The $17 microscope

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D_W

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I mentioned in one of the recent sharpening threads that I think most people should buy a small hand scope before they spend much money on sharpening goods. The one I ordered from china arrived yesterday, and it actually works on my PC.

It claimed a lot of resolution, but I think it's default is 640x480, which should bring folks back to the 80s or 90s in terms of looking at it.

But, I did nothing to install software or whatever else, just plugged it into a win 10 computer and turned on the "camera" default program and selected it. The system sees it just as a camera and that's it.

WIN_20220908_19_06_41_Pro.jpg

First picture was the black handled knife in another thread. What you're looking for is an uninterrupted line at the edge of a tool with no significant non-uniform scratches running into an edge. This hand held scope, cheapest I could find, looks like it's about 75-100x optical, and has a little stand. You can see things you'd never see under a loupe and if you have some sharpening materials you want to compare, you'll be able to see the difference in what they do. On the image above, the sharpening method is bench stone, knife ceramic (shaped like a steel), buffer. So the last black part is a combo of knife ceramic and buffer.

This is what I see with a block plane iron on one of my shelves, something I'd only use generally to test a method. that was the case here. I don't know what condition it's in, but it looks like the back was sharpened with a washita - notice how much less clear the scratches are at the back, but the washita or something like a 6-8k waterstone isn't really that fine compared to stuff that's a lot cheaper.

WIN_20220908_19_26_57_Pro.jpg

It's fine enough. The colorful look on the back is partially due to oil.

WIN_20220908_19_33_17_Pro.jpg

And the bevel side of the same iron. The cakey stuff is wood. So I was using this. But apparently not much because there is nothing other than a little bit of wear.

Just my opinion, but if the expenses go into expensive stones, expensive guides, etc, you probably owe it to yourself first to get something cheap to confirm that the fine scratches are getting to the edge. If you look at the scratches under the woody junk, those may be india stone - I'm not sure, but you can see how easily they'd be seen if they went all the way to the edge, plus you'd see a little divot where they terminate.

You'll also find that the abrasives that allow for the fastest and finest in combination are probably some of the cheapest.
 
You won't have to spend 2 minutes snapping pictures very many times before you eliminate habits that don't lead to finishing the edge, or that lead to screwing around for a long time to do it.
 
Looks like a handy device.
I have a very cheap endoscope that works the same way, just plug it in and it works.
Great for all sorts of things.
I might have to get a microscope too. I can say it's for the kids educational purposes.
Not sure I dare look at my chisels with it though !

Ollie
 
Looks like a handy device.
I have a very cheap endoscope that works the same way, just plug it in and it works.
Great for all sorts of things.
I might have to get a microscope too. I can say it's for the kids educational purposes.
Not sure I dare look at my chisels with it though !

Ollie

The kids went through a short stint with an old beater version like this that I used to use. For whatever reason, maybe it's an older USB convention, it's slow to refresh on screen. this one isn't. I don't think in 12 years, the actual innards of the very cheapest scopes have changed much or at all, but they have continued to exaggerate the magnification further, and this one also claims that it's 1920x1080 in still pictures, but that may be some kind of trick software enhancement - which I won't use because it came on a DVD.

Things I've figured out with this (or the prior version that this one is retiring), though, that are awfully useful (to me, they may not be useful to other people)-
* how to sharpen, really fast, really fine, and really cheaply
* that statements of edges being really fine but not seeming fine off of a sharpening stone indicate the stone isn't that fine, no matter how expensive it is
* that two stones from the same manufacturer with the same grit rating usually occur for a reason (one will be loosely graded to cut fast, the other will be fine)
* that the LV "0.5 micron bar" (formax microfine) is more like a 2 micron bar on average with random larger particles. Buff bars are rarely close graded. And that after finding actual 0.5 micron abrasive and seeing how fine it can go (no optical scratches), i'd rather use the LV bar, just would rather yet purchase a better bar that's 3 pounds from mcmaster carr at the same cost that LV sells a 6 oz bar.
* how to shrink grain in steel snapping samples and looking at them under one of these
* that a lot of japanese natural stones aren't very fine, at least relatively, but I think that myth (that they're finer than anything else) has mostly died. Some of them are very fine, but no natural stone is as fine as $10 worth of graded oxide or 1 micron diamonds, let alone the enormous array of inexpensive abrasives that are 10 times finer yet.
* that a lot of edges that seem like they're chippy on a plane iron are because we (me, anyone) didn't actually sharpen out all of the chipping
* and finally, that it's easier to follow laziness and figure out how to eliminate chipping with improved edge geometry than it is to try to continue to sharpen it out

