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Stereo Microscope For Nib Work (Help)

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#1 Nestor

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Posted 05 February 2019 - 21:00

I was thinking about buying a stereo microscope ( my budget is around 250$ to 300$ max) , to do various nib works such as grinding polishing etc. I have a very good belomo 12x loupe but the magnification just isn't enough for me.

I want to be able to see very fine details on the tipping of the nib which I can't see with the loupe, especially  when working on finer nibs. Now I do have a few options on what to buy, but really need someones opinion.

The first choice would be the Amscope se400-z ( https://amzn.to/2SbzszH ). Seems like a good deal and has good reviews. The problem is that it does not have variable zoom plus I don't know if 20x magnification would be enough to show me the finer details of the tipping material and if there would be a noticable difference compared to the loupe.

The other option is buying a used microscope from ebay, perhaps from a better brand (leica, zeiss etc) but at my budget most of the ones that I find have pretty much 20x zoom at most (usually its even less, around 10x).

The third option would be to buy something unbranded from aliexpress (https://bit.ly/2WCgfps I have something like this in mind) which has more zoom and it is variable too. But again I am trying to avoid this, because I am not certain about the quality of the product and due to the fact that parcels outside eu get stuck at customs, I'll be forced to pay something around 20 euros plus 27% of the price of the item (including shipping). 

Ideally I would like to buy the amscope se400-z,  if 20x magnification is enough to see any difference when comparing it to the loupe. So my question is, is it worth it? Will there be much difference compared to the loupe? Does anyone more experienced have any other proposals, such as another microscope that I have not considered? 

 

Any information would be much appreciated and helpful  :)



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#2 cunim

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 21:00

I use a Fowler with a built in swing lamp, 2X objective and 10X eyepieces (commonly available used for <$100).  This type of scope is common in industrial and shop environments, and  has plenty of magnification.  Too much in most cases because depth of field is small at 20X.  I would like to also have a 1.2X objective.

 

The real issue is illumination.  Just as in photography, stereo microscopy is all about where the light comes from.  Even major details will completely vanish under one lighting condition, only to pop out under another.  Make sure any scope you buy gives you lots of flexibility about where to position the light.



#3 Nestor

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Posted 07 February 2019 - 13:08

I use a Fowler with a built in swing lamp, 2X objective and 10X eyepieces (commonly available used for <$100).  This type of scope is common in industrial and shop environments, and  has plenty of magnification.  Too much in most cases because depth of field is small at 20X.  I would like to also have a 1.2X objective.

 

The real issue is illumination.  Just as in photography, stereo microscopy is all about where the light comes from.  Even major details will completely vanish under one lighting condition, only to pop out under another.  Make sure any scope you buy gives you lots of flexibility about where to position the light.

Thank you for the information! My plan was to buy a ring light, that mounts on the objective lens, so that there are no shadows. So illumination will not be an issue. The only issue would be the magnification itself. I still am not sure if 20x magnification is powerful enough to view the small details of the tipping. Such as sharp corners, tiny teeth, etc. Are you happy with 20x magnification, or could you use a little more?



#4 cunim

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Posted 07 February 2019 - 18:45

Thank you for the information! My plan was to buy a ring light, that mounts on the objective lens, so that there are no shadows. So illumination will not be an issue. The only issue would be the magnification itself. I still am not sure if 20x magnification is powerful enough to view the small details of the tipping. Such as sharp corners, tiny teeth, etc. Are you happy with 20x magnification, or could you use a little more?

The ring light will not solve illumination issues because nibs generate specular reflections, which obscure details.  Those specular reflections are minimized by either highly diffuse (soft)  or you can create contrast by use of directional light.  Ring lights have other purposes.  For example, they are great in microsurgery because tissue does not reflect the way metal does.

 

20X is more than enough for nib work.  At that magnification, you will be constantly focusing in and out as only some of a nib tip will be in focus.  I think 12-15X would be easier to work with.



#5 Nestor

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Posted 07 February 2019 - 21:06

The ring light will not solve illumination issues because nibs generate specular reflections, which obscure details.  Those specular reflections are minimized by either highly diffuse (soft)  or you can create contrast by use of directional light.  Ring lights have other purposes.  For example, they are great in microsurgery because tissue does not reflect the way metal does.

 

20X is more than enough for nib work.  At that magnification, you will be constantly focusing in and out as only some of a nib tip will be in focus.  I think 12-15X would be easier to work with.

Wow, you have really provided me with some very helpful information, which otherwise I wouldn't find anywhere. I will definitely be looking, to find a way to properly illuminate the nib without creating over-exposed areas on the tipping (strong highlights and reflections I mean). As for the zoom, I will take your word for it, since I really don't have any experience regarding microscopes, or their magnification. 

