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Mechanical Stage of a Microscope 

Importance, Components & Effective Use

A mechanical stage of a microscope refers to the mechanism that has been mounted on the stage for holding and moving the microscope slide.

It is an important part of the microscope that enhances the function of the stage. It allows for precise movement of the specimen through the field of view, which is that area of specimen visible through the microscope.  

Depending on the type of microscope being used, the stage can be classified on the basis of design and functionality. Some of the stages include; 

  • X-Y transitional mechanical stage, 
  • Simple stage with attachable mechanical stage, 
  • Circular stage with optional mechanical attachment

The Importance of Using the Mechanical Stage 

It is important to use the mechanical stage to get a better and clear view of the specimen. It makes using the microscope much easier.

It allows for better control of the slide in addition to avoiding accidental bumping that may knock the slide out of focus.

Moreover, it allows a systematic scanning of the slide so that the entire specimen can be viewed.

The other significant importance of the using the mechanical stage is its use at higher magnification since with it a slide containing the specimen can be moved in small increments and opposite directions. 

Components of the Mechanical Stage  

The microscope mechanical stage is composed of a number of important parts that include; 

  • Slide holder - the mechanical device that is used for holding the slide in place so that it can be moved with ease from side to side back and forth 
  • Stage opening - part of the mechanical stage that allows light to pass through the specimen for a better view
  • Stage lock control - the locking control that allows the user to fix the stage into position with respect to its rotation around the condenser axis
  • Graduated locator markings - graduations are positioned on the portion of the mechanical stage so as to allow the user to be able to note the location of significant specimen details. In this case, the user can easily return to the area for more observation - xy translational control

How to Use the Mechanical Stage  

Typically, the mechanical stage is equipped with two translational knobs. Whereas one is for the x-axis, the other one is for the y-axis. The user is allowed to move the slide in the x or y direction slowly and smoothly by turning the knobs. 

There are a number of steps of how to effectively use the mechanical stage of a microscope to achieve a more detailed view. These include; 

  • Gently placing the microscopic slide under the objective after having lowered the stage assembly, the slide should be held (clipped) in place between the heads of the slide holder. With some of the microscopes, the slide holder is made in such a way that it can hold three slides at a go
  • The slide should be in such a position that it lies above/ across the stage opening where the light from the condenser can pass through the specimen on the microscope slide
  • While observing through the eyepiece while focusing, move the mechanical stage, and thus the slide containing the specimen using the X knob, which moves the stage right and left, and the Y knob, which moves the stage back and forth. This will help in moving the specimen under observation slowly thus providing a good view.  
  • Once the viewing is complete, the user can note the location of the slide on the stage by recording the readings of the graduated locator marks present on the top right and along the right side of the mechanical stage. By doing so, he/she would have an easier time to return to the area viewed later on for additional observation of the specimen.   

It is important to ensure that the stage is cleaned to avoid having specimen drops among other dirt from accumulating.  This is because the accumulated dirt may affect the smooth movement of the mechanical stage. 


The microscope has had humble beginnings before the mechanical microscope stage came in to use.

The presence of microscope scanning stages on a platform that was movable proved to be highly useful and so is common in all of today's microscopes from top manufacturers as well as lesser known brands.

In this case, users no longer have to touch specimens during observation since they can easily move them along the moveable platform.

Since the mechanics of this stage was designed to move slowly, it was made for intense observations and studies of the specimen. This has generally contributed to better microscopy.    

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Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310. 

"Microscopes: Time Line". Nobel Web AB. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 


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