The Perfect Screwdriver from Vigor features a tip designed to receive double-sided blades.
OptiSource’s Ring Finger Wrenches, Midget Screw Extractor Kit, and Nosepad Removing Tweezer are basic indispensable tools.
The Rimless Tube Refresher from Western Optical is part of its Rimless Done Right tool series.
With the Hilco Temp Master Deluxe Frame Warmer you can control temperature in a variable way.
The Vigor Hot Pot Lifter helps you change dyes regularly with minimal mess.

There’s still a wide gamut of basic tools that veteran ECPs can’t live without.

I am amazed that in a world full of computer-based high-tech devices, there is still a plethora of basic tools and devices that veteran opticians would not open their doors without. These affordable, useful mechanisms make many retail dispensing and small lab operations go smoother while keeping stress levels down and profits up. Here are my top-10 low-tech “people’s choice” gadgets. See if your favorite is on the list, if not, try some of mine.

The number-one low-tech tool on almost every veteran lab rat’s list is a “Cadillac.” Those who have been around the block know exactly what an optician means when he says he has a Cadillac. There are several suppliers of these great ball-bearing, large shaft screwdrivers that “fall into hand” easily and provide better ergonomics when mounting stacks of jobs during the day. My favorite is the “Perfect Screwdriver” from Vigor Optical, a division of Grobet USA, which now features a tip designed to receive the double-sided blades. Another great supplier of these must-have tools is Dynamic Labs, which has a set of four.

Next up is the hot air frame warmer. Nothing is more frustrating than blistering a frame or crazing AR-treated lenses when you leave them too long in a conventional “salt pan” frame warmer. With a hot air frame warmer, you can control temperature in a variable way so you can heat the most delicate polyamide frames as well as those difficult plastics that require a lot of heat. There’s also less risk in crazing low-budget AR treatments. My two favorites are Hilco’s Temp Master Deluxe Frame warmer and Western Optical Supply, Inc.’s Prime Air frame warmer. Both come either in 220v or 110v depending on your power requirements.

One newcomer is a three-in-one lens inspection station from OptiSource International. This unique device features three different reticules that check for polarity (polariscope), PAL markings, and general lens defects like scratches or flaws. By holding a lens under this clever device, you can tell if a polarized lens is on the correct polarization axis.You will also be able to tell if a glass lens has been heat-treated. The faintness of the new digital progressive markings will no longer be a problem if you hold them under the PAL identifier lenses. A bright white light helps you do a general inspection for lens quality so you can see scratches, waves, and flaws with the naked eye.

With a full set of the “Rimless Done Right” tool series from Western Optical, your rimless stress levels will most assuredly go down. Admit it: you know that lab techs will purposely avoid the stressful task of unmounting and remounting compression fitting style three-piece rimless mountings. This tool series features a “lab grade” Compression Mounting Plier, a Post-Pulling Plier, a Post-Pushing Plier, a rimless tube refresher, a rimless tube stripper, and a narrow-end flush cutting plier. I think one of the most ingenious and inexpensive devices for mounting the screw-mount styles are the ring-finger wrenches from OptiSource. These rings come in six hex head sizes, making it easy to hold the nut on the backside of the lens with your hand in a natural position while using a screwdriver on the front.

If your in-house lab does not have the counter space to have a staking set sitting out all the time; get this little gadget. The Midget Screw Extractor from OptiSource works kind of like a C clamp. Simply line up the two posts (one hollow, one pointed) on opposite sides of the screw barrel and twist the hex knob on top to gently force out the broken screw. I find that this unit actually works better in most situations than a staking set for basic screw extractions.

I am rarely awed by hand tools but the Guild Sizing and Screw Inserting Plier from Western Optical has truly got my attention. I like the wide jaws on this plier set, enabling it to vault over almost any wide temple. These pliers are meant not only to compress the eyewire barrels to check sizing but they also have a hollow end that you put the eyewire screw through to tighten it while the pliers are clamped on the frame.

I am always looking for ways to minimize the amount of manipulation I must do to a frame with high minus lenses and adjustable nosepads. It seems there’s not a good tool to get the pads out of the way of the lenses without damaging the frame or chipping the lens. With Western’s Model No. 2016 pliers, you can re-form the nosepad arms in a uniform way and adjust the pads with its narrow jaws.

If your in-house lab is dyeing lenses, you have to deal with the mess of changing dyes regularly. My favorite for accomplishing this task with minimal mess is the Vigor Hot Pot Lifter. I have personally burnt my hands trying to get a hot dye vat out of my tint unit. This device easily lifts the hot pot out of the main tank without touching anything hot or messy.

The Tri Angle Plier from Western Optical and the Tri Prong Plier from Vigor both basically do the same task, which is to angle the temple block inward on most metal frames. Place the single prong behind the frame front and the double prong in front and with a gentle squeeze on the pliers, the temple is angled inward without flaking the edge of the lens.

Labs are often given the task of cleaning up used frames before new lenses are installed in them. This brings me to my favorite tool, the press-in Nosepad Removing Tweezer from OptiSource. Removing press-in nosepads is made extra easy with this simple, yet effective, tool. Just align the fork between the nosepad arm and the nosepad, then give a gentle squeeze and it pops right off without bending the arm or damaging the hasp. Trust me, it’s a better way than the risk of scratching lenses or damaging frames with a screwdriver.

My guess is that you could complete your set of low-tech tools and equipment for under $600 which is way less than the cost of the stress, mess, and frustration of broken frames and scratched lenses. I recommend you do as I do: go online and order them before you get totally frustrated.

Michael Frandsen is the owner of Quality Performance Ophthalmic, Inc., a custom service optical laboratory in South Jordan, UT.


Dynamic Labs
888-339-6264 • dynamiclabs.net

800-955-6544 • hilco.com

OptiSource International
800-OPTISOURCE • 1-800-optisource.com

Vigor Optical
A Division of Grobet USA
800-847-4188 • vigoroptical.com

Western Optical Supply, Inc.
800-423-3294 • westernoptical.com


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