the side show of looking through the scope at various things (paper, skin, whatever, hairs....who know I had clear hair?. that one's not even gray).

Some of the things, like looking at snapped samples, have been invaluable to me, and without significant magnification, i wouldn't have learned to heat treat as well or as fast.
 
There's no real replacement for seeing instead of guessing.
 
@D_W I'm curious, what was it specifically you bought - can you link to it? Over lock down I treated myself to a semi-professional stereomicroscope I've been wanting for a few years - see pic - that money that usually goes down the pub has to go somewhere after all 😁. That set me back £80 but was one hell of a good deal - £130-£250 is more typical. Like you commented in passing my immediate takeaway was just how poor loupes are. That's switchable between 10x/30x or by swapping eyepieces 20x/60x. What you can see at 30x or even 10x bears no comparison to my 30x loupe.

Anyway, back to your camera and my question - what is the field of view like? It's difficult to get a sense of scale from your photos. I find myself tempted by a eyepiece camera for that microscope for about £60. That would have the bonus of also fitting my telescopes but I wonder if those "toys" will do the job for odd times I need a permanent record. I'm mostly thinking electronics for my usage, if I can't get an image of perhaps 20-25mm square it's not a lot of use to me.
 

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field of view is about 4 hundredths of an inch from left to right. The hand scope is a 1 trick pony, but can take live video if needed at 640x480, and has variable LED top lighting.

To view a big area and then zoom in on something, it's a no go, but when it's mounted, you can take something like a plane iron or whatever, look at it and assess what's in view, and then run it across the field of view through the edge length in about 5 or 10 seconds and see if there are uniformity issues (like a nick moving by).

thanks for the confirmatory mention about loupes - my point with a scope was that most people don't know how to use a loupe in the first place, and even when we do, they help us see just a little better but not at the scale of hand tool work.

I've seen stereoscopes like you showed sold as dissection scopes in the US, sometimes inexpensively and they usually are something like 2.5x themselves, but then are stepped up with eyepiece magnification to a basic start of like 25x (I have one, that's what mine came with - also agree that you can actually tell something even with a dissection scope at 25x that a "25x loupe" doesn't see at all) or more. Or top tube cameras that also include magnification and can be a lot better than this cheapie. I have a metallurgical scope for more serious work, but not a terribly expensive one. What I take away from that one is once you start getting into top tube cameras and things of the like, it can get expensive quickly.

334323969715

that's the ebay item. I've never attempted to zoom these, either - 640x480 is not much resolution and digitally zooming another 16x would probably lead to something that looks like pudding.

I've also seen setups designed to do partial magnification and then work with a cell phone, and they can also take great pictures - far better than this, but I showed this as a cheapest option instead of a loupe. it can work with android and plug directly into the phone to look at stuff in the shop without much fear of damaging anything.

The other reason that I mentioned this is because of the standard that I see set with tools sent to me (refitting wooden planes, etc). A lot of work is done on them, and only one has ever showed up where the fine stone work went all the way to the edge from end to end. It's a lost opportunity and a lot of wasted physical work to sharpen everything but the edge and then go use the tool like that too.
 
For anyone considering this, just a warning to avoid frustration rather than "huge lost money", read the descriptions - there are a million of these little scopes sold on ebay in different listings.

Some of them come with software or functionality that isn't suitable past windows 7. If you're using win 10, make sure it's listed, and if you want to use one of these with android, make sure that the listing says the scope will work with android.

