Tutorials: DIY Lab Tray For Dissections

One of the things I know Mouse is going to need for her Life of Plants study is a lab tray for holding specimens while she dissects them. I bought a dissection kit for her at last year’s HEAV convention but I hadn’t gotten around to solving the problem of a tray until this morning.

One of the requirements for a lab tray is that the dissector be able to fasten the specimen to it in some way. Since I had a bunch of old candle ends around I decided to just fill an appropriate container with melted wax so that we could stick pins into the wax to hold whatever we were working on.

Here are the four easy steps to making your own DIY Wax lab tray!

Assemble your materials: You will need to use a "double-boiler" of some kind to melt the wax. I used an empty coffee can in a a pot of boiling water.

Assemble your materials: You will need to use a “double-boiler” of some kind to melt the wax. I used an empty coffee can in a a pot of boiling water.

Place on the stove and bring the water to a boil. You'll probably need to add water several times, so start another kettle going at the same time. Try to use the lightest colored candle ends you have.

Place on the stove and bring the water to a boil. You’ll probably need to add water several times, so start another kettle going at the same time. Try to use the lightest colored candle ends you have.

Select a small box or tray. I like this one with a lid as we can cover an incomplete dissection and store it if needed. Box is about 8x10 inches.

Select a small box or tray. I like this one with a lid as we can cover an incomplete dissection and store it if needed. Box is about 8×10 inches.

Carefully pour the hot wax into the tray. I used a pair of tongs to hold the hot coffee can. The wax is about an inch thick and I will give it a day or so to harden completely.

Carefully pour the hot wax into the tray. I used a pair of tongs to hold the hot coffee can. The wax is about an inch thick and I will give it a day or so to harden completely.

As you can see this is a super simple project. Once the tray has been used for a while and has many pin holes in it, it can be re-smoothed by pouring a new thin layer of was over it or by remelting the whole thing!

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2 Responses to Tutorials: DIY Lab Tray For Dissections

  1. That is the coolest thing! Thanks for sharing. I love this idea – I wonder if you could use it for other things as well – I know we have done the golf pegs into Styrofoam, but this would be less message and reusable too.
    thanks – Michelle

    • K_Steinmann says:

      If you poured the wax into something flexible (a shoebox lid?) you could pop the slab of wax out of it and then use it for practicing carving or for a unit study on The Fertile Crescent (they used wax tablets to write on)…K

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