Public Lab Research note

Community Microscope Assembly Instructions

by bronwen with warren |

Read more:

Assembling a microscope of your own? You can build one with the following supplies:

  • Coroplast, cardboard, or pre-cut acrylic sheets
  • long bolts
  • nuts (regular and wingnuts)
  • washers
  • screws
  • webcam
  • foam tape
  • small flashlight
  • clip (if necessary to hold flashlight: small reading lights are also great!)

This iteration is shown with a webcam serving as both camera and lens (more information about the lens conversion is available here). Stay tuned for instructions relating to assembly with a RaspberryPi camera and additional lens configurations.

Step-By-Step Instructions

image description

Cut out your microscope stages. Cut or punch holes for your bolts on both pieces, and in the top, cut a hole that is be enough for your lens to pass through. You do not need to do this on the bottom piece, but lining the two pieces up and tracing the hole on the bottom piece will help you to place your camera.

image description

Push the long bolts through the holes on the bottom piece and secure them in place with washers and nuts.image description

Add springs (or rubber bands if that's the version you have!) to each bolt.

image description

If you have the rubber band version, you'll add those last, like this:
image description

Prepare your webcam microscope. Full instructions for conversion can be found here.
image description

Place your webcam microscope on the bottom stage, centered underneath the hole, then add the top stage and the remaining washers and wingnuts.

image description

The clothes pin and binder clip can be used to position your light and hold its button down, but it's not perfect -- show us how you've solved this problem!

Connect your camera

On a laptop, use Photo Booth for Macs, or you can go to in most browsers to access your webcam.

If you have an Android phone, you can use this app to connect to a webcam directly if you have an OTG USB adaptor; scan this QR code to get the app:

image description

You're ready to go! Place a slide over the hole and get started: use the wingnuts to raise and lower the stage, and adjust the distance and angle of the light until your sample is in focus.

I did this Help out by offering feedback!

People who did this (0)

None yet. Be the first to post one!

This is marked this as an activity for others to try.
Try it now   Click here to add some more details.

webcam microscope community-kits optics community-microscope

with:warren activity:microscope activity:basic-microscope activity:community-microscope


In this section:

Connect your camera

On a laptop, use Photo Booth for Macs, or you can go to in most browsers to access your webcam. is a broken link. Is there a typo there?

Is this a question? Click here to post it to the Questions page.

Thanks for catching that: I just updated the link on the page. I am having some difficulty getting my video feed to appear in the sandbox, am wondering if it's an issue with my own privacy/blocker settings or something else (Firefox and Chrome are both stuck for me) but will tinker with it a bit and see if there's something on the user side that might be hanging me up. Let us know if you're successful!

You may also be able to use any WebRTC camera app - Infragram is just one of them.

Try (or

You may be able to make a GIF with this:

Hello! I noticed when constructing the microscope that the usage of rubber bands instead of springs may cause the Coroplast material to bend and could possibly deform permanently. To remedy this, I added two slots at the edges of the stage where each band is supposed to wrap around. IMG_5903.jpg

See attached image

I noticed the same problem that jiteovien noticed but my solution was to use a popsicle stick under the Coroplast and placing the rubber band over that. So there is a sandwich of a rubber band, a popsicle stick, and Coroplast. I also don't use a rubber band on the back 2 bolts but do this on the front only.

Additionally, I cut an X in the Coroplast instead of a hole for the bolts. It is then easy to keep the orientation in place with a minimum of hardware. It just takes 3 bolts, 2 wing nuts, and 1 rubber band (plus the popsicle stick). The only bolt hole that is not cut as an X is the one used for focusing and that one is just larger than the bolt. This hole is sized best when there is little friction between the bolt and the Coroplast.

You must be logged in to comment.