The Matherton Forge Scanning Electron Microscope project

Do I really need a SEM (scanning electron microscope)? Not really, at least that is what I said in November of 2014 when I got the excited phone call from my good friend, the Baron, Aldo. He said he found a SEM that was available and immediately thought of me. I was hesitant at first since I really didn't have any room in my lab for another large piece of equipment, and my optical metallography does pretty well. But then when he sent me some pictures and I saw how great its condition was I began to imagine the things I could do with such a toy. So we began to plan how to go about obtaining this thing and moving it to my shop.

On December 2, Santa Claus came early to the Cashen home. He came in a familiar dark grey truck that so many knife makers have gotten their steel out of. Initially I really wanted to just offload the microscope directly into my shop but it turned out that I needed to take my doors off the hinges and disconnect some protruding parts of a gadget that I knew very little about. The best bet was to set it down in my garage for now until I can familiarize myself with its assembly and parts and determine what part of my lab would be sacrificed to make room for it.

Fortunately the SEM comes mounted on its own casters so with some careful winching and some ramps we managed to unload the 800lb behemoth with little trouble. The Baron needed to get back to delivering steel to knifemakers so after a quick celebratory drink of Craggenmore single malt at the famous Cashen bar, he was back on the road and I was standing there looking at my Scanning Electron Microscope.

I remembered all those times that Tim Zowada and I imagined how nice it would be to score time on an SEM at one of the Universities and so I gave him a call to tell him that in the future that wouldn't be a problem. While talking with Tim on the phone I noticed two water cooling lines emerging from the unit and was once again happy that I had put a sink in the lab as the line would hook right up to my faucet. And then it occurred to me that the most advanced piece of technological equipment I had ever seen had water cooled component and was setting in my unheated garage in a Michigan December… "Eeeeek! I'll call you back Tim" I said as I quickly dashed to my shop to get my air compressor. Sure enough, when I put the air in the input I pushed a good pint of ice cold water out of the diffusion pump of the electron gun assembly; I had prevented a catastrophe in the making.

Now I am trying to make sense of an owner's manual that certainly was not written for a hick Michigan bladesmith.

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All images and text Copyrighted © 2006 Kevin R. Cashen, www.cashenblades.com