Essential Hand Tools for Opticians: Frame Adjustments and Fitting

Optician’s hand tools for frame adjustments


Whether you’re a gardener, woodworker, architect or surgeon, having the correct tools for your trade is important. The same is true for opticians working with eyeglasses. Opticians have at their disposal plenty of tools to help them adjust and repair patients’ eyeglasses. Because eyewear repair and adjustments account for more than half of the visits to optical dispensaries, the skillful use of hand tools helps ensure patient satisfaction and retention by enhancing their eyewear’s visual and wearing comfort.


To do proper adjustments and to fit frames properly, the optician needs a variety of hand tools. An optician’s hands alone are often his best tools, but when leverage and detail-work is needed to bend a specific part of the frame, hand tools are necessary. We will describe the basic tools that opticians need to fully take care of their patients’ needs.

The Tools For Adjustment

The optician’s most basic job is to be able to adjust frames for patients. Whether the frames are brand new or many years old, custom frame adjustments are performed many times each day. Patients will come to see the optician to adjust their glasses for many reasons, from accidents happening to frames just not feeling comfortable. The first thing most opticians should do when adjusting a frame is to put the frame into “bench alignment.” This is also known as “squaring up” the frame.

This standard of alignment gives the optician a base line or starting place for adjustments.A general procedure for bench alignments is to start with the bridge and work out toward the temples. When you bench align the frame it is important that you

take great care in maintaining the appearance and finish of the frame. For this reason, you should consider hand tools that have padding on one or both jaws

of the pliers to help cushion the adjustment and protect the frame.

Bracing Tools

In order to adjust the frame, you must first “brace” it. Bracing means that you firmly hold and control one piece of the frame while you bend it. A good example of this is when you need to brace and stabilize an endpiece on a metal frame while you bend the temples inwards toward the face. Bracing helps

prevent the frame from breaking as you bend it into shape. It also helps keep lenses from chipping. Bracing tools should have jaws that close in a parallel position. This allows for a sturdy grip on an end-piece or temple and helps moderate pressure on the barrels of the temple to ensure that the barrels do not become deformed or broken. Tools for this include standard bracing pliers, metal flat-nose pliers,

padded endpiece pliers and flat/round pliers. Most of these tools are made entirely of metal, or with one jaw covered by protective nylon and the other jaw comprised of a flat metal. In conjunction with other bracing pliers, the endpiece and flat/round pliers allow the optician to get into tight places such as nose pad arms and rimless end pieces, allowing for greater ease of adjusting. Variations of this tool can have both jaws being nylon covered, to one jaw being covered and the other a round or conical shape that allows users to get into extremely tight places without nicking delicate frame finishes.

Angling Pliers

Angling pliers are used to adjust the pantoscopic and retroscopic tilt of a frame by angling the frame front either closer to the brow line and further away from the cheek or closer to the cheek and further from the brow. Angling pliers can also be used to equalize temple heights to make sure the frame is sitting straight on your patient’s face. The angling pliers can also be used for flaring or spreading temples. Angling pliers’ jaws close parallel, which gives the least amount of pressure exerted during adjusting at the proper location so the frame, hinge, guard arm or solder joint does not break.On some angling pliers, there are small indentations toward the end of the jaws that fit over screw heads to tightly grasp hinges and temples. This allows for greater manipulation of the temples. You can carefully move temples in almost any direction or meridian using angling pliers. Wide Jaw Angling pliers

have jaws that form a shape similar to a circle or large square, making them similar in appearance to a thumb and forefinger giving an “A-OK” sign. This allows the jaws to fit around even the thickest and widest temples for the proper adjustment. KIT NO 2018001 End-Piece  Pliers: End-Piece pliers have small jaws that allow the dispenser to get into tiny spaces. They are typically used in conjunction with another pair of pliers to adjust temple spread on delicate frames such as rimless mountings. Nose-Pad Adjustment Tools: For nose-pad adjustments, several different types of pliers are available. First is the Snipe-Nose or Chain-Nosed Pliers. These are your basic needle-nosed pliers. They are excellent for getting into tight places such as nose-pad arms. Snipe-Nose pliers have jaws with squared-off

edges for care against marring the frame surface.Other pliers used for nose pad adjustments include snipe pliers with one jaw flat and the other round and one in which both jaws are rounded. The round jaw always goes on the inside of the bend being made. This helps prevent cutting into or weakening of the pad arm. These pliers are excellent for raising or lowering nose pads as well as adjusting the vertex distance (distance from the lenses to the patient’s eye). Thanks to the advent of European style nose pads (screw in pad types or push in pad types with a box-like assembly) another type of nosepiece pliers is used the European Nose Pad Adjusting Pliers. This tool has a flat or slightly rounded jaw that is placed on the face of the pad along with a jaw that has a cup-shaped end. The cup fits over the screw or push-in box and fits most modern types of nose pads. This type of tool can spread or flare the pads, as well as raise and lower them.

