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Scope, Is it worth the price?


#1

Hello Orchidians:

Two things…Daniel, I am very sorry to hear you are leaving the
forum. I wish you all the best and expect to read about your future
successes in an upcoming issue of JCK.

Now. On to my question…

I, like many people on this forum, have a different full time job. I
do run my part-time jewelry biz like a biz as much as I can. I have
much to learn and don’t have any issues with that. That being
said…I want to learn how to pave set stones - or at least set them
darn close to each other. I already bought a terrific dvd on pave
setting so I am good to go there. My issue is that I have a dickens
of a time seeing the 1.4mm stones I set now even with an optivisor
and a 4x magnifying glass. I budget for a big tool every year (I’m
lucky that way :)). Should I spring for a scope now or wait a few
more years? Will it really make setting the stones that much easier?
I keep hearing Blaine Lewis’s voice in the back of my head…“if you
can’t see if, you can’t set it”.

Thoughts would be appreciated…

R/
Kennedi


#2

Kennedi:

Get the scope. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. Lewis is
right. You can’t do what you can’t see, and you’ll be stunned by
what you can see at 20-30x. The first time I looked at my setting
through a scope, I actually heard words in my head: “I see whole new
vistas of anal-retention spread out before me…”

You’re after a stereo-zoom microscope. There are cheapo binocular
scopes on ebay that only have one real lens, they just have two
eyepieces. No depth perception. Worse than useless for setting. Make
sure you get a stereo scope. The zoom is very handy.

Most people swear by Meiji scopes. One nice thing about the Meiji’s
is that they’ll hold focus as you zoom. I’ve got two scopes, one
Otto Frei setter’s scope that’s a Chinese knockoff of a Meiji, and a
Nikon SMZ-10 stereo zoom. Neither of them holds focus during a zoom.
I’m not sure how much of an issue that really is: I very rarely zoom
while I’m working. I just set it (usually all the way wide) and
leave it alone while I’m working.

As for quality, the Otto Frei Meiji clone is fine for setting/
engraving. I’ve got the Nikon, which weirdly enough, I use for my
PUK welder. I could have swapped the Nikon into the engraving
station, but it turns out I like the focus distance on the Otto Frei
scope better, and the optics are close enough that I don’t notice a
difference unless I really crank it in to 50x. So I’m engraving with
the Otto Frei scope. Go figure.

The one thing you really must do is get the GRS acrobat stand. It’s
$500, but it’s money very well spent. The acrobat lets you put the
scope wherever you want it, and it stays. No kickback, no bounce,
nothing. The other wonderful feature it has is a forehead rest. This
lets you spend hours staring into the scope without giving yourself
black eyes from the eyepieces of the scope. Until you’ve spent 3-4
hours engraving something through the scope without a headrest,
you won’t appreciate the difference, but trust me: You want the
headrest.

Ringlights are also a very useful thing. They’re little lights that
clamp onto the muzzle of the scope, to provide even illumination of
the area under the scope. I’ve got both a fluorescent one, and one
of those ‘daylight balanced’ LED ones. The LED’s nice, but I’m not
sure it’s twice as nice as the fluorescent. It is twice the price,
however. Your call on that, but I’d definitely get one or the other.

Hope this helps,
Regards,
Brian Meek.


#3

Have you been checked for cataracts?

I ask because I’m beginning to have problems seeing to facet stones
and the cause is apparently cataracts.

RC


#4

Hey Kennedi, where did you get a terrific dvd on pave’? I’d like to
pick that one up.

Thanks, Jim Doherty


#5
Should I spring for a scope now or wait a few more years? Will it
really make setting the stones that much easier? 

it’s a mixed blessing. Yes, you can see the stones wonderfully well,
which is great and can make setting much easier. The problem is that
with other magnifiers, your head can move as the work moves, so
you’re free to move the work to whatever position is needed for the
setting tools to do their job. With the microscope, although it’s
position is adjustable, it’s not so “on the fly, as you work”. You’re
not going to want to have to stop and move the scope’s position for
every slight difference in positioning the work. That means figuring
out means to hold the work in the same place. With engraving balls,
for example, the classic balls just rotate, swivel, etc, to position
the work where needed for the cut. But working under a microscope, if
the part being engraved isn’t in the rotational center, it moves
position in the field of view. So engravers sometimes resort to much
costlier engraving balls where the work can be moved laterally to
keep the center of rotation located where the cutting is taking
place. This can work for some setting work, but not all. As I say,
it’s a mixed blessing. I have a scope on my bench, and love it when I
can use it. Which is about half the time. The rest of the time I go
back to my trusty eye loupe. That’s a 10X triplet loupe with a head
band added (like the usual watchmakers loupes, but this is a B&L 10
triplet in an eye loupe. They don’t make it with a head band, so I
have to add it. This gets me nice and close and clear to the work.
The one inch working distance and use of only one eye is not as good
as the scope of course. but then I’m not limited in how to position
and hold the work. If it’s something critical enough so I really need
the scope, I can usually figure out how to make it work. but it often
slows me down, what with having to adjust the scope or the work
holding scheme.

