Hi Richard!

The "Berkeley" method is to use one of those guillotine-like paper cutters
to cut large urban telephone books (or Sigma or Aldrich catalogs!) into
slices the height you want, and to then tape these up snugly on all sides
except the top to let pins slip tightly between the pages, while the label
stays on the top cut surface.  An advantage is that you can line up rows
of labels for each height on the pin and "assembly-line" the process more
than you can with commercial pinning blocks (assuming the phone book is
for a VERY large city!). You can even have the students assemble these
themselves and then they know how to make their own. The drawback is the
need for enforcing "quality control".

As for heights, I think it's a bit unavoidable for big beetles,
tettigoniids, sphingids, etc. to have a slightly less desirable height
above the specimen for gripping.  Being a braconid specialist, I do not
sweat this too much! Personally, I have more problems with long fragile
antennae than with the space above the specimen.


> We purchase pinning blocks from BioQuip for students in classes making
> collections, but we have modified the heights of the steps for ones we use
> to point/label museum material.  An advantage of the MEM block is that a
> third label can be added and remain visible because its level is equal to
> thickness of the foam in unit trays (8-10mm).  The disadvantage is that
> there's only 12mm at top of pin in MEM version to hold with thumb/finger
> vs 15mm in BioQuip version, and the latter would be an advantage for
> people with bigger fingers. I'm curious about heights of levels in pinning
> blocks used by others, and if anyone would have problems in holding a
> pointed specimen with only 12mm between point and top of pin.
> Richard L. Brown, Director
> Mississippi Entomological Museum
> P.O. Drawer 9775 (100 Old Highway 12)
> Mississippi State, MS 39762
> PH:  662-325-2990
> FAX:  662-325-8837

James B. Whitfield
Department of Entomology
320 Morrill Hall
505 S. Goodwin Avenue
University of Illinois
Urbana, IL 61801