Soldering distance

Was: No-brand binocular loupes

Thank you Peter Rowe for describing the long working distance of a
loupe designed for surgical applications. I’m nearsighted and do not
yet need a loupe while working on the bench pin at eye level;
however, the surgical loupe might work for soldering, because a
jeweler’s loupe doesn’t help with the long distance. This makes me
curious about other Orchid members’ soldering station set-up.

I solder standing at a waist-high table, but sometimes I need to
solder nearly at eye level to see what I’m doing on a small piece
which requires multiple solder joins. I can see clearly if I sit at
the waist-high table, but the heat is uncomfortable on my
goggle-covered eyes, so I tried the Oberon gold safety glasses but
they are too dark to see minute details clearly. I also tried
soldering at levels inbetween up-close and far-away, but could not
see perfectly even with an illuminated jeweler’s loupe.

So how do you all design the height of your soldering area? Do any
of you solder less than 15 inches from your eyes? Do you solder on
top of your bench? Does anyone use the surgical loupe for soldering
while standing?

Hello Betty,

I too, am near-sighted and work at the bench sans glasses… same
with the computer. I look down slightly at the soldering brick, which
is within 12 inches of my face. Although this reveals my age, soon
it will be necessary to add another focal distance and I’m not sure
how that will “play.”

When additional magnification is necessary, I have one of those 6"
diameter, lighted magnifiers on an adjustible arm. It’s a little
awkward to use the torch under the magnifier and one must be
cautious, but it works. In that circumstance, I’m using a very small
torch tip and flame for really tiny stuff like soldering 24 ga wire.

Judy in Kansas, where the wind is blowing, but the temps are very
pleasant 70s.

I use a Behr spectacle loupe. I like the lowest power, maybe its 1.5
or something, just enough to aid focus. I rip off the stem
attachment and solder in a length of brass tubing to bring the lens
out about 4 inches, there by increasing the working distance. Then
rhodium for looks. Its lightweight, can wear it all day. It provides
good peripheral vision because there’s no bulky frame making you feel
like you’re looking thru a window. So you don’t have to take your eye
off your work at a critical point to find that poker you dropped.
Well, I have a lazy eye so that helps field of view too.

1 Like
So how do you all design the height of your soldering area? Do any
of you solder less than 15 inches from your eyes? Do you solder on
top of your bench? Does anyone use the surgical loupe for
soldering while standing? 

I have deteriorating middle aged eyesight and use a variety of
optical aids for different situations; varifocal reactolight glasses,
varifocal contact lenses, middle distance reading glasses, binocular
loupe with changeable lenses, x10 loupe, x20 loupe.

I have my soldering station on my bench alongside to the right of my
pin. The bench is 95cm high but on top of that is a variety of
blocks and firebricks, etc that may add another 12cm or so. I stand
to solder most of the time because that was how we had to use the set
up at college so it is what I got used to. If the piece is going to
take a long time with several joints and I need to get down to eye
level then I sit on a stool. I usually have my binocular loupe on my
head but the lense is so easy to flip up and down I may use it for
placing the solder but then flip it up for the hot work. I use a
mouth blown torch and find the bottom of the lense tends to mist up
when I have kept it down for soldering and I can manage that step
with just my varifocal glasses. I don’t usually need the loupe again
until I am checking the work just done.

Most professional bench jewellers I have watched working have their
torches right at their pins and they pull their fire blocks forward
when they need to solder.

I used to feel a bit embarrassed about my ‘Heath Robinson’ set up and
wouldn’t dream of putting a picture of my bench on the web for fear
of derisory comments but I’ve found more and more that we all have
our own unique ways of working and improvised tools and learn from
each other more efficient and effective ways of achieving the best
results. My set up and how I use it works for me in the limited space
that I have. My purpose built bench is long but not deep and I have a
window directly infront of the pin. I wouldn’t feel safe with my hot
work there.

Collette (UK)

I am probably much older and have been very nearsighted. I break
frames-- I broke another one today. I went through years with
varilux lenses.

I never used bifocals. I had one eye corrected for far and one for

All this worked for a long time but I kept taking them off to get
close - Throwing them down and eventually breaking a frame–sometimes
sooner than later.

I had to give up on varifocals -they caused eye and neck strain at a
computer- headaches. I tried some cobbled up bifocals which worked
after a fashion until I broke the frame. My eyes started needing less
and less correction which I was told was unusual ?? I have gone from

  • 6 correction to about - 2.75 correction for distance over several

I have been getting along with a pair for normal distance use and a
pair for close up use. These are corrected more than the bifocal
range about + 2.5 the normal distance correction. For small part
brazing they work at close up range.

The parts are usually fairly small and polycarbonates take care of
the UV.

I don’t use special magnification (tried it) and IR (heat) is not a
problem. I don’t work at this all day - day in day out.

They work fine until I set them down and put something heavy on top
of them- like today.


Since I have a hat size of 7 3/4 the currently manufacture
opitivisor won’t fit my melon without giving me headaches.

