Microtome - Microtome Knives - Knife Design and Cut Types

Knife Design and Cut Types

Generally, knives are characterized by the profile of the knife blade, which falls under the categories of planar concave, wedge shaped or chisel shaped designs.

Planar concave microtome knives are extremely sharp, but are also very delicate and are therefore only used with very soft samples. The wedge profile knives are somewhat more stable and find use in moderately hard materials, such as in epoxy or cryogenic sample cutting. Finally, the chisel profile with its blunt edge, raises the stability of the knife, whilst requiring significantly more force to achieve the cut.

For ultramicrotomes, glass and diamond knives are required, the cut breadth of the blade is therefore on the order of a few millimetres and is therefore significantly smaller than for classical microtome knives. Glass knives are usually manufactured by the fracture of glass bars using special "knife-maker" fracturing devices. Glass knives may be used for initial sample preparations even where diamond knives may be used for final sectioning. Glass knives usually have small troughs, made with plastic tape, which are filled with water to allow the sample to float for later collection. Diamond blades may be built into such an existing trough, allowing for the same collection method.

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