How to use and make EasySections

Sample Placement
EasySections have three wells (see diagram 1).

labels1

Wells A and B are for paint samples; well C should be used for labelling in conjunction with well B.

Well A is for use with a polishing wheel and produces a cross section which is thin enough for use with microscopes which have a short distance between objective and stage (biological microscopes). Well B is for cutting by hand but can also be used with a polishing wheel.

Samples should be placed face up in the chosen well.


Sample labelling
A Rapidograph or other similar very fine indelible pen should be used. Labels can be written in well C directly on the cube or on a paper label. If using well A for samples, a paper label should be placed upside down in well C or alternatively, the label can be written on the face of the cube below well A.

Preparation of embedding resin
One drop of component B (dropper bottle) to 1ml of component A.

In practice, mixing 2-3 ml at a time is the optimum amount. Stir carefully and leave to stand briefly to allow any air bubbles to rise. Further bubbles which form while putting the resin into the well should also rise by allowing the EasySection to stand. Use resin within 20 minutes.

Resin must be at room temperature before mixing.

Resin has a minimum shelf life of 1 year if stored in its container in dark below 20°C. Catalyst should be stored in dark below 25°C.

NB The material safety data sheets, available on this site as printable PDF files (MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET A, MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET B) must be read before carrying out this procedure. In order to read these files you will need to have the Adobe Acrobat program installed.

Adding embedding resin
Once the sample has been placed in one of the wells, add the resin by drops using a fine stick (satay stick for example). It is best to overfill the well as the resin will shrink on hardening (approx. 20%). Adjust the sample’s position where necessary using a very fine needle (microneedle provided with EasySections kit), or any other suitable probe.

Cover the label with embedding resin to protect it.

Beakers can be reused by leaving a stick in them. This way, unused resin can be pulled out once hard. A sharp tap to the bottom of the beaker will also cause the hardened resin to fall out.

Curing resin
At room temperature (15°-20°C) samples will be hard enough to handle after 1.5 hours, and will be ready for polishing after 18 hours. Curing time can be significantly reduced (to about 5-7 hours) by warming, eg by placing under a tungsten bulb (circa 40°C).

Cutting section
Hand cutting, using well B
Place the EasySection in the pliers (or a small vice) so as to conceal the sample or leave it slightly exposed. The label should also be protected within the pliers or vice. Hold the pliers flat on a table with the head protruding over the edge. Use a fine hacksaw to cut the EasySection lenghtwise using the pliers’ face as a guide. If the sample is not yet exposed after sawing, any excess can be removed using wet and dry paper (see diagram 2).

Mechanical cutting, using well A
A polishing wheel can be used to expose samples when using well A. Grind the large flat side of the EasySection until the sample is just exposed (see diagram 3).

Whichever method you use, always remember that it is easier to remove more at a later stage than to replace what has already been removed!

Polishing
The EasySection must now be polished to a high shine in order to remove scratch marks in the sample. This can be done on a polishing wheel or by hand.

polishing

By hand
Use all the grades of the Micromesh cloths, rubbing only briefly on each. The Micromesh should be placed on a hard flat surface and the sample can be held with the pliers. Use a linear motion – not circular. Do not apply great pressure. A very fine polish for viewing the sample without scratches up to 1000x magnification can be obtained with a final polish using a silk cloth.

Micromesh can be used wet. This will increase the life of Micromesh but may dissolve some of the material in the sample. When used dry it should be cleared frequently of abraded particles. This can be done by rinsing with water or by slapping Micromesh on a clean surface.

Polishing wheel
Follow manufacturer’s instructions. At high speeds EasySections may become too hot with a polishing wheel, causing the resin to soften.

Examining samples
If mounted correctly, the following placement of EasySections under the microscope will allow samples to be viewed with the top layer uppermost.

Well A
The EasySection should lie flat with well C face down and away from the user.

Well B
The EasySection should be placed so that well C is facing the user from the front.

It is helpful with some microscopes to place a drop of white spirit or kerosene on the exposed sample to reduce the visibility of microscopic scratches on the surface and saturate the sample optically, thus making the layers clearer. Place a small cover slip (provided with EasySections kit) on top to reduce evaporation of the solvent.

Thin Sections
The making of Thin Sections is also possible by using the thin section holder.

thinsection

The section should be cut with the saw again but on the opposite side of the previous cut. It should then be glued cut side down (i.e. face of sample directly onto glass) to the microscope slide provided with the section holder. The embedding resin can be used to glue this. The slide is then placed in the holder using a drop of water or white spirit to cause it to stick by capillary action. The sample can then be polished on micromesh so that only a thin layer remains which can be viewed in transmitted light. The slide is removed from the holder by poking through the central hole with a thin implement.

Storage
EasySections may be stored in the plastic boxes provided with the EasySections kit. For long term preservation they should be kept in the dark, since prolonged exposure (years) to light may cause a slight yellowing.

EasySections are also suitable for more detailed analysis by expert microscopists. This method is for light microscopy only. Further analysis may require other proceedures.