July 1, 2008

Adventures in Micromilling

I met a geology grad student at their department today so that she could show me how to use the micromill, a microscope/drill that'll help me extract enamel powder for Sr isotope analysis. The lab was locked, so it took her a few minutes to go find a key. Then she asked me what kind of containers I had. I was clueless and just showed her the teeth. So she got her advisor, who was quite unhappy to be dragged from her desk to deal with an anthropologist who clearly knew nothing about geochemistry. It seems that I need a few more pieces of the puzzle: I need to know what kind of containers to collect the enamel powder in, what size drill bit to use, and the procedure for cleaning the drill and platform so that I don't cross-contaminate samples. Unfortunately, the geochemist I'm dealing with is out of town for the rest of the summer. Fortunately, it should only take me a few days or a week to micromill all 110 teeth once I figure out the other issues.

But before all that happens, though, I still need to section the 110 teeth. I contacted the dentist again, and he said I could use his saw... but his chair wants me to buy a new wafering blade. Which appears to be about $250. Oofa. I'm not happy about spending an additional $2 per sample to cut the teeth in half, since this is a new step in the Sr analysis procedure that seems rather pointless to me. But it's supposed to produce better results, so I guess I need to suck it up and buy a wafering blade.

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