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Engraving Microscopes

For information about microscopes and help shopping for scopes there is a good thread on the engraving forum on the subject.   Click here to read the thread: http://engravingforum.com/showthread.php?t=8440&page=2


zeiss loupes.jpg (12174 bytes)


An alternative to microscopes are surgical loupes. These are the type of loupes surgeons and dentists use. There are quite a few brands available, but by far the best, and the clearest and brightest, are the loupes made by Carl Zeiss. They are available in a variety of powers (4.5x to 8x) and working distances.

The cost of Zeiss Loupes are $1499 and they are available directly from Zeiss. with a 30-day loan program.  1-888-773-2790

by Les Schowe

Pre Review:
    Before I start this review I would like to make one point clear:  Some people like microscopes for engraving and some people do not like microscopes for engraving, and all that is just fine.  We are all different people and we all have different opinions, abilities, and dis-abilities.   This review is for the people who have decided that they would like to use a microscope for their engraving endevours and would like to find a lower cost solution than the Meiji/Acrobat Stand setup.   I do not want this review to turn into a discussion about whether or not microscopes are useful in engraving. 

The Review:
   One of the problems with getting new students started into engraving is getting them past the cost of the equipment required to start an engraving career.  As such, I have been researching lower cost alternatives for some of the equipment required for engraving.   I have recently evaluated  the Amscope microscope equipment on the internet and I have even given them several phone calls - nice people, by the way.  One of my current students took my suggestion and ordered the Amscope microscope components listed below.  Upon receipt of his order he brought all of the components to my studio, we assembled everything and then evaluated the total setup.  I am not, and never have been, a fan of Chinese products but, I have to say, I was very impressed and excited with this microscope setup.  I can't speak for their quality control (how good the next microscope might be)  but this specific microscope seemed to be every bit as good (and maybe even better) as my own Meiji microscope - I was really very impressed.  

    Mind you, I am not an optics expert.  I am not trying to evaluate this microscope  for its ability to allow me to split chromosomes, I am just evaluating this equipment for engraving.  A "Consumer Reports" evaluation might find some problems with this microscope relative to a Meiji microscope in the optics, but for engraving it was great, did the job, and, in my opinion, is just as good as my Meiji. 

    Below are the web pointers to the Amscope catalog pages for the components that I reviewed.  Note that the prices for each component is at the very bottom of the web page.  It looks like the total price for everything, excluding shipping, is about $700.  Also Note that you can find these products on ebay and you can save a little more money by ordering there.  (On their ebay adds, AmScope dose not give model numbers so you have to figure out what is what before you order.  It might be a good idea, if you are going to try to order their equipment over ebay, to give them a call to verify that this is what you are looking for). 

Web Pointers to the components:

Microscope: store.amscope.com/sm745b.html
Barlow Lens for Microscope: store.amscope.com/sm05.html
Microscope light ring: store.amscope.com/led-144-yk.html
Microscope Stand: store.amscope.com/bbb-fr.html

    By the way, here is the AmScopes home page: www.AmScope.com

    One important note here.  Do not try, as I did, to order the Amscope Microscope stand for your Meiji microscope.  They are not compatible, ie, they do not fit.  The Meiji requires the holder ring of the focusing rack to be 3.315".  The Amscope Microscope stand has a  holder ring diameter of  3".

Les Schowe leschowe@comcast.net

Carl Zeiss OPMI1  Microscope
The scope Steve Lindsay uses

Carl Zeiss Surgical OPMI 1
I've found the Zeiss OPMI 1 scopes to be the clearest optically, and their smaller size is a plus. The optics in the Zeiss are as daylight. The Zeiss OPMI 1 is more expensive, but if you plan to spend a lot of your life looking through a scope, it is worth watching ebay for a few months to find one in good shape. The Zeiss OPMI 1 bodies in good shape seem to sell on ebay for around $2,000 to $3,000. From a dealer, a used body is around $7,500. New, the OPMI scopes are out of reach staring at $20,000 from Zeiss 

Left: Zeiss Surgical OPMI 1

A stereo microscope can be a great aid to the engraver who desires to engrave intricate designs. There are a variety of brands of scopes that will work for engraving, including American Optical, Olympus, Meiji, Bausch & Lomb, Zeiss, Wild, and Nikon. The scope I favored for eighteen years was a Bausch & Lomb. I'm currently using a Zeiss Surgical OPMI1.

Bausch & Lomb no longer makes scopes. I believe the company merged with Leica, or was bought out. It is still possible to find B&L scopes. Sometimes nice scopes at reasonable prices can be found on ebay.com.  B&L made a nice boom stand, and finding a scope with the boom stand would be ideal. B&L also made scopes with fixed power, however, they do not work well for engraving. Watch for the ones with variable zoom. $800 is probably about the going rate for a B&L scope in good condition on ebay.

I believe Meiji microscopes have the same zoom power that the old B&Ls had: 7x through 45x, with 10x eyepieces that give a 3.6" working distance. A .5x reducing objective can be added, which makes it 3.5x through 22.5x with the 10x eyepieces, and the working distance increases to 7.2". I used a B&L scope without a reducing lens while engraving, but if more clearance was needed (i.e. sawing with a jeweler's saw under the scope), a reducing lens would have doubled the distance and cut the power in half.

Zoom Information Tip  The zoom of the Zeiss OPMI 1 doesn't "zoom" like most other scopes. Instead, it has a separate fixed lens for each power. There are a total of 5 powers that are clicked through as you turn the dial on the side of the scope. Fixed lenses are clearer and brighter than an adjustable zoom lens, which is also true with camera lenses. If a traditional zoom scope is going out of focus when zoomed from one extreme to the other, this can sometimes be adjusted simply by setting the height at the point that the eye pieces are setting in the eyepiece tubes. If you can pull an eyepiece up slightly and it will stay, try going through the zoom to see if it is better or worse. It takes some trial and error, but sometimes this is all that is needed. If it does improve, take a look at how the eyepiece tubes are connected, and check to see if they are adjustable in height. This way you can adjust the tube height instead of the eyepiece itself. Since the Zeiss OPMI1 uses a different lens for each power, this tip won't work with it. The barrel mechanism in the body of OPMI1 scope holds each lens. These are adjustable independently of each other should you find one power to be out of focus compared to the others.

Custom Boom Stand for a Zeiss OPMI1 Scope

The Zeiss OPMI1 scope I'm using did not come with a stand, and I ended up making my own. Below are pictures of it. I wanted it to be as rigid as possible to prevent vibrations, and also to have a long reach for engraving items such as gun barrels. I'm sure the stand could be made with some revisions, but if you build your own, the pictures might help to give you some ideas.

engravingbench02c 1x1.jpg (25439 bytes)

boom01.jpg (96894 bytes)

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 boom02.jpg (84942 bytes)

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