Harry A. Saake’s 44 Tips for Dispensing Opticians

1. If you have a high plus lens, stay away from long narrow frames as they will tend to pop out of those frames the easiest since they are long across the top. One must understand that one of the reasons for having trouble keeping lenses in a metal frame is the eyewire. When tightened the eyewire has a natural tendency to straighten. You can prove this by taking a piece of string, putting it into an arc and then pulling on both ends. That’s what your eyewire does and why there is more problem with plus lenses.

2. When determining if a frame is straight, the first thing you have to look at is to see if it is straight across the front. If it is not, or if one side is bent in more then the other, your 4 point stance means nothing. Quite often you will see frames come in with one temple up and one down and almost invariably the patient will tell you they have one ear higher then the other. In reality the difference in most cases is negligible. Check the front of the frame and you will probably find it’s out of alignment.

3. A patient comes in with an older metal frame that your biggest screw will not stay tight. With the screw inside the barrel take your snipes and gently squeeze the threaded barrel which will make it a little bit oval. Now the screw will self tap it self. Be careful not to squeeze too hard.

4. Next time you’re ready to use antifreeze or some commercial coolant, forget it. Buy a 5 gallon can of peanut oil. It works with no odor and no chemicals and no corrosion and will last a long time. No MSDS sheet required.

5. A little tip for your tools, especially your screwdrivers. If you want to keep them sterile so you don’t pick up germs when you slip and stab yourself, as we all have, keep them sitting in hydrogen peroxide while there not being used.

6. Try this as one of many methods to keep screws from backing out. As you know, almost any metal frame when you back out the screw tends to spring apart. I always take the frame and lightly bend the eyewires until the barrels meet together with no gap. Now when you screw it together not only will it go together easier, but there is no tension on the screw from the eyewire. Add a little loctite and you won’t see that patient back for a missing screw too often.

7. Here’s a tip on the easiest way to overcome the statement you hear almost every day in optical shops. A patient walks in you approach them and they reply, “I’m just looking”. Understand the reason there saying that is there afraid your going to push something on them right off the bat. Instead of agreeing and walking away, with the famous call me when you need me, simply say, do you know about our special, or our sale, or something to that effect. Invariably it will peak there interest and they will start talking to you, and now you can find out what there needs are. Works almost every time

8. This may sound very basic, but wash your hands in between every patient and after lunch. Nothing is worse then eating a salami sandwich and then adjusting someone’s glasses. Or if you have ever had one of those ladies come in wearing the $5.00 a gallon Evening in Paris perfume, which was also apparently applied by the gallon, now all over your hands, will not go unnoticed by the next person you touch.

9. I have always thought that if your going to be a good optician, you should also dress accordingly, out of respect for the trade and your customers. I am always amazed how bad and how sloppy some are as I visit different shops. Guys with the unbuttoned shirts, gold chains and 3 inch medallions, ladies in miniskirts, low cut blouse, have no place in the business. Myself, I wear a white shirt and tie and a doctors type white jacket that has my name sewn on it in block letters. I can tell you from personal long experience it automatically draws the customers to you. Dress for success.

10. Here’s what I guess should be a no-brainer, but when is the last time you sat down with your doctor and had a talk about the latest products that are available, and suggested to him or her about recommending them to patients. I made my doc a pair of polarized lenses that he had never had before. Now he is a believer and recommends them all the time, thus our polarized sunglass sales have increased tremendously. If you want to sell premium items, let the doc know it’s available. Most of them do not keep up with that aspect of the business.

11. When restringing a rimless frame, cut the monofilament with a scissor on an angle. It will go through the holes much easier. Chappel pliers tend to flatten out the edge of the monofilament, making it difficult to insert into the hole.

12. When changing screw-on type nose pads, the vigor pl-5n pliers make a great little tool for grabbing the heads off the screw and pulling it out. Better than tweezers or fingernails. Simply unscrew the screw, grab the head with the pliers, and out comes the screw. Because of nose cheese it will usually stick to the pliers. Simply tap the pliers on to the bench top and the screw will fall out. I usually do this on top of a rag and then squirt the screw with some alcohol.

13. Two of the ways I use to remove the debris on a rimless lens after edging; one is to put it in an ultrasonic cleaner and the other is to use a toothbrush and go around the edge.

14 When drilling holes in glass or plastic lenses for rimless mounts, always chamfer the edges afterwards, on both sides. This will prevent future flakes, stars and breakage afterwards. Since the edge of the hole is new beveled, there�s no sharp edge to push again.

15. Ever wonder how to clean out your salt pan? Run a magnet through it. You�ll be amazed what you pick up and probably also add to your screw collection.

16. When you have to shorten a temple by cutting off a piece of the end, always make sure you file it smooth and don’t leave any sharp point that might come through the plastic end tip when you put it back on. You should also file smooth the edge of the plastic end tip as it will typically be ragged after you cut it.

17. Keep in mind when you get a prescription for prism base up in one eye and base down in the other, you can split it unevenly. Example Dr. orders 4 up right and 4 down left. Look at the prescription and see what power you have in the 90 meridian in both lenses. If there is a large imbalance, you may want to split it 5/3, rather then 4/4. This will make your edge thicknesses appear more even.

