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Five Opticians Finding Interesting New Uses for Optical Gadgets … and Optical Hacks for All Kinds of Interesting Stuff

The results were intriguing to say the least.




WE’RE SURE THAT when it comes to optical tools, a $180 13-piece plier set gets pride of place on the shelf, and there’s no denying that a double-nylon jaw model lends you an unmistakable professional swagger. But we did some snooping around and discovered what it is that really keeps you guys from falling apart in those mysterious back rooms of yours… The results were intriguing to say the least. Packing tape? Safety pins? Who knew?

Dr. Taylor Bladh, O.D. Diamond Bar, CA

Where would you be without your trusty frame warmer? Josh Bladh says the team at Dr. Taylor Bladh, O.D. use their Hilco TempMaster several times a day. “If it disappeared we would have to immediately pony up for a new one. It’s that important.” Its primary use is to warm frames when dispensing or adjusting, but the lab tech at this practice also uses it to expand the grooves in order to pop in lenses if he’s having a hard time getting them in cold. The team used to use a bead warmer, but found that less expensive frames tend to get hot beads stuck to the zyl, which damaged the frames. And when it gets chilly in Diamond Bar, says Bladh, “I’ve also used it to warm up my hands, but that’s only a temporary solution. Hot chocolate works just fine and is a more lasting trick.”

Rockford Family Eyecare Rockford, MI

Ben Rozema, an optician at Rockford Family Eyecare, let us in on this optician’s secret. Straps from frame-box packaging are an indispensable “tool” at Rockford for removing lenses from semi-rimless frames. It’s a trick he was shown when he was starting out. “I use it on semi-rimless jobs that are so tight the lens won’t even wiggle.” A guitar pick will work under certain conditions, but strapping “is much cheaper; just use the material you get when vendors ship multiple boxes.” To make this work, find the gap between the frame liner and bottom cord and gently slide the sharp point of the strap into that gap (between frame and lens). Slowly slide the strap toward the bottom of the lens to give you the slack you need to pop out the lens. “It also works well for inserting a lens because it is more durable than the flimsy ribbons most manufacturers send with semi-rimless frames,” Rozema says.

EyeStyles Optical and Boutique Oakdale, MN

If you find yourself in Oakdale, MN, and spot a preoccupied-looking optician dashing across the parking lot in front of EyeStyles Optical and Boutique, that’ll be owner Nikki Griffin making another heat-shrink tubing run. “I don’t have a hot-fingers for zyl hinge repairs, and today’s frame materials make it difficult to do hinge replacements like we used to,” she explains. Her M.O. is to cut a piece about 2 inches and splice it over the endpiece, then hold the temple firmly (and level) while the tube shrinks in the air warmer. Cold water sets the temple in place. “I had a guy come back to purchase glasses two years after I had done this repair because it lasted so long.” Tubing can also be used to cover spots where a dog or child has chewed the temple ends on an acetate frame. “I file down the rough spots, reshape the temple bend and cover the whole mess with tubing. The last time I did this my air warmer was being repaired so I pressed my toaster into service. We all got a laugh out of that.” You can order smaller-diameter tubing from Hilco, but “any electrician supply store should have rolls of it,” she says.

Fox Valley Family Eye Care Little Chute, WI

Scott Felten at Fox Valley Family Eye Care is constantly reaching for nylon gripping pliers (left, available from Hilco and Optisource). “Don’t know what I’d do without it,” he says. “I use the pliers with the flat end. Best usage is for bringing the temple in to tighten frame to head, or out to spread temples.” He finds he gets a better bend by gripping the temporal end of the frame front with nylon on the outside of the frame and squeezing the tool rather than forcing the temple. If, like most opticians, you struggle with putting a screw in a spring hinge because the barrels don’t line up, Felten has some advice. “One simple trick that works well for me is to stick a push pin to align the barrels (right), then push the temple down. This will hold that alignment long enough to put the screw back in. Had to learn this long before the self-aligning screws came out.”

Prentice Optical Lab Glenview, IL

What does an optician with 30 years experience reach for in a pinch? Well… if he’s Kevin Count, a standard-issue razor blade and a safety pin. “The safety pin holds the barrels of a spring hinge. When you open the hinge the pin holds the barrels revealing a void between the barrel and the box of the hinge. You insert a glass screw and release tension on the hinge. Now you can attach the temple to the frame.” The blade comes into play when Count needs to remove the name from an acetate frame. “Hold the blade at a slight angle away from yourself and drag across offending writing,” he instructs. “Repeat until all remnants of the ink are gone and polish to original luster.”


After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]




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