Bridge Adjustment Tools

There may be times when the dispenser feels it would be beneficial to stretch, reduce, or reshape the size of the bridge on a plastic frame. A child with a flat bridge or a patient with a very narrow nose may need special sizing in a bridge. You can do this with the correct tools. There are both bridge-widening and bridge-narrowing pliers. The bridge-widening pliers gently stretch the bridge further apart, while the bridge-narrowing pliers crimp and slowly increase the curve of the bridge, which brings the lenses closer to each other.

Lens Adjustment Pliers

Another tool widely used by opticians is the Lens Axis Pliers. These pliers, which have large rubber pads on each jaw, are used to turn lenses while the lenses are still inserted into the frame. Instead of popping the lens in and out many times until the axis or bifocal lines are aligned, you can simply use Lens Turning Pliers to grip the lens and gently turn it to the correct position. Care is needed so as to not chip, peel or crack a lens when aligning the axis in this manner.

Rimless work

The popularity of rimless mountings today has created a plethora of special tools specifically designed for rimless and three-piece frame assembly, alignment and adjustment. Strapping pliers are used when lenses loosen in rimless mountings, which may be due to the straps of the frame becoming wider or exceeding the thickness of the lens. This causes the straps to not be parallel to the lens surfaces, creating looseness and movement in the lens. Using strapping pliers allows the optician to reset the straps so they are parallel and precisely meet the thickness of the lens. These pliers have two flat jaws, one of which extends beyond the other and then overlaps it, similar to an eagle’s beak. The strap is placed between and parallel to the jaws of the pliers and pressure is exerted to cause the strap to tighten in the direction of the shorter jaw, making the straps parallel to each other. New pliers on the market, such as Rimless Bracing Pliers and Screwless Bracing Pliers, have been introduced to work with the current frame trend of tension

and screwless rimless mounting designs. These pliers are designed to safely brace delicate three-piece mountings, allowing the optician to safely adjust these types of frames.

Cutting tools

Cutting pliers are generally used to nip off the ends of temples or eyewire screws. This is needed when an optician replaces screws in temples or eyewires that are longer than the barrel. Depending on the tool and the cut made (or if the blades were dull) there may be a rough screw end remaining after the cut, which would have to be filed down. Certain cutters are better for cutting screws—even specific screw types, such as stainless steel—and some other cutting tools are better for cutting down temple lengths. It is imperative that you use the right cutting tool for the right job. Read the manufacturer’s directions before purchasing and using cutting tools to ensure that the tools are purchased and used for only the types of screws they were intended to cut.


One of the most essential tools for the optician is filing tools. There are many varying degrees of coarseness for files. Therefore, you must use different types of files for different situations. A two-sided Half Round file, which has a coarser rasp-like cut, is used for filing down the end of a temple. A needle-like round Rattail file, which is pointed at the tip and has a fine coarse cut, allows the optician to safely ream or smooth out holes of lenses on rimless mountings. A common, all-purpose file is a six-inch Flat #2 Cut file. This file can be used to file metal effectively and leaves a somewhat smooth finish. When using any file, file only in one direction—away from you—as both the frame and the file can be harmed by pushing and pulling back and forth in a saw-like motion. Most tool companies offer a kit of around five or six different files that are used for the most common jobs.

Fame warmer

To adjust plastic frames, an optician must use heat to soften the plastic of a frame to allow it to be pliable and adjustable. This is done with a frame warmer. Frame warmers are available in two types “Salt Pan” and “Hot Air Blower.”The most widely used frame warmer is the Salt Pan Warmer. Salt Pan Warmers feature a deep pan or box that is heated electrically. Inside the box, polished glass beads, available in several different sizes, conduct heat to the plastic frame. Care is needed in using this type of frame warmer, as the frame is dipped into the beads for adjustment. The heat may be too intense for the type of plastic that the frame is made of and can run the risk of burning, melting or disfiguring the frame. Additionally, a bead may catch between the edge of the lens and the frame, causing the lens to chip. The most widely used frame warmer is the Salt Pan Warmer. Salt Pan Warmers feature a deep pan or box that is heated electrically. Inside the box, polished glass beads available in several different sizes conduct heat to the plastic frame. Care is needed in using this type of frame warmer, as the frame is dipped into the beads for adjustment. The heat may be too intense for the type of plastic that the frame is made of, and can run the risk of burning, melting, or disfiguring the frame. Additionally, a bead may catch between the edge of the lens and the frame, causing the lens to chip. Kit 20180013 To help avoid the inherent problems of a Salt Pan Warmer, many opticians are now using a Hot Air Blower to heat plastic frames. With this type of frame warmer, the air is directed through a vent onto the part of the frame needing adjustment. Some models feature a heat adjustment knob so as not to melt the frame. Certain plastic frames materials such as polyamide or cellulose acetate react differently to different temperatures. Therefore, it stands to reason that with newer plastic frame materials being used today, it is essential that you use Hot Air Blowers with adjustable hot air temperatures. In addition, care must be taken with anti-reflective (A-R) lenses, to ensure that the A-R coating does not crack or craze under high heat. When using a Hot Air Blower, try to concentrate the stream of hot air on the exact part of the frame that needs adjustment. Some hot air blowers have a specific part that can focus the hot air. By carefully practicing with the different plastics used in frames today, you will learn just how much heat is needed.

