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
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,