Hope that helps.
Peter


#6

have you seen those cool magnifyers that cross over for surgeons they
look like long tubular lenses over each eye steve frei was showing
them last year at the final kraftwerks gathering last year they were
in the nieghborhod of $600 ??? maybe but you can sit up and work
good magnification for a comfortable work position i think that is
less than a scope

goo


#7

I found that I needed a scope also as my eyes aren’t what they used
to be. If you are patient, you can find a good Bausch & Lomb head (I
got the Mark 7–$200.00) and a boom stand for the head ($150.) on
EBay. Makes a real nice set-up.

Believe me, it will take a little while to get used to working under
a scope, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

…Teddy


#8

Hi Kennedi;

I purchased a microscope shortly after completing a stone setting
class at Glendo Corporation and it is like night and day. It has been
a long time since I have chipped or broken an emerald or opal.

Well worth the money;

Take care, Paul LeMay.


#9

Yes a scope is a worthwhile investment, get a good one variable
magnification. you’ll also need a .5x objective lens to allow you
enough room under the scope to work. A light ring is a good buy as it
prevents shadows from an outside light source.

Have a good one, Jim Doherty


#10

Blaine is right of course with one small addition: .“if you can’t see
if, you can’t set it”. but you can break it.

If you’re serious a good microscope will change your life.

KPK


#11

Hi Kennedi,

If you have the means, go for it. A microscope is an invaluable tool
for all kinds of things, especially pave and bead setting. If it
looks good under the scope, it looks great to the naked eye. There is
a bit of a learning curve to it though, it can be kind of hard to get
used to using one. It took me about a month to really be able to use
it without fiddling with it to be able to see properly. Now, I
couldn’t live without it. Well worth the investment, but I sure
didn’t think so two weeks into it.

If you do get one, don’t skimp on quality to save a little money. A
good scope is a lifetime type purchase and as someone recently said
on another thread, the the bitterness of poor quality will remain
long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Dave


#12

After over 30 years at the bench my eyes just aren’t as good as they
were when I first sat at the bench!

I was at a jewelers conference two years ago when I had the chance
to sit at one of the Mejii/Acrobat set ups on the showroom floor for
a few minutes and play. The designed Joel McFadden was doing demos
and I was simply curious.

Within seconds of starting I knew that this “not in MY budget” tool,
along with the GRS handpiece would do far more than pay for
themselves, they were an absolute necessity if I wanted to raise the
quality of work to the higher level I was witnessing at the show! I
had recently scratched a gem while doing the final burnish of a bezel
setting, and with this set up I could see, IN DETAIL, exactly what
was going on at that point of contact!

After two years using this scope I would not want to set gemstones
without this tool. No scratches, no chips, and with all the newer
"micro set" @$^* I have to service these days I can actually see
those nearly non existant beads on the 0.005 ct @$^*! This tool is a
real blessing on fine work!


#13
it's a mixed blessing. Yes, you can see the stones wonderfully
well, which is great and can make setting much easier. The problem
is that with other magnifiers, your head can move as the work moves,
so you're free to move the work to whatever position is needed for
the setting tools to do their job. With the microscope, although
it's position is adjustable, it's not so "on the fly, as you work". 

Thank you Peter !

I did not want to get involved because of predictable praising chorus
extolling benefit of scopes, but Peter is absolutely right. And to
add to it, pave and other types of settings must be attractive. It is
not enough to shove in the stones, so they would not fall out.
Setting is an art of creating an ornament where stones play their
role, and metal serves important decorative function as well. Setter
must have wide field of view to accomplish it.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14
I keep hearing Blaine Lewis's voice in the back of my head..."if
you can't see if, you can't set it". 

Blaine is correct. I have been a professional Jeweler most of my life
and the industry has changed a lot over the years. One example is the
laser. Another is the work we are seeing. As price of diamonds and
other products increase, manufacturers are setting smaller and
smaller stones. I originally bought my Meiji Microscope Bench
Systenbecause as I have aged my eyes have gotten less sharp. But, I
find working with 0.80 mm stones or invisible set diamonds is a lot
easier when I can tell if the stone is table side up or not. The only
caveat I would offer is make sure you do not get to obsessive over
the detail you can see with through the scope. Sometimes larger
magnification will show flaws that are not visible with the naked eye
or a loupe.Also, beware of the Chinese copies of the Meiji System. I
have heard complaints about both the optics and the stability of the
stand.

