It is always best to edge the lenses on a titanium frame like CHARMANT TITANIUM Style No. TI 12076 to fit it precisely.
Zyl requires heat to adjust it, which is done in a heated salt pan or using a hot air warmer (Zyloware Style No. 123Z shown here).
Care must be given when adjusting plastic/metal combination frames since the acetate top bar will require a different tool than the metal chassis (Prada Style No. SPR08Q from Luxottica shown here).
Use the proper adjusting tools on stainless steel models such as Altair’s bebe Style No. BB5045 to keep tool marks from showing on the frame’s outside.

Being an independent optical store owner affords me the opportunity to be on all sides of the business. This includes selling, dispensing, adjusting, and finishing. Handling a large variety of frame materials can offer challenges because different materials require different treatment, and some can cause you to limit your frame selection due to a fear of working with them.

By eliminating your apprehension, you can expand your frame selection and increase the popularity of your dispensary when your patient learns that you stock frame styles your competition doesn’t. The following will dispel some of your fears and add to your bottom line.

Titanium and beta titanium are handled similarly. Titanium is very strong and is recommended for its light weight and corrosion resistance. Frames that are 100% titanium are the best frames to recommend for patients who may have allergic reactions to other metals or whose older frames are pitted due to skin acid eating into the metal. Titanium is more difficult to flex and bend than other metals so trying to bend the frame to match the lens’ curve can be difficult. Because of this, it is always best to edge the lenses to fit the frame precisely. If you have problems with a lens being pushed out of a titanium frame, hand bevel (or machine edge it if it is still on the block) the lens a little smaller to sharpen the bevel.

Memory metals combine titanium and nickel into a metal that bends and flexes back to its originally cast shape. These frames don’t offer the corrosion resistance of titanium or beryllium, but are a perfect choice for most children or active adults. While flexible metals cannot be adjusted from their original shape, frames manufactured with this material feature endpieces, eyewires, temple tips, and nosepad arms of other materials that can be adjusted. Should an extreme case present itself where you must make adjustment, heat it over an open flame. While this can be done, this makes the frame brittle and it loses its flexibility. It also voids the warranty so it is a method of last resort.

Be cautious when demonstrating these materials. Although they are extremely durable, they are not indestructible. Nothing kills a sell faster than showing how you can wrap a temple around your finger only to have the temple snap. I also recommend making this flexibility demonstration to the parents, but out of the sight of the child. You can be sure that child is going to show his friends how he can tie his frames in a knot!

Other metal frame materials are less complicated to handle than titanium. Beryllium is a little easier to work with, yet offers the corrosion resistance of its titanium and beta-titanium brothers and is lightweight and strong. Stainless steel is also durable but tends to be a bit heavier than other metals. Most value frames on frame boards are made of monel, a durable and inexpensive material that can be easily marred during adjustment. Be certain to use the proper adjusting tools on metal frames to keep tool marks from showing on the outside of the frame. Rubber and fiber jaw pliers help with this.

The majority of frames falling into the plastic category are made from cellulose acetate that is often called zyl. This lightweight, adjustable, and inexpensive material comes in many grades. Better-quality zyl frames are made with Italian Mazzucchelli acetate that is durable, flexible, and holds its color longer. Zyl requires heat to adjust it, which is done in a heated salt pan or using a hot air warmer. Although the salt pan can heat zyl faster, the frame warmer reduces the chances of burning it. If you are heating a frame front with lenses in it, cover the lenses and direct the heat to the portion of the frame you wish to adjust to avoid possibly damaging lens treatments.

Proprionate is a nylon-based plastic and frames made from it are often geared for sports. The material is lightweight and hypoallergenic and many frames made from it will have the appearance of a fully enclosed eyewire but have screw access for lens mounting. Heating these frames up is a must for adjustments.

Nylon is lightweight and flexible but it’s difficult to adjust or insert lenses into, especially if they are slightly oversized. With age, nylon can become brittle so extra caution must be used when handling an older nylon frame. Don’t try to insert new lenses into an older nylon frame without having the patient sign a waiver to not hold you responsible if the frame breaks in the lab. For this reason, many nylon frames are produced as a blended material.

Combination frames have made a comeback and are available in a variety of configurations. When there is an acetate top bar covering a metal chassis, the lenses are mounted in the frame like a traditional metal frame so accurate sizing is critical. Care must be given when adjusting this type of plastic/metal combination frames since the acetate top bar will require a different tool than the metal chassis. Often the acetate can crack while trying to change the face form or tilt. Rolling the acetate after applying heat is a common method. In severe cases, you can remove the acetate top and make adjustments to the metal chassis, and then replace it.

Most semi-rimless frames employ a metal top (although some use acetate or other materials) and a nylon cord on the bottom for the lenses. Tools exist for mounting these lenses but I have found that nothing better exists than a ribbon. The difficulty most people have with adjusting semi-rimless frames is changing the temple angle. I use double fiber-jawed pliers to hold the frame at the point where the nylon cord ties into the metal, then, using single nylon-jawed pliers or a temple fold angling pliers, I make the temple adjustment. Another tip is to apply heat to the nylon cord if the lens is too small. This is much faster than restringing the frame.

Rimless can be a challenge to adjust. If you are using a nut-and-bolt assembly, be sure to back off on the nut slightly before adjusting the frame. Use a pair of fiber-jawed pliers to brace the endpiece and then manipulate the temple. Compression-fitting mountings do not require loosening any screws but still require the set of a fiber-jawed bracing pliers to hold the endpiece. Silhouette Optical, Ltd. has a tool especially designed for manipulating the screwless, disc-type hinged temples on some of its rimless frames so if you carry them, be sure and ask the company for this little white tool (Model No. AC 400).

Hopefully the tips above will help you recognize the ease at which frames can be handled and open your eyes to a new world of frame options.

Kevin Harrison is president and owner of Heritage Vision Center, an independent optical dispensary in Hattiesburg, MI.


Altair Eyewear
800-505-5557 •

Charmant Group
800-645-2121 •

800-422-2020 •

Silhouette Optical, Ltd.
800-223-0180 •

Zyloware Eyewear
800-765-3700 •


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