Thank you so much,

Nestor Vassiliou



#6 OMASsimo

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 02:11

I do have several stereo microscopes of various magnification but I hardly use them for nib work. I much prefer old-fashioned watchmakers loupes because they are very versatile. They come in a number of magnifications and are much cheaper than a stereo microscope. It's much easier to work on a watch movement or a nib using a watchmakers loupe than a microscope in my opinion. Might be worth a try.



#7 Nestor

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 12:48

I do have several stereo microscopes of various magnification but I hardly use them for nib work. I much prefer old-fashioned watchmakers loupes because they are very versatile. They come in a number of magnifications and are much cheaper than a stereo microscope. It's much easier to work on a watch movement or a nib using a watchmakers loupe than a microscope in my opinion. Might be worth a try.

Oh, I know I have one, but it just doesn't provide enough magnification for what I need. Its fine to check tine alignment and other general things, but when it comes to checking for flatspots, sharp edges etc, it just doesn't do the job. That is why I need a stereo microscope. Plus the stereo microscope, provides you with a stereoscopic image of the nib whereas the watchmakers loupe doesn't (as well as any other loupe). 



#8 OMASsimo

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Posted 09 February 2019 - 01:40

OK, I see. If you want it just for control, a stereo microscope with high magnification is fine. But it's pretty much useless for work on the nibs because of the very narrow depth of field.

 

Anyway, you may look for a used Olympus microscope. They are great quality, widely available, and offer a huge range of accessories like lenses and lighting equipment. It might be a challenge, though, to find a pair of matching lenses if the microscope doesn't come with the magnification you want. Most sellers (at least on the bay) offer single lenses and then you'll have to find a matching mate.



#9 ac12

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 05:50

One thing with some/many stereo microscopes is that you cannot look at a nib head on.

This is because the length of the pen is greater than the vertical space you have under the lens of the microscope, with the nib at focus distance.

 

+1 on light direction.

I use both a ring light and a small desk lamp.  Which one I use depends on the specific task.


Edited by ac12, 16 February 2019 - 05:51.

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#10 Nestor

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 10:15

One thing with some/many stereo microscopes is that you cannot look at a nib head on.

This is because the length of the pen is greater than the vertical space you have under the lens of the microscope, with the nib at focus distance.

 

+1 on light direction.

I use both a ring light and a small desk lamp.  Which one I use depends on the specific task.

Oh sure you can, the microscope that I will buy, will need to have a boom stand. Meaning you can extend the head of the microscope, to anywhere you want. I can literally extend the head of the microscope beyond the table, so that the working area is between the head and the floor, which is more than enough space to do anything. I am thinking of setting up the microscope in such a way, that I can build a grinding station underneath is, in order to take a closer look into what I am doing, when grinding and modifying a nib. 



#11 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 16 February 2019 - 16:15

I've got a stereo microscope because of my amateur botanist activities. I use it to identify mosses and certain plants, which require good lighting, strong magnification and good lenses with minimal optical distortion. When fountain pens became a hobby and I started to learn how to tune and grind nibs, I considered myself very lucky to own that stereo microscope.

Guess what? I rarely use it for this purpose.

WimG taught me that working by touch is much more effective than working by vision. Wim sometimes works with his eyes closed, to focus on his touch. Nowadays I only use a lens to see if the tines are properly aligned, if there are canyon issues and things like that. A hand lens more than suffices for that. Smoothing, tuning and such I do by touch.

#12 Nestor

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Posted 17 February 2019 - 09:03

I've got a stereo microscope because of my amateur botanist activities. I use it to identify mosses and certain plants, which require good lighting, strong magnification and good lenses with minimal optical distortion. When fountain pens became a hobby and I started to learn how to tune and grind nibs, I considered myself very lucky to own that stereo microscope.

Guess what? I rarely use it for this purpose.

WimG taught me that working by touch is much more effective than working by vision. Wim sometimes works with his eyes closed, to focus on his touch. Nowadays I only use a lens to see if the tines are properly aligned, if there are canyon issues and things like that. A hand lens more than suffices for that. Smoothing, tuning and such I do by touch.

I agree with you but to certain extent. In fact I can relate to that as well. There have been times where the nib looked pretty smooth, and glossy while looking it from the loupe, tine alignment was on point. Still the pen was scratchy. So I put the pen on my thumb and moved it on it. I felt the scratchy point. This works fine when you have to deal with nibs that have significant amount of tipping, such as fine, medium, broad etc. However when you go into the territory of extra fine, extra extra fine and needlepoint, this method fails. The reason being that the tip is so small that by touch it will always feel harsh, scratchy and all that. Not because it actually is, but because the tipping is simply smaller. Its simple physics. If you move a needle across your skin it will feel much more agressive than if you move a screw with a flat bottom. This is the reason why the microscope becomes a necessity. Especially when I grind nibs to a fine size, its impossible for me to do a symmetrical job, say when I do a needlepoint grind.



#13 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 17 February 2019 - 13:52

For such purposes: agreed.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: microscope, nibwork, grinding, loupe, magnification, stereo, repair



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