Nikon Metrology

Rugby Worldcup trophy within the eye of a needle

Case Story, Microscopes

At the occasion of the 2015 Rugby World cup in England, the microscopy artist Willard Wigan from Birmingham (UK) created a hand-sculpted trophy that fits inside the eye of a needle. This remarkable micro-sculpture is submillimetre in size.  To closely watch his micro-scale movements while working, the artist uses a Nikon SMZ 18 stereo microscope.


World cup trophy made with the help of a Nikon SMZ 18 stereo zoom microscope (Image: Time Art Gallery GF)

Willard Wigan, Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) began sculpting at the age of five, and has since been on a quest to make ever more minute artworks, now only visible through a microscope. The artist made a name for himself by sculpting tiny recreations of everything from Barack Obama and his family to Neil Armstrong on the moon’s surface. On average it takes Willard at least eight weeks to complete a sculpture in a process that is extremely physically challenging.

Willard Wigan uses a Nikon SMZ 18 stereo microscope that provides critical visual feedback as Willard crafts these tiny masterpieces. The microscope’s enhanced working distance offers sufficient space to manipulate the artworks. The bright, high-contrast imaging with magnification up to 270x helps the artist create his widely renowned microscopic pieces of art.

Because the artwork is so small (with deliberate features as minute as 0.005 mm / 0.0002 in), the sculptor has learned to control his nervous system, heart rate and breathing to ensure he does not make even the tiniest movement. Willard enters a meditative state in which his heartbeat is slowed, allowing him to reduce any hand tremors and work between these slowed down heartbeats.

To carve his figures, Willard uses surgical blades and microscopic hand-made tools. The sculptures themselves are made of a wide range of materials such as nylon, grains of sand, dust fibers, gold and spider’s cobwebs.

Featured article image: Left: Paolo Bona /  | Right Time Art Gallery GF