Machines of this sort are general purpose microtomes for cutting semi-thin to thin sections for light microscopy.
The microtome operation is based upon the rotary action of a hand wheel activating the advancement of a block towards a rigidly held knife.
The block moves up and down in a vertical plane in relation to the knife and therefore cuts flat sections.
Available machines range from lightweight, rotary microtomes suitable for cutting paraffin wax embedded material in a continuous ribbon to heavy duty, motor driven instruments used with a slow, continuous speed and retracting advance movement to section hard material embedded in synthetic resin.
The rotary microtome can also be found in most cryostats for cutting frozen sections.
Section thickness settings range from 0.5µm to 60µm on most machines. Sections of paraffin wax embedded tissues are normally cut within the range 3 to 5µm whilst resin sections are between 0.5 to 1µm. Rotary microtomes are especially suited to cutting sections using disposable steel knives.