Sunday, May 26, 2013


When was the last time you couldn't see the print without grabbing your glasses or some kind of a magnifier? Have you ever been out somewhere and realized that the print on a label or a menu is just a bit too small? How many times have you forgotten where your reading glasses are? Worse yet, broken them!

Let's face it, for many of us, we'd have a pretty difficult time without using some kind of magnification to get through our daily lives.

Some people are able to just pick up a pair of cheap reading glasses at a drug store. The prices of which. can vary greatly - as does the quality. Depending on your particular eye issues, over the counter reading glasses won't even work for you.

When it comes to enhancing our eyesight with glasses, there is no such thing as one size fits all.

That is why so many of us use prescription lenses for distance, close up or both.

Sometimes though, we just need a little extra help - something portable - like a magnifying glass. They are about as close to universal use as it gets. With or without wearing prescription lenses, you can hold a magnifier as close or as far from the object as works for you.

When you are looking for magnifiers, you should be aware that there doesn't seem to be a universal standard as to what the various magnifications quoted actually represent. Quality and clarity can vary greatly from glass to glass. I've used a 3X that was about the same strength as another manufacturers 2.5X regardless of the distance or the angle I held it from my eye to the object being viewed. You really do need to personally test each type with varying prints/distances before you buy - or at least make sure you can return the product if it doesn't meet your needs.

As far back as I can remember, we always had a magnifier of some kind around the house. It was generally kept by the phone in the hallway so that we could read the tiny numbers in the phone book but it was invaluable for countless other uses around the house by all of us - regardless of our sight.

My maternal grandmother slowly lost much of her sight in her later years. Besides her glasses, she also used a large magnifying lamp that could be mounted to a table edge or an arm of a chair. With it, she could still read and do some needlework. She left that lamp to me, but I found it too large and awkward to use - both before and after losing so much of my sight. 
I much prefer the portability of a small handheld pocket magnifier.

My maternal grandfather had a small round magnifier that was encased in a brown leather holder. You could slide the magnifier in and out with ease. I loved that little glass and it was one of the things I asked for and received after he passed when I was 12. I used that glass for years! 

Unfortunately, all that use, also involved inadvertent drops resulting in scratches, a cracked frame and the leather casing eventually coming apart and falling off. I still have the remaining glass somewhere.

Since then, I've gone through a number of magnifiers. I've tried to continue using a more modern version of that classic glass - even though the glass lens was now plastic and the leather was imitation. It was the style, the feel, the ease of use and the memory of my grandpa that drew me to it.
Those more modern imitators, never lasted long. Drop them once or twice and the frame holding the glass to its case would crack and the glass would fall out. The casing would come apart after a while and eventually fall off. They just weren't made the way they used to be!
While en route to Arizona back in January, I accidently lost my pocket magnifier somewhere in the Calgary airport. It wasn't in the greatest shape, but it was still usable and much needed until I could find a replacement.

When I got to Mesa, we made a few calls and finally tracked down a vision aid centre that carried a variety of magnifiers. They didn't have exactly what I wanted, but I found some acceptable alternatives at reasonable prices. I bought three so that I'd have a supply for awhile!

One is a 4X fold out style that also came with a drawstring pouch. Due to the smooth, hard plastic shell, it is tricky to open with one hand though and was a bit pricey at $28US. It is also a bit stronger than I need at the moment but may need down the road.
The other two are both the same style - a 3X round magnifier in a rectangular case. At $8.50US, this is a good quality but it requires both hands to open it as you need to touch both the bottom and sides at the same time to trigger the opening. I assume the manufacturer meant this as a safety, but frankly, it is a frustration! On the upside, I've dropped it a couple times and it hasn't broken!
Finding pocket magnifiers here in Winnipeg, isn't easy! You may find some cheap ones at big box stores or the dollar type stores but the magnification quality and accuracy is quite poor. Most opticians don't carry them. Most don't know where a consumer would even look for them! At best, they suggest you try calling other opticians. Even fewer suggest contacting the CNIB.

The CNIB does carry a wide variety of magnifying devices in varying strengths and sizes. Prices can range from a few dollars to a couple of grand depending on how fancy you want to get. Though this is a good source for more specialized needs, the major drawback is that most have to be ordered in from the main distribution centre in Ontario. You can browse and order online through their webstore.

Several weeks ago, I was getting my custom reading glasses adjusted by my friendly neighbourhood optician and was lamenting the lack of magnifying options and my quest to find a replacement while in Arizona. I expressed my frustration at accessing visual aids other than through the CNIB.

Surely I couldn't be the only person looking for pocket magnifiers in the city - could I?

There had to be a simpler way for the average person to find even the most basic of decent quality products! I suggested that since he was very centrally located and already carried an extremely wide variety of frames and other eyewear, that he should bring in at least one pocket magnifier!

A few days later, he gave me a 3X pocket magnifier from Hilco to test. I've used it numerous times over the last three weeks and really like it! It's compact, can be opened with one hand and is durable! I've already inadvertently dropped it twice and not a scratch or crack!!
So, if you want your own handy dandy pocket magnifier - and frankly everyone should have at least one - then go see Ken and the rest of the friendly staff at OsborneSpectacle - 134 Osborne St (NE corner of Osborne at Stradbrook in the heart of the village).
 He brought in a few of the magnifiers and they are only $10 each including the taxes! Also, if you are looking for a stronger magnification or something new and exciting in eyewear, they'd love to help you out! They've been in the eye care business since the early 60's and I've been a customer there for almost 20 years!

And before you ask .... NO, I didn't get paid to write this! Osborne Spectacle really is a great business! Their quality and service can't be beat!


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