Just like tires make an automobile functional, hand tools do the same for adjustments. In fact, there are a number of adjustments that are simply impossible without hand tools. Some ECPs have an assortment of old, reliable, and innovative, new ones. Whichever they prefer, hand tools are indispensable. Here are three opticians who understand this.

Photo courtesy of Hilco.

Bobby Luttrell, Owner, Luttrell Optician Centers, Knoxville, TN

Kevin Harrison, Owner, Heritage Vision Center, Hattiesburg, MS

David Gilman, Owner, Rutland Optical, Rutland, VT

How many hand tools do you own and how often do you use them?

Bobby Luttrell: We have a couple of drawers full of tools that hardly see the light of day, but are we grateful to have them for the antique and custom repair challenges we get. Each day we use five main tools to service our customers’ glasses.

Kevin Harrison: We use about two dozen tools on a daily basis and keep them in a tool caddy. Below it is a drawer where we put some of the specialty tools we use for rimless mounting and such. We feel that separating them helps keep the rimless tube cutters from being used to cut screws and thus avoids damaging the sharp cutters.

Photo courtesy of Western Optical Supply.

David Gilman: If we count the tools in my travel kit (for industry, home visits, and nursing homes), we have well over 150 ranging from everyday screwdrivers to seldom used rasps and files. Each of us has our own favorite “go-to” pliers also, from the old parallel jaw pliers to flat nylon/round metal jaw pliers. I still use the old Numont pliers and goose-neck Numont a lot as many Vermonters get full value from their eyewear.

What’s the oldest hand tool you have?

BL: My oldest tool was handed down from a friend of mine—a retired OD—about 20 years ago; a pair of chain-nose pliers. They’re made in Germany and are still in great working order.

KH: I have a travel bag of tools (used for occasional house calls) that contains some of my older tools. My favorite is a combination screwdriver and nut driver. I think I got it in a purchase of supplies from another dispensary that was going out of business several years ago. It is too worn to even tell who the manufacturer is and the screwdriver blade is not as true and straight as it once was, but it is one of the coolest old tools I have.

DG: Our oldest tools probably came from AO or Vigor Optical and include the military bridge-forming pliers (used only for reshaping the hole in the nosepad arm on AO frames with split-tab pads), bridge-widening, and shrinking pliers for zyl frames with keyhole bridges, and a 2-in. wrench used only for detaching Shuron nosepads.

What’s the newest hand tool you have?

BL: My newest hand tool is a very slim, chain-nose pair of pliers from Germany. I purchased them from a tool company because of the superior quality and unique size. It’s easy to use and comfortable to handle.

Photo courtesy of Vigor Optical.

KH: I’m a big fan of specialty tools and, even though I can do most of the bench work with about five tools, specialty tools certainly come in handy. Probably my favorite came from Western Optical Supply. It’s called a screw-finishing tool. It uses a standard screwdriver handle but has a cupped cap that rounds off the ends of cut screws. I even use it for rounding off the ends of cut temples to make the tips slip on more easily.

DG: The newest tools are the pliers for handling three-piece mounts, which I leave to the more gentle members of our team. For me, parallel jaw pliers are still the “go-to” tool. Its handy size is comfortable to hold, narrow enough to fit into tight places, keeps even pressure on both sides of a solder joint, and can be used to peen over screws if cut just right. All three other opticians prefer the flat nylon/round metal as their tool of choice.

What’s the most useful tool you have?

BL: For me, it’s the slim chain-nose pliers to reach those difficult places. The inside of these pliers are smooth, which helps prevent scarring of the frame. The side-cutter pliers are awesome, especially when they’re sharp. I like a very sharp pointed end for easy cutting. We also use nylon gripping pliers that bend the sides of a frame front in or out, depending on how tight the frame is fitting the person’s face.

We really like the screwdriver that has many attachments, since all screws don’t have the same size head. This type of screwdriver is much better than those useless “giveaway” ones. The last, most useful tool that we use is a compression-mount tool. We sell a lot of rimless eyewear, which don’t require screws and nuts.

KH: No tool is used more in my lab than the single-fiber jaw pliers. I use it for bracing an endpiece, offsetting a temple, and in a pinch, angling temples and adjusting nosepad splay angles. While the tools designed for those adjustments are better suited for fine tuning, most of my general adjustments can be made with my fiber jaw pliers.

If you could have a new hand tool do something that no other hand tool currently does, what would that be?

BL: I’d like to see a tool that would be best for rimless eyewear. It would hold the frame and adjust the temples at the same time. Rimless eyewear with either hard or soft temples can be difficult to adjust without the frame front twisting as you adjust. This tool would be designed to eliminate that.

KH: I have tried a number of the tools designed to make it easier to insert a screw in a spring hinge temple, yet I know there must be a better way. I’ve had the privilege of being consulted regarding the making of some tools but have yet to see one that I think really is worth the investment. So far one of the best tools for the job is the Spring Hinge Plier kit by Western Optical Supply. However, it’s not for those who are manually dexterous challenged.

Photo courtesy of Opti Source.

DG: I cannot imagine how it could be done, but some new way of dealing with the bushings on three-piece mountings would be great. The tedium of inserting, trimming, and cutting these little pieces is beyond my level of patience.

Have you tried the new ergonomic tools yet?

BL: I love the ergo tools. I am getting older and the optical field can cause a lot of wear and tear on your hands.

KH: When I was first introduced to some of Hilco’s Ergo Pro tools, I was a bit skeptical. They looked cumbersome. But when I really used them, I found them to be a lot easier than standing on my head trying to get the standard tools to fit where I wanted them. And, on days when I have a lot of adjusting, my semi-arthritic hands are not as fatigued.

DG: Every new tool we order will be an ergo one if it’s available that way. I have a carpal tunnel issue and these designs might well have kept this from happening. They seem to fit all the design requirements suggested by my hand therapist, they keep my hand in a straight line with my elbow, have a return spring to open the jaws automatically, and cushioned grips for comfort.

What do you look for when buying a new hand tool?

BL: If it’s easier on the body, works great, and has a nice appearance (in case the customer sees it), I feel it will be worth the money. I look for precision, comfort, and durability for long-term use. Most times, you get what you pay for.

KH: Will it make my job easier? Does it provide value? If I’m only going to use the tool a couple of times per week, I don’t want to sink a lot into it.

DG: I look for quality and a company that will be there years from now. A cheap tool is often a poor investment.


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