Ron


#15

I have been using a scope for about 15 years now and it is by far the
best tool investment I ever made. I not only use it for stone setting
(everything form bezel to prongs to pave’ ) but I also use it for
cutting waxes and layout. I prefer it to hoods or glasses available
because there is no weight added to my head. I can set the scope so
that my posture is good while I work. This is very important when you
spend 8-10 hours a day at the bench… I also recommend the GRS
acrobat stand. Great versatility. Go for it and you will be amazed at
the quality improvement in your work…

Frank


#16

Yes the Meiji scope with the Boom stand is worth it’s weight in
gold!!! It’s great to see what you are doing, especially setting
2mm stones. By the way, some time back I reported on an earlier
posting on Orchid, that credit cards with mileage programs also
allow you to turn miles into money. Think of that when contemplating
buying the scope. My miles on Capital One paid for the scope, the
boom stand, and partially for a video camera linked to a laptop.
Great teaching tool, that camera.

Another tidbit. I noticed that there is NO refocusing time when
turning off the scope and looking away at the room. My old
magnifiers or reading glasses required a short refocusing before
being able to see clearly again. No more since “Erkle” the Meiji
scope has entered our studio.

Ruthie Cohen


#17
I did not want to get involved because of predictable praising
chorus extolling benefit of scopes, but Peter is absolutely right.
And to add to it, pave and other types of settings must be
attractive. It is not enough to shove in the stones, so they would
not fall out. Setting is an art of creating an ornament where
stones play their role, and metal serves important decorative
function as well. Setter must have wide field of view to accomplish
it. 

The scope is not a substitute for good design and layout. It is a
close in tool that allows extremely fine detail and precision, but
THAT is only part of what makes a good design. A wide field of view
in layout, combined with fine detail in setting stages, both
contribute to the quality of the product.


#18

As I approach my 50s I find that I am much more reliant on my scope.
David is right on the money when he says that if looks good under the
scope it will look great with the naked eye. The addition of a light
ring at the lens is money well spent as well, although I still
position my three tube bench light right down on the work area for
additional light. To deal with the issue Peter describes, the work
rotating out of the field of view or out of focus, I use a GRS mini
engraving ball on the standard GRS removable platform. The platform
is fairly big and the mini ball fits in your hand, so as you rotate
your work you can easily keep it in the field of view if not in
focus by sliding the ball under the lens. At worst I will have to
adjust the scope and acrobat arm up or down slightly to sharpen the
focus. Ive been setting stones for a very long time and I really was
very pleasantly surprised by how I was able to take my quality up a
notch when done under a scope. I carve many of my waxes under it as
well. Its funny how I will work and work on something under the scope
and be thinking that its just not quite good enough, then Ill pull it
out and look at it with my Optivisor and think, man this looks great.

Ive always thought that its very important to see you work better
than your customer, that lighting and magnification are critical.

Mark


#19
Thank you Peter ! 

Youre welcome, of course.

I did not want to get involved because of predictable praising
chorus extolling benefit of scopes, but Peter is absolutely right. 

Thanks again…

And to add to it, pave and other types of settings must be
attractive. It is not enough to shove in the stones, so they would
not fall out. 

Now here I have to comment. First, I completely agree with you on
all counts here. Youre completely correct. However, there is nothing
about the use a microscope that makes it impossible to make your work
attractive. It makes it easier to pay close attention to tiny
details, some of which one might miss working with lesser visual aids
or older eyes. It is true that you CAN set the microscope at such a
high magnification that you see only a tiny field of view, but in
general, its actually harder to work that way because then you also
have a much narrower depth of field in focus. With the microscope
zoomed out, you may have almost as wide a field of view as with a
loupe. Certainly its easy to see as much, or more, than I do with my
ten power eye loupe. But using both eyes, with good clear optics and
good lighting simply gives you better detail than, say, an optivisors
simple lenses. And any setter worth the name will not only use high
enough magnifaction to see whatever details are needed, but he or
she will also take the time to examine the work as it progresses
without magnifcation, the naked eye, and lower magnification as
needed, just so you dont lose track of the forest for looking at the
trees (or pine needles.).

Setting is an art of creating an ornament where stones play their
role, and metal serves important decorative function as well.
Setter must have wide field of view to accomplish it. 

Absolutely. But as I noted above, the microscope doesnt fix you at
close magnifcation. Its also easy to back off and see the whole thing
as needed. The sole issue Ive found with the microscope is not due to
being too close or missing the larger picture. Its simply that its
slower to have to keep adjusting the microscope so youre looking at
the work in whatever postion it now needs to be. With some work, that
can be an annoyance. But please note. Despite that annoyance, I still
have come to rely on my scope. I dont use it exclusively. But its
there when I need it and when its the right tool for the job. Which
is not all the time by any means. But even when doing something
mostly with more traditional older eye aids, I still sometimes stop
and use the scope to be sure Im not missing some important detail.

Cheers
Peter


#20

Thanks everyone for weighing in on my scope question! Sorry it took
so long for me to get back to you…and for the person who asked the
pave video is: Pave Setting techniques by Robert Wooding…think
it’s either through Rio or Stuller.

R/Kennedi