USB microscope is a game-changer.

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by J.Cedarstrom, Jun 27, 2019.

  1. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    Very nice tips, sir.
  2. Cal

    Cal Contributor

    And pics would be very nice too, please, stone and strop. :001_smile
  3. That sounds like a good idea! Next time I sharpen, ill try taping a piece of black paper down. Lighting is really the biggest variable.
  4. I use an actual microscope but you will get the idea.
    Here you go.





    The razor honing station,

  5. Cal

    Cal Contributor

    That's great, many thanks. :001_smile

    Nice workstation too. :001_cool:
  6. Ad Astra

    Ad Astra Ambassador

    Mind-blowing possibilities for that $35!

    Many thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    I've looked at these photos several times and read your previous comments about what you're doing. May I ask a question or two?

    Is what we're seeing here which looks like a thin piece of black acrylic just sitting on the microscope's stage so that you can slide it to move the part of the razor under the microscope? If so, do either the acrylic or the razor ever slide off or fall off? I'm just trying to determine how you manage that issue if there is one.

    I really like how the acrylic is large enough so the razor can be opened at a 90 degree angle which elevates the edge of the razor above the acrylic surface. I'd suspect this protects the edge and also gives you a decent view of the edge of the edge (as opposed to just the side of the bevel).

    I wonder if some other type of material could be used instead of acrylic such that the material could be shaped to hold the razor blade at an angle where the edge was more skyward? I'm thinking here perhaps a piece of soft wood. A file could be used to make a sloping surface, more or less like this <, if you think of the top of that V as a sloping plane filed into the wood. The razor blade would rest in that slopping slot so the blade's edge pointed skyward.

    It would be easy enough to make something like that I think. It wouldn't have to be precise, but, of course could be if one had a woodworking shop or were very handy, but I'm thinking just a simple modification of a piece of wood using a file. Bad idea in your view or worth doing or what?

    It also occurs to me that a black matte finish might be slightly better than a shiny finish on the acrylic (or whatever) surface, but, of course I'm just speculating and have no experience. Do you think it would make any difference to go matte?

    What magnifications do you use? If you were buying a scope today what magnifications would you want? Do you think having a double eye piece stereoscopic microscope would be a decided advantage for a honer?

    In any case, great job of this. Not just coming up with it, but also good illustrative photos.

    You have made yourself a seriously good honing station and have great kit! I'd bet I'm not the only one jealous.

    Happy shaves,

  8. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    These are my initial impressions and my initial review of the Plugable USB scope mentioned numerous times in this thread.


    This is how it sets up as ordered and how I used it today.


    I also have this aftermarket stand for which I paid $20. It arrived today, but I've not used it yet. It may make a big difference, but that's yet to be determined. Today I used only the stand which came with the device, the gooseneck stand.

    Bottom line...

    My initial impression? This scope is less useful than my little loupe with its LED light.


    I can see more and see better with the little loupe and find it easier to use to boot.

    That's not to say the Plugable USB scope is junk. It's not junk at all. Let me explain just a bit.

    The Plugable scope functions pretty well as a 10X magnifier with the actual microscope (the digital device) at any distance the stand allows away from the object being studied. I tested this with several objects and I understand how to do it correctly. Regardless of whatever you do the magnification is 10X; the picture can be enlarged by a larger monitor or screen, but the magnification is 10X. That's what the manufacturer claims and they're right.

    The scope is said to have a 250X magnification, too, and it does. To achieve that degree of magnification the plastic bottom part of the digital device has to be right up against (touching) the object being studied. It's actually very cool to study some flat paper with printing to examine the print and paper at magnifications of 10X and 250X. I can't say that I actually calculated for sure that the higher magnification was indeed 250X, but I feel reasonably sure it was. It was certainly a right high magnification, but only with the device actually up against the object. Again, this is what the manufacturer says about the device.

    So, why do I think the device is less than useful for looking at razor edges?

    First off, there's no way I'm going to be likely to stick the plastic right down on a razor's edge. What I'm interested in is the edge of the edge and not damaging the edge.

    Second, although the stand which comes with this device is much better than some flimsy piece of junk it's simply not going to do the trick for me. It's made well for what it is. For many applications it would be the bee's knees, but not for razor edges. I had the devil of a time getting the razor positioned, and the stand positioned, and the digital device focused. Any one of these is easy as pie, but any three of them together is another matter. Turning the focus/magnification wheel moves the device in space because it's not locked into place by a rigid and heavy stand.

    Figuring out how to use the light properly is no piece of cake either, but the big problem from my view of this item is magnification coupled with stability. Good luck getting both. It can be done, but it's not worth the work.

    Probably for taking 10X photos of a razors edge this might be useful, but for actually looking at the razor's edge and evaluating things related to my honing my little loupe is better.

    Speaking of magnification, this device has two and only two magnifications.

    1. 10X
    2. 250X
    There is nothing in between.

    The device has no zoom magnification function whatsoever! The focus knob works well enough for what it is and the magnification knob works well enough for what it is. The problem is this: The magnification knob and the focus knob are the same knob. Yes, both are controlled by one knob so you can have a nice clear picture at 10X or 250X.