I experimented with different reading glasses with the before
mentioned Opticaid clip on magnifiers. I found the strongest reading
glasses gave me good vision for soldering and the flip down
magnifiers gave me the extra magnification when needed. But for
distance vision I couldn’t see well enough to prevent me from
stumbling around my shop.

So I went and saw my optometrist and he designed lenses that had
bifocals that were 4x greater than my bifocal Rx starting halfway
across my line of site. Then my regular Rx above that line. We
selected some industrial frames that best supported the clip on. I
then use an Opitcaid #10 clip on magnifier for close up.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan

Hi to all the responders ref the soldering distance!

I may have entered into this discussion at another time…under a
different title!! However, I have the old fashioned large trifocal
glasses, have had both cataracts removed and have 20/15 vision. I
don’t need to use any magnification. I use just an Acetylene torch
(Prestolite), with a 3 tip - do change to a 5 when I am soldering
channel bracelets. I stand to solder, since I move a lot to get the
heat distributed on all sides, top and bottom. I tell my students
they have to be contortionists! HAHA

I have a totally different area from my constructing workbench for
soldering. My set up is two fire bricks, on a fireproof 12 x 12 pad,
on top of the bricks is a medium grate metal wire - no tripod! I also
have charcoal blocks that can also be set on top of the grate. Behind
this setup is a pipe where the ventilation system connects…the fan
runs out a window and are installed in a heavy plastic panel
installed in the full length of the window, so the window has light.

I would say that the work is about 8 inches from my face.
ADVICE…have plenty of ventilation…it can save your health.

Glad to add something (again) to my favorite daily reading - I would
be very disappointed not to have this with my morning coffee!

Rose Marie Christison
And guess what is going to happen in Denver tonight? SNOW


Interesting. I’m having trouble picturing it though. Picture please?



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Hi Jesse,

I had to give up on varifocals -they caused eye and neck strain at
a computer- headaches. 

I have the usual old timer vision problems, need to use trifocals.
However they’re a PITA when using the computer. I found it much
easier to get a pair of reading glasses at the drug store & use them
while at the pc. No more stiff neck.


Today, as I was soldering a couple ringsizings, I happened to think
of this thread, so I picked up a ruler and measured from the tip of
mynose to the tip of my Little Torch. Five inches tops. I had never
really thought about this till now. Itwas nothing more than 2nd
nature to me I am very near-sighted, wear hard contact lenses, as
well as pretty heavy duty reading glasses.And I have my headloupe
down when soldering.

But I can definitly see whats happening in front of me on the
soldering block.


Interesting. I'm having trouble picturing it though. Picture

How about an action shot?

As you can see there’s almost nothing there weighing down. The
springs last me about two years, which reminds me, I’ve probably
just jinxed myself at a time when I have no spares.

BTW, the wrinkles are in the newsprint, not me. Well, just the
horizontal ones are mine.

Thanks again.

I have progressive bifocals, and I bought a lightweight MagEyes
magnifier visor. I found that by adjusting the position of the
magnifier, I can look through various parts of the bifocals and get
clear magnification at varying focal lengths, from about a foot to
almost arm’s length. The best combination I’ve ever found.

Janet Kofoed

Today, as I was soldering a couple ringsizings, I happened to
think of this thread, so I picked up a ruler and measured from the
tip of mynose to the tip of my Little Torch. Five inches tops. 

I’m terribly near-sighted (my glasses prescription is about -8.5).
Without glasses, my field of vision is about 5 inches from the tip
of my nose.

So I often simply remove my glasses in order to see things clearly
at close range. I’ve done it for so long that it’s second nature. I
discovered that it’s a VERY bad habit to have when soldering–I
singed the ends of my bangs and didn’t even realize it until I
smelled burning hair. It might have been a much worse outcome; I’m
very lucky. Now I solder at arms’ length with my glasses on and hope
I got it right.

I can hardly wait for those binocular loupes to arrive. They should
be here within the next couple days!

Kathy Johnson

I am both very nearsighted and have advanced glaucoma affecting
middle as well as peripheral sight so I am always concerned about
appropriate lighting, magnification and eye safety. When sawing at
the bench I start with bifocals and optivisor, but usually end with

Soldering at school, standing up with piece on a firebrick, we were
required to wear safety glasses at all times so I used a in
inexpensive pair of safety glasses with a bit of wraparound
(optivisors were not considered acceptable for safety). The
instructor said there was a brand of safety glasses that could be
made as a prescription, but I didn’t catch the name. It sounded like
l-vex (anyone know what she referred to?)

When working for long periods I like the lighting and magnification
products sold at You have a choice of types of light
(natural, fluorescent, etc.) and the focal length (working distance)
and large size of the sweet spot are perfect for me. Yes, their
products are not cheap, but the quality is excellent and the service
great. Plus they had lots of info about optics and magnification on
their web site. I’m a very happy repeat customer of theirs. Since I
haven’t set up a soldering station at home yet I don’t know how my
Dazor will be with a (butane) torch, but will contact customer
service for advice when the time comes.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs

I like the pix with the magnifiers…missed the original question so
need the name and where to buy what’s hanging from the
glasses…Many Thanks,

Pat Klein