Screwdriver and wrench

Optical screwdrivers are used in temple repair, temple hinge assembly and eyewire closure on metal frames as well as metal rimless lens mountings. It is recommended to have at least two types of screwdrivers on-hand, each with detachable two-sided blades. Each of these blades should have both a large and small head for different size screws. One should be for flat-slotted screws and the other for Phillips-head screws. A good screwdriver should feel comfortable in your hand. The handle, barrel or base of the screwdriver should fit in the palm of your hand, enabling you to turn the screwdriver with your fingers while keeping the screwdriver steady. Some screwdrivers come with rubber or foam sheaths around the handle of the screwdriver to make it easier to grab and turn. An optician must be careful when using screwdrivers. One slip of the screwdriver off the head of the screw can scratch and ruin lenses. If possible, when screwing temples or nosepads, remove the lenses first to protect them. Use an Aluminum Bench Block, which attaches to your bench and has a rubber cover that helps protect the finish of metal and plastic frames when you press down to tighten a screw. An optician should also have a set of wrenches. These wrenches are used to attach, hold and tighten lock nuts on screws when needed. Occasionally, wrenches and screwdriver blades can be interchangeable in the screwdriver holder. Wrenches, like screwdrivers, should also fit comfortably in your hand. The handles can also be covered in foam for better gripping.

Measuring tools 

PD Rulers

One of the first and most basic tools for the optician is the PD (Pupillary Distance) Ruler. This ruler is normally 15 centimeters long; each centimeter is  subdivided into millimeters. A millimeter is the unit of measurement used in the optical field. The PD Ruler can be used for measuring frame dimensions, as well as for measuring pupillary distance. Some PD rulers are made of plastic, while others are made of metal or wood. If a metal ruler is used, care must be taken not to scratch the lenses or frame. Some opticians modify their PD ruler by cutting or filing it down to a narrow end, which allows them to fit the point of the ruler into the eyewire of frames to accurately measure the A (horizontal), B (vertical) or the ED (effective diameter) of a lens. When using a PD ruler for measuring a patient’s pupillary distance, it is very important that you keep the ruler straight and parallel to your eyes so that the measurement is accurate.

Corneal Refraction Pupilometer

With more patients opting for progressive addition lenses (PALs) today, a precise way of measuring interpupillary distance is needed. A Corneal Reflection Pupilometer allows opticians to not only take binocular and monocular pupillary measurements, but also measure vertex distance between the patient’s eye and the lens for better accuracy.

Lens Thickness Calipers

At times, it is essential for the optician to measure either the thickness of the lens edge or the lens center. For example, callipering lenses can help determine whether the lenses were made in standard thickness (2mm) or safety thickness (3mm). Calliper measurements are in tenths of millimeters. Resembling a pair of barbecue tongs, the jaws of the Lens Thickness Calipers are long so you can reach the center of any-sized lens and has tips made of plastic so as not to scratch the lens you are measuring.

Lens Clocks

There are many ways to measure the diopter curve of a spherical lens surface. The most commonly used tool is called the Lens Clock or the Geneva Lens Measure. This lens measure has an index of refraction of 1.53 as measured in diopters. You may have to use different lens clocks for different lens materials that do not have an index of 1.53. The lens clock has three pins, the middle of which is spring-loaded. This allows the lens clock to measure both the concave and convex sides of a lens, giving the dispenser the correct base curve of the lens. Before using a lens clock, it is advisable to place the pins on a flat surface to make sure that the reading is zero or flat. If it doesn’t measure zero, you can use a pair of pliers to turn the center pin either clockwise or counterclockwise to correct the reading.

Care and maintenance

Caring for your tools is just as important as knowing what tool to use.

In general:

Keep all tools properly lubricated and clean.

Keep replacement nylon jaws for those tools requiring them.

Keep cutting edges sharp and smooth, and keep replacement blades for screwdrivers on-hand.

Tools that are not maintained can make the job harder and actually harm either the frame or lens.

Opticians have at their disposal a variety of tools that will help them do their job quickly, easily and effectively. Appropriate tool usage in lens mounting and frame adjustment will help ensure patient satisfaction and will help cultivate new patient relationships through effective eyewear fittings, repairs and adjustments. 

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