How-To: Build a Lego microtome

Craft & Design Fun & Games Science

A microtome is a laboratory machine normally used to slice extremely thin samples of soft specimens for optical microscopy. If you’re one of those folks who could care less about optical microscopy, it also has culinary applications. I quote from the sacred text of GoodFellas:

In prison, dinner was always a big thing. We had a pasta course, then we had a meat or a fish. Paulie was doing a year for contempt and had a wonderful system for garlic. He used a razor and sliced it so thin it would liquefy in the pan with a little oil. It’s a very good system.

Poor Paulie had to do it by hand, but of course he had lots of time on his hands. Those of us who are busier might consider this tutorial by Instructables user lemonie, who built a hand-crank microtome capable of spitting out a 250-micron slice of garlic every second or so, out of Lego elements and a razor blade.


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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