18. For some reason spring hinges seem to constantly come in from the manufactures with some kind of resin or dirt in them, which becomes even worse with age. Before you dispense it, clean out the spring hinge good with several squirts of alcohol. Quite often you will feel it working smoother. The same is true with your temple hinges, if you loosen the screw and give it a few squirts of alcohol, it will be clean and work better.

19. Any time you are dispensing industrial safety glasses and have to supply side shields, always supply the side shield that was designed by the manufacture for that frame. Any thing else could be used against you should the side shield fail. Also forget about those little flimsy 1.00, one size fits all, slide over the temple type side shields. They are not legal if side shields are a requirement.

20. When a customer brings in one of those already made up in plano lens, safety glasses and wants an Rx put in them, think. Most of them although marked Z-87 were never tested or approved for prescription lenses, but rather only for plano lenses. You can usually identify these type frames as they will seldom if ever have a lens and bridge size stamped on them. If you’re not sure call the manufacturer.

21. If you sell those little plunger type contact lens removers, that are used to remove hard contacts, you would probably be better off to get rid of them, as they can be dangerous. People have been known to insert the remover and not realize the contact was not there, and instead remove some of their cornea. Just another potential lawsuit you don’t need.

22. Here’s one of those will work in a pinch type tips. You’re at home, the neighbor comes over with a metal frame that is bent out on the end pieces, and you don�t have your end pliers. Simply take a common table fork, and stick the end piece between the tines and turn inward. Works like a charm.

23. Ever get one of those snap in nose pads that was difficult to get out, and as you’re pulling on the pad, the whole pad arm moves. Simply take the pad arm and hold it with your snipes, and then use the pad popper and they will come right out and you won’t break off the pad arm.

24. Ever have one of those snap in nose pads that was difficult to get back in, and as your pressing you get a dent in your finger. Simply take your double fiber jawed pliers, and with one of the jaws in back of the pad arm, and the other jaw touching the front of the pad, gently squeeze the pliers and the pad will go right in. Sometimes lining it up will take a few seconds.

25. What makes the exec lens so difficult to keep in the frame is you have a lens with two different base curves. If the distance part is a 6BC and the add is a +3.00, you now have a 9.00D curve on the segment part, hence, why you see the ledge so dramatically, especially with your plus on plus lenses. One way I try to combat this problem is to go to a D-35 in a smaller frame. There is one common link between a D-35 and the exec, which is both have the OC on the line. This is not true with a D-28 or D-25. By using the D-35 in a smaller frame it will almost look like an exec, without the ledge, but your optics that the patient is used to will remain about the same.

26. When ordering and dispensing plus lenses, keep in mind that the smaller your eyesize, the thicker the nasal edge is going to be for a standard molded blank. Most plus lenses if there much above +2.00 will be better ordered custom ground for the patient, so you may derive minimum thickness. Also keep in mind that aspheric plus lenses will look there best when not decentered. They will also work better.

27. If you�re going to buy a stock of minus lenses, buying the bigger blanks may be handier as they will fit almost any size frame you might use. Keep in mind that with a minus lens, no matter what the size of the blank, the edge and CT will be the same for any given Rx. EX: a minus 5.00 cut from a blank 55mm, 65mm, or 80mm will have the same edge thickness from either lens as long as the CTs are the same.

28. When putting on temple tips, the first thing you should do after you remove the old temple cover, is clean off the end of the temple. When putting on a new one quite often they will be a little hard to go on. Try coating the end of the temple tip with a little vaseline, being careful not to use too much, as you don’t need much

29. Some of you will undoubtedly run into that situation in an industrial environment, where a worker is going in and out of a cold freezer and quite naturally the glasses fog up. What I do is offer them two pair and tell them to keep one in the cold storage, and the other one outside.

30. An often overlooked factor in frames is eyewire rolling. While we normally associate this with plastic frames, metal can also roll and make it difficult to keep the lens in the eyewire. If you’re dealing with a plus lens you will notice it even more. You have to look at the eyewire 90 degrees perpendicular to you and see if it appears to angle one way or the other. If it is, take a pair of fiber jaw pliers and gently bend the eyewire slightly forward. You will usually have to do this on the top and bottom.

31. Here’s an idea you can use almost every day. As you may be aware, one of the biggest reasons for glasses slipping is excessive temple pressure. If you don’t believe it take both of your hands and press on the sides of your frame temples and watch them jump off your nose.
In today’s market of predominately small frames, and people becoming inherently larger, you have a bad situation, as it is likely these patients will want small frames to be in style.
As many of you have noticed by now a lot of manufactures of frames, are now making the temples with a bow , instead of just going straight back, and that is the reason they are doing that.
You can also do this yourself with very little practice. With the obvious exception of auto flex type frames, simply take the frame temples and flare them out more then you would usually. Then starting in the middle of the temple, start to curve it in towards you until it becomes a bow shape. Do this one side at a time, so you can custom fit it around both sides of the head, which will normally be different due to face asymmetry.
As a side benefit you will now notice that the whole spatula part of the temple will lie flat against the mastoid, where usually when you flare out the temple, the spatula part sits at a very awkward and annoying angle. Patients will also not remark about more space between the temple and the side of their head as there will be almost none.

