Zeiss Stereomicroscope
Serial Number: 203432
Oculars: 4x and 10x
Objectives: 2x and 4 x
A set of Pocket Watch Keys sizes 00 through 12.

It was a wonderful day for a hike in the Hudson Highlands the trail was meandering through the oak forest and the ribbon of the Hudson shimmered below. One of my favorite exploration activities since I was a kid has been to work the edges and into the waters of woodland ponds. The frogs, the copepods, the insect larvae are all a thrill to observe. These pond expeditions when I was a kid lead to my earliest microscopic journeys.  So when we descended from the mountain pond to the antique shops of Cold Spring and stumbled upon a little Zeiss stereo dissection microscope in a great box with the address “Aubrey J. Drummond, Handwriting Expert, Scientific Photographer, 46 Fulton Street, N.Y.C.”, it had to be fate. The optics looked good, no scratches, I set the scope on my knee and focused on the fabric, the image looked great. It had two sets of eyepieces and objectives and seemed in good working order so I picked it up for a reasonable price. Upon getting it home and switching out the objectives I noticed an alignment problem with the higher power objectives. The right and the left objectives were not aligned. This should be a simple adjustment, right? Well, the adjustment screws were not flat or Phillips-head screws, hex heads, or 6 sided bolt heads…  they were small 4-sided bolts (square-heads).  The bolts were recessed in little holes, so I could not just grad them with some pliers. I work at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. “Someone at the Museum must have some tools to adjust these,” I thought. Nope. ‘I’ll call a microscope vendor I know, perhaps he will have the tool.” Nope.  I looked online for “microscope tool Zeiss”. Nothing. Hmmm I was stumped.

A couple weeks later I bumped onto my friend who likes optics, more on the camera and telescope side, but he might know about such adjustment screws. I had a few photos on my iPod, so I showed them to Mark Baribault and he said, “Oh! I bet a “watch key” would work on that.” Mark also likes to tinker with repairing watches and old pocket watches, before they had winding knobs, they used a key like larger clocks. The keys were little 4-sided sockets that fit over little 4-sided posts. The keys come in many sizes, and we had no idea what size I needed. We jumped on line, and he found a few sets of keys available on E-bay so I ordered a whole set of 14 keys for about $12. 

A week or so later they arrived and they were the answer, I found one that was a perfect fit (size 6), just a couple quick twist while looking through the scope, and “beautiful”.  My little Zeiss was ready to open small worlds again! This past summer we traveled through Berkshires, the Green and White Mountains and spent a week in Acadia. The little Zeiss enjoyed revealing the smaller side of these spots in New England. One other handy tool for the road was a one of those little battery power LED reading lights. I found one with 4 LEDs that took 3 AAA batteries and it works wonderfully and it fits right into the microscope box with a couple specimen boxes, some forceps and the watch keys.

The watch keys are great looking little tools themselves, I highly recommend picking up a set if you are inclined to playing with scopes. Now that I have some keys, perhaps I will look into an old watch.


Notice the "square head" adjustment screws on the objective above.
In the Box, on the Road:
- Watch Keys
- LED lamp
- Specimen Boxes
- The Scope