Punchcutting tools: Loupes, etc

Ramiro Espinoza
Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
edited May 2017 in Punchcutting
Punchcutters in the 20th century seems to have mostly used 2 kind of loupes for punchcutting: traditional jewellers eyepieces (you can see P. H. Rädisch and M. Carter using them at Enschede in several pictures) or a more sophisticated loupe on a stand like they use at the Imprimerie Nationale (C. Paput, Nelly Gable). Stan Nelson also has a beautiful one.
In his book Paput recommends "a magnifying glass on a stand, with a power of 3X and a diameter of 3,5 cm, which is reduced to 1,5 cm with a mask in order to eliminate distortion."
I tried several jewellers eyepiece but I've found them very uncomfortable and distortion prone, so I started to look of a magnifier similar to the one used by Paput, Gable and Nelson. This double lens magnifier by Bausch & Lomb has an excellent optic with very little distortion: http://www.bausch.com/our-products/vision-accessories/professional-magnifiers/double-lens-magnifier. It was quite easy to attach it to the articulated arm of an Ikea desktop lamp. It works very well and can be place at any distance from the punch.

Also useful: Entry on Optics/Vision in David MacMillan's txt document:

Loupes.     As preferred.  I like a 5X loupe; others need less magnification.

Flip-down loupes that attach to your eyeglasses.
            The best one is the "Ary" loupe marketed by the
            Swiss watch materials firm Bergeon.  Not cheap, but nice.
            Available from suppliers such as 
            Otto Frei (watch division, www.ofrei.com)
            Esslinger (www.esslinger.com)

Optivisor.  The original brand is Donegal.  The DX series has
            glass lenses (better), the cheaper LX series has plastic lenses.
            The number indicates the diopter, not the magnification.
            Having bought any number of cheap knockoffs, I now only get
            Donegal DX Optivisors.

Note:  The "diopter" is a measurement in physical optics
       (1/focal length, in meters) and so can always be stated precisely.
       "Magnification" is a physiological measurement which depends on
       what your own working distance is.  Without measuring you, it can
       only be stated approximately.

       Here is a chart of *approximate* relations between diopters and


       and a chart of approximate magnification and focal length for
       Optivisor lens numbers (diopters):



  • David MacMillan
    I really like Ramiro's idea of using a lamp base.

    One other, completely different, route is to use a stereo inspection microscope.  The late Jim Rimmer used one, and I have been told that Richard Årlin (Stigbergets Stamp och Press) uses one today.  The working distances of a stereo inspection microscope are very different from those of a loupe, though.  I couldn't figure out how to make one bench setup work for both.

    In Stan Nelson's 2016 Wells College punchcutting class, most of the workstations had a simple wire holder for their loupe.  But he also brought a much nicer one made largely out of standard commercial lamp hardware.  He also used a paper iris to stop down the mounted loupe.   Here are a couple of snapshots of it (sorry that the second one is fuzzy
  • David MacMillan
    At the risk of boring everyone completely, here are some images of some of the head-mounted optical aids mentioned.  I'll do this in four successive posts, otherwise I'm sure to scramble the images.
    So first here is the "Ary" (brand name / model) flip-up eyeglass-mounted loupe marketed by the Swiss watch tools supply wholesaler Bergeon.  It's a bit expensive ($80).  You can get it in left or right eye versions.  You can also get it in different colors, which sounds frivolous until you have two of them of different magnifications.  They're available from watch repair supply houses such as Otto Frei (in their ofrei.com division) and Esslinger.

    The item that you get for your $80 is just the flip-up loupe itself.  In the photos below it is shown attached to a pair of cheap non-prescription reading glasses.  If you have to wear glasses anyway, as I do, having a flip-up loupe is very convenient.  You might think that the bits of wire which come around the frame of the glasses would be distracting, but they're not.

  • David MacMillan
    So that was the expensive "Ary" flip-up loupe.  Here's the inexpensive Chinese version.  I forget what they cost, but it wasn't much.  They're ok, but they don't hang on to the glasses as well as the Ary.

  • David MacMillan
    And here, just for reference, is the standard head wire you can use with most regular loupes.  It's available inexpensively from watch tool houses.  (It's shown here with a 10X loupe, which is probably too strong for regular punchcutting.)  Generally the loupe is sold separately.

  • David MacMillan
    And finally here's something just for the fun of it.  When we took Stan Nelson's punchcutting class at Wells College last year, we got to see the Victor Hammer materials preserved in their library (he was at Wells in the 1940s and cut punches there).  In some of the pictures of him, he's shown wearing an optical device which isn't generally known today.  It was common enough in his time:  An American Optical Co. "Beebe" (brand) Binocular Loupe.  I don't use one myself, but my late wife was a Steampunk jeweler and she swore by them.  Here are several views of a pair in particularly fine condition.  (In real use the lenses probably would be set a bit further apart.)  They're designed not to have lenses where normally you'd expect eyeglass lenses (they look as if supplemental lenses could be put there, but I've never found out if this was so).

    That's enough for now.  Sorry for the deluge of pictures.

  • Ramiro Espinoza
    Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
    edited May 2017
    Very nice, David. I see now Stan's loupe in better detail and I've realised he is also using the Bausch & Lomb double lens loupe.
  • Mike Duggan
    Mike Duggan Posts: 239
    not boring at all. I love loupes :)
  • Ramiro Espinoza
    With two brass rods, an aluminium block (cut from a piece of type furniture) and the base of an Ikea lamp I made a better holder for my punchcutter's lens.

  • Thomas Phinney
    Scrolling back, looking briefly at the logo for American Optical Company....

    Is it just me or do the e, c and a remind one a bit of Adobe Serif? You know, the PDF substitution font one never sees any more, thanks to the ubiquity of reliable font embedding in PDF nowadays.
  • Paul Miller
    I have a rather interesting 'Loupe'.  I use it for electronics construction.  It is actually a Ramsden Eyepiece from an old Fundus Camera which was scrapped at work some years ago.
    Nothing which I have found before or since even comes close to the quality of this eyepiece in terms of clarity, depth of field and lack of chromatic abberation.  The magnification is below 10x but it is ideal for what I use it for.
    The eyepiece is just the right size to fit in a 35mm film canister.  The stand was bought from Ebay and the arm is a piece of steel turned down (very amaturishly, by me) in a lathe with a terry clip screwed to the end.
    The weight of the base is enough that it can be set at any angle and extension without tipping over. :)