lens can destroy the lens. Place one drop of oil between the coverslip of the slide and the objective lens. You may slowly add more until the oil fills the air gap between the objective lens and the slide. The oil will also help gather enough light to actually see through the lens and to prevent distortion of the image.

Making a wet mount:

1. Gather a thin slice/piece of your specimen. If your specimen is too thick, the coverslip will not be level and will wobble on top of the sample.


2. Place ONE drop of water directly over the specimen. Too much water over the specimen will cause the coverslip will float on top of the water, causing the specimen to float in and out of your field of view.

3. Place the coverslip at approximately a 45 degree angle to the slide with one edge touching the water drop. Let go and allow the coverslip to fall onto the specimen.


Staining a Slide:

1. Place one drop of Methylene Blue stain on one edge of the coverslip, and place the flat edge of a piece of paper towel on the other edge. As the paper towel draws the water out from under the coverslip on one side, the water will draw the stain in under the coverslip from the other side.

2. As soon as the stain has covered the area containing the specimen, you are done. The stain does not need to be under the entire coverslip. If the stain does not cover the desired area, repeat the process with a new piece of paper towel and more stain.

3. Be sure to wipe off the excess stain with a paper towel, so you don’t end up permanently staining the objective lenses.

4. Now you are ready to place the slide on the microscope stage. Be sure to follow all previous instructions on how to property operate a microscope.

5. Be sure to wash and dry both the slide and the coverslip after use.

If you still have more questions after reviewing this page, please email us at and someone at our company can assist you!

Adjusting Focusing Tension:

Use the tool below, which comes with most microscopes, to adjust the focusing tension according to the picture to the right.

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