32. When ever dispensing polarized lenses, prior to dispensing them you should have a polarized checker. Simply take a lens that you know is polarized, and edge it into some lens shape ao you can tell which way the 180 line is. Holding up the glasses with the new polarized lenses, hold the test lens over it and then turn it 90 degrees to the right. When your test lens is at 90 instead of 180 the whole lens color will turn black and you should see nothing through it. It’s common for labs to edge polarized lenses 90 degrees off when they lay them out. On bifocals this will probably never happen, or at least I have never seen one. This is also a great way to tell if a lens is polarized at all. Customers will some times bring in lenses convinced there polarized, simply pull out your test lens and you can all see.

33. When you have a frame with a stripped out screw and you cant get the next size to go in, simply take a reamer(the optical sets usually come with 5 sizes) and slightly ream out the barrel that the screw first goes through, where the new larger screw will turn easily. Now you can start rethreading the old barrel that was stripped with a slightly larger screw. Remember when retapping, some times you have to go forward and then turn backwards to get the excess metal out of the new larger screw or it may break off. The Hilco snap and taps are ideal for this situation.

34. Here�s an idea I’m surprised is not used more. So you don’t ruin the head of the screw that belongs to the frame, use an old long screw with the same thread when you are sizing the lens. This will also give you the luxury of not having to put the barrels together each time along with the screw. If it’s a little big simply back off the screw a couple of turns and the lens will come out but the frame will be held together. Now when you’re sure the lens is down to size take out the screw and put in the one that belongs there and you have only used it once. Saves messing up screw heads.

35. As we all know, you usually need a third hand when putting together a spring hinge. You little bench mounted vise grip works great for this purpose. Simply put the temple into the vise grip, but on the flat part of the temple, do not squeeze the spring hinge it self. Now that you have the vise grip holding the temple you can push it together with one hand an when the holes are aligned you can slip in the screw.

36. Instead of showing your patients a 75 mm tinted blank, try putting together a bunch of frames you no longer need and tint the lenses so they can put them on and see what it really looks like on them, rather then fumbling around with a 75 mm blank as most places do. Try and use thin metal frames so they pay attention to the tint only. I believe you can still buy small monocular holders which will also work well. It�s also a lot neater. Nothing like a bunch of thumb prints on a large blank that you are now going to hand to the patient and have them look through it.

37. When dispensing transition lenses, darken them first in front of the patient, so they can see that they turn and also as they walk out they will have some tint in the glasses just as it was when they entered with their old glasses. An ultraviolet light does this well and seems to speed up the initial activation process. Nothing worse to a photochromatic wearer, then to walk out in the bright sunlight and have no tint. Most of them are use to having some residual tint from their old glasses.

38. Every once in a while you will get a frame where the barrels are stuck together, even after you have removed the screw. When this happens do not try to pull it apart as this will get the frame out of shape. Simply take it and swirl it through the salt pan and you will usually feel it pop apart. On occasion, the finish of the frame gets between the barrels and acts like glue.

39. When a patient decides on a mirror coat, make sure you do not tint the lens too dark, as the mirror on top will now make it even darker. If a patient wants a G-15 with mirror, it is probably best to make G-31 with mirror.

40. One of the biggest reasons thermostats burn out so much on the dyepots is incorrect setting of them. You should never turn on the unit with the thermostat all the way up to 200 degrees, this causes a surge and eventually does in the thermostat. Before turning on, have the thermostat turned all the way down, and then slowly turn it up to the correct temperature. Conversely when shutting down the dyepot turn the thermostat down first and then turn off the switch.

41. When dispensing a new pair of spectacles, I find it to work better without the mirror at first. Normal reaction from the patient is to look right into the mirror as soon as you dispense the spectacles, at which point they will be quick to point out anything wrong before you have had a chance to finish. Simply approach the patient and tell them you are going to adjust their spectacles first, and then you will supply a mirror so they can see what they look like.

42. When dotting up lenses with your focimeter, it is best not to leave the red ink dots on longer then necessary, as they will sometimes stain the lenses with the red ink, however if this happens insert the lens in some warm soapy water for a few minutes and they will disappear.

43. If you ever have progressives and you can only see one of the laser markings, keep in mind that all of the progressives on the market have the markings 34 mm apart, thus if you measure 17 mm from one of the markings, it will give you an idea of where the MRP is, remembering that the MRP itself will be a few mms higher.

44. If you are trying to make a large nose look smaller try a frame with a dark saddle bridge.

Harry A. Saake is a licensed dispensing optician in Lake Norman, NC

3 Comments

  1. This is probably one of the most useful articles I’ve ever read in the 2 years I’ve been an optician! Does a great job of prepping me for interviews. Thank you so much! :)

  2. I’ve been a dispensing optician for 20 years and although I use all of these tips when working, I found that reading them was very helpful and reminded me a few details. Very interesting article!!!

  3. The tips stated by you are undoubtedly one of the best I have come across. Opticians can grab useful knowledge through your post.

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