Opticians use laboratory instruments for measuring, and precision hand tools for doing detail work, especially repairs. Usually your employer will provide the basic tools, but if you don't have good close-up vision, you might want to consider buying your own hands-free magnifier to spare yourself from eye strain and frustration when working on tiny eyeglass frame parts.
The lensometer – also called a lensmeter or vertometer -- is the prima donna of the optical laboratory. It measures how light passes through a lens. You can use this tool to determine the prescription of the lenses the patient is wearing when she comes in for an eye exam, which gives the doctor a useful starting point for the vision test. You also should use the lensometer to cross check new eyeglasses when they come in from the lab, to make sure the prescription matches what you ordered.
When a patient orders new glasses, you use a pupilometer to determine the distance between the center of his nose and each pupil. Back in the bad old days, opticians simply used a metric ruler to do this, but the pupilometer gives a much more accurate reading, down to one-half of a millimeter. The patient holds the instrument from one side and looks into it as if using binoculars. An eye hole on the other side allows you to match up a measuring line with the center of each pupil. This measurement helps ensure the lens is cut to fit into the frame with the optical center directly over the patient's pupil.
Screwdrivers and Hex Wrenches
Repairs are a big part of an optician's job. Eyeglass frame manufacturers use different sizes of screws, washers and nuts, so you need an assortment of very small screwdrivers in both flat-head and Phillips styles to work on hinges, which are one of the most common repair issues. Optical hex wrenches are essential for tightening nuts on the back of “frameless” eyeglasses, where the temples are attached directly to the lenses by a nut-and-bolt assembly inserted through holes drilled into the lenses. It's a great minimalist look, but it takes serious dexterity to assemble the tiny pieces.
Eyeglass frames rarely fit a patient perfectly on the first try and, even if they do, patients tend to knock their frames out of alignment by wearing them on their heads, rolling over on them when sleeping, or being a little too slow when a small child reaches for the pretty glasses. Optical pliers specially designed for specific parts of the frame, such as the nose pads, temples and end pieces, will help you bend the frame into the most comfortable position for the patient.
Plastic frames can snap if you bend them when they're cold. Frame warmers gently heat the frame so that you can bend it safely. They come in a variety of formats, including hot air blowers and boxes with beads or sand set over a heating element. You place the portion of the frame you wish to bend into the warmer until becomes pliable enough to bend easily. Be sure to cool the frame before giving it back to the patient!
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