I recently received a gift certificate for a pair of prescription CraftOptics telescopes (yay!). If you’re not familiar with them, check out their website. They’re pretty much the industry standard of magnification for jewelers. My jaw about hit the floor when I opened the letter. What adds to the fun is that my mother managed to capture a photo at the exact moment I realized what I was reading. (I’d share the picture, but really, early-morning photos from a bad angle probably don’t need to be circulating around the world. Just imagine me dreary-eyed, bug-eyed, red-eyed due to the flash…you get the picture.) I thought I’d share my experience of working with CraftOptics to get a custom, prescription pair of telescopes with all of you.
Before I got my first pair of magnifiers, I was certain that I didn’t need them. I still had young eyes (I was in my mid-twenties), so why would I need magnification? I admittedly associated reading glasses, Optivisors, and other types of magnifiers as something only “old” people needed. Well, I was wrong. Magnification is a tool, just as much as your hammer or bench vise is a tool. When you think of ergonomics as it relates to jewelry bench work, you likely often think of posture, lighting, etc. But how often do you associate your posture with your vision? You’re definitely going to have neck and back issues if you have to lean forward while you’re at the bench. My hope, since I’m acutely aware of how bad working habits over time can lead to injury, is that these new telescopes will help me sit up straighter without straining my eyes, neck, or back.
“Why do I need 2x magnification when I can get out my +2 reading glasses?” Well, I asked Jeff Caplan, son of the man who invented CraftOptics in the ‘80s, to explain away some of this confusion. 2x magnification is not the same as 2 diopters.The 2x magnification in the telescopes is essentially equivalent to +8 reading glasses, but with reading glasses, the stronger the correction, the closer you have to be to what you’re working on. With the CraftOptics, you get the 2x correction at a set distance, so you don’t have to hunch over or hold your work close to your face. Just thinking about that already makes my lower back feel better.
Jeff advised me on the best depth of field, or focal length, to get for bench work. The telescopes are available with 13- or 16-in. depths, and you have a few inches of play with each, so you don’t have to sit rigidly in your seat to maintain an exact set distance from what you’re working on. The 13-in. is best for bench work, whereas the 16-in. is more suited to working at a table of regular height.
What took me a little while to fully understand is that they aren’t substitutions for the correction you’re already using. They’re an enhancement of that correction. In my case, I wear glasses daily, so I got a pair with prescription lenses in the glasses with the attached telescopes. Another scenario is if you usually use readers, you’ll want to get your reader prescription added to the frames, rather than just clear lenses. If you have more complex vision correction, such as bifocals, prisms, or astigmatism, they can accommodate those, too! And, of course, if you’re one of the lucky folks who require no vision correction, you can always get clear lenses in the glasses.
I think the best way to purchase a pair is either over the phone or in person, in order to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need. Jeff made sure that I had the correct prescription and pupillary distance, and then we talked about the different features (including an optional light, which I hope to add on later). I chose the red frames (you can get purple or black, too) with the 13-in. focal length. After the order was placed, I waited with baited breath for them to arrive. And when they did, I put them to work straightaway.
One thing I noticed right off the bat is that they’re a lot lighter than I expected them to be. I notice them, but not any more than I do the glasses I wear daily. At first, I got a slight headache when I used them for more than a couple of hours, but I attribute that to a taller lens (more of my field of vision is in focus) and adjusting to a slightly new prescription. Using them regularly, I don’t notice them at all, and the headaches are gone. I’ve noticed that I still try and lean in toward my bench pin to see detail, but I catch myself and sit upright again whenever possible. I’m going to have to break that bad habit! I’ve still got to find the time to really put them through their paces, but I’d say these are a definite “win” in my book. —Annie Pennington
Magazine subscribers: For an in-depth review of the telescopes, visithttp://art.jewelrymakingmagazines.com/reference/product-reviews/2011/09/craftoptics-telescopes. Editor Hazel Wheaton did a test run a while back, so check out what she thought about them!
And, best of all! If you’re going to the Bead&Button Show in Milwaukee this week (if you’re not, you should), stop by their booth June 5–7 and try some out in person! They’ll be at Booth 917. And while you’re there, take a class and browse the over 300 vendors in the Artisan Jewelry Marketplace!