Check the connector type and make sure it's what you want.
 
Some time ago I was also looking at the cheaper Chinese scopes and I read one review somewhere, possibly on Amazon and the reviewer mentioned that the included software required access to the Windows 10 system files. This seemed a bit odd for camera software?
 
Some time ago I was also looking at the cheaper Chinese scopes and I read one review somewhere, possibly on Amazon and the reviewer mentioned that the included software required access to the Windows 10 system files. This seemed a bit odd for camera software?

Fortunately, in this case, I didn't have to install it at all. Not because I was concerned about that, but because who wants to make things difficult and use very cheaply made software.

I did think probably where you're going "Ghee, I wonder of the CCP is going to extract my data (especially phone connected with this, since it will do that) with a $17 microscope. What a trick that would be".

I vaguely recall that my first really cheap one of these long ago actually stored the pictures in program files or system files, though - some place really stupid that you'd never expect pictures to go with a default directory that didn't remotely remind anyone of "pictures".

if android's camera software will use it without a separate app, I'll do the same there.
 
i'm sorry but if I felt that I needed a scope to continue with a hobby I have been doing for 50 years I would give up.

I felt the same way about the idea of having to do much woodworking with power tools. If I had to get better power tools than really crude stuff, or much even of that, I'd quit.

I have no doubt that if half a dozen people get a scope and use it for everything from hand tools to power tool stuff that unless they're afraid of ridicule, we'll hear how quickly it paid back. But again, just the same, i could float into the power tool area or around a bunch of machinists and have no idea what they were going on about with accuracy or this or that method. And I'm not being at all facetious saying that.
 
It may have been here, or somewhere else that I heard of it, but would one of those jeweler type lenses work. Not sure what they're called, the things people use to inspect diamonds and stuff.

Not fussed about taking photos, or the price, just don't want a device taking up space.
 
It may have been here, or somewhere else that I heard of it, but would one of those jeweler type lenses work. Not sure what they're called, the things people use to inspect diamonds and stuff.

Not fussed about taking photos, or the price, just don't want a device taking up space.

that's the "jeweler's loupe" mentioned here. It can identify big issues, but sometimes not issues occurring at the very edge of the tool, like failing to hone enough to get all of the wear out of the edge, or nicking.

it also won't help if you have two things to compare - especially in regard to final honing. And perhaps, you want to know if an expensive method with a borrowed stone is really worth the cost to buy your own (if it's expensive, usually not).

But, a loupe is better than nothing.
 
Thanks, that's it. A loupe.

I might give it a punt if I can get hold of one for a reasonable price. I don't have to worry about comparing with expensive methods, I already have diamond plates so the damage is already done. Just more curious than anything.
 
you might find a loupe useful for this or other things (looking closer at fine work bits, looking for splinters, etc), and they can usually be found really cheaply, like a pound or two.
 
Thanks, that's it. A loupe.

I might give it a punt if I can get hold of one for a reasonable price. I don't have to worry about comparing with expensive methods, I already have diamond plates so the damage is already done. Just more curious than anything.
I bought one from a bay. Has it's own screen and so doesn't need a computer to work, just plug in and go. Came with a suction pad mount which I changed for just a flat sheet of aluminium. Cost about £20 and has proved invaluable for examining watch parts.
 
I bought one from a bay. Has it's own screen and so doesn't need a computer to work, just plug in and go. Came with a suction pad mount which I changed for just a flat sheet of aluminium. Cost about £20 and has proved invaluable for examining watch parts.
just had a quick look on e bay, and now one like mine with a stand and screen is £50 odd which is rather less attractive. I only bought mine a year or so ago so big jump in price, sign of the times I suppose.
 
you might find a loupe useful for this or other things (looking closer at fine work bits, looking for splinters, etc), and they can usually be found really cheaply, like a pound or two.
Very useful tool, you can also get the type that grip on your eye socket, leaving your hands free, a bit like an old fashioned monocle.
 

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