    What about the software? The device was pretty much plug and play on my Macbook Pro. I did download the manufacture's software. That was easy as pie. It works well. I played around with it enough to explore its capacities which are limited but still exactly what the manufacture says they are.

    To be very clear, this is a very good product with the reservations and limitations I've mentioned.

    I'm not sorry I bought the Plugable USB scope. I can think of plenty of useful and fun things to do with it, but looking at razor edges isn't one of them.


    It might be that the $20 stand I will try tonight or sometime in the next few days will hold the digital USB microscope in a rigid enough manner to make possible better views of the edges of my razor's edge. If so, I will report it.

    I'm not very hopeful, but being pessimistic sometimes allows for really fun surprises.

    It's also possible that I can play with this thing enough to figure out how to make it useful, but it's limited by the combined magnification/focus knob, its not so rigid stand, and the lighting issue (which I didn't explore as someone else already has).

    Happy shaves,

  9. A good loupe has a high resolution, even though the magnification may not be all that high. A USB microscope relies on a light sensor to convert the analog image to a digital image. The quality of the result depends on the quality of the lenses and the quality of the light sensor.

    I purchased one of the inexpensive Pluggable microscopes, but I was never satisfied with it. The resolution is only 2MP, which was not high enough to show the level of detail I desired. Plus with the flexible arm, it is hard to focus properly on the blade, especially if you want to take micro-photographs of the edge for comparison purposes.

    I purchased a better quality Celestron microscope with 5 MP resolution and a stand with focus adjustment. It was a more expensive, but it does a much better job. In order to focus as closely as I wanted to the blade, I had to grind down the clear ring at the bottom of the scope itself. Otherwise, the ring would hit the blade. Now it does a great job.
  10. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    This is a post I borrowed from a knife sharpening forum. I don't promise that it's useful to anyone honing razors, but it is interesting I think.

  11. I would think that the 2MP resolution of the Pluggable microscope would be better suited to knives than to razors. With razors, you are looking for a much more refined edge.
  12. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    The negative reviews of this Celestron turned me off but your review is interesting. I've read of some people (with one of the similarly designed USB scopes) taking the clear ring at the bottom of the scope entirely off.

    Can I ask a few questions?
    • When you say, above, focus adjustment it seems to me you mean zoom adjustment or magnification adjustment which might just mean I'm confused. If so, can you help me understand better?
    • What computer are you using? If a Mac, any problems?
    • Does it have separate focus and zoom (or focus and magnification) knobs? Maybe the zoom is purely a function of how close to the object the lens is?
    • Does it have just two levels of magnification (low & high; 10x & 250x; or something similar. Several I've looked at have that set up, as does the Plugable. What about this one, does it have a huge array of magnifications as one zooms in?
    • What would you change about it to make it better for looking at razor edges?
    • Are you using the stand that came with it? The reviews of the stand are not very great. What's you impression of the stand?
    • Can it easily be removed from that stand and used with another stand (if you can tell)?
    • Anything I've not asked and should have which had I asked it would cause you to convince me to buy or not buy this item?
    I appreciate your comments about this scope and this whole matter of USB scopes.

    Happy shaves,

  13. Yes, acrylic is two way taped to the existing table to give a larger surface for a full sized razor to open at 90 degree. This holds the edge off the table.
    The razor only is slid along the table. No, I have never had a razor fall off.

    You certainly could make something if you wanted. I do not see the benefit of it myself. It is a two dimensional view. When you have a nice dark background and a very bright light source you get a very good view of the absolute edge. The light must be at an optimal angle - which is why an auxiliary source is beneficial.
    Given you have the usb I would just lay a dark substrate on the mat you already have and employ a new light source. Even a black piece of paper would work.
    The idea behind the bright on black view is you can see any irregularities really well.

    I don't know. The shiny acrylic has not been an issue.
    When I first set this up I experimented with different color paper to see which gave the best image. Blue actually was the best but I couldn't find blue acrylic at the time. I want something resistant to water as it is always coming off a hone when viewed.
    Everyone's eyes are a little different so paper is cheap to experiment with. :)

    I use 100x almost always. If it is a true 100x that is plenty.
    You could certainly go much higher but at about 160x the light is difficult to illuminate the same way.
    240 and higher like 600 is near impossible with a regular microscope.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
  14. Oh man, that's a real bummer. I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out!! The thing that made this scope a "game changer" for me was that I had three different loupes prior to it, and couldn't see a thing through any of them. I hope that the aftermarket stand brings something better to the table for you. But I'm also a little doubtful that it will, since it seems (from the picture) to take away the ability to change the angle of the light.
  15. Exactly. Black background against brightly lit steel gives a high contrast ratio. That's what you want so you can make out detail better. I removed the clear acrylic nosepiece from my Celestron as well. The zoom level is set with a dial on the scope that moves the sensor closer to or farther away from the lens group inside the scope body. The focus is set by adjusting the entire scope up and down in the stand. The stand is fairly sturdy but adjusting the scope up or down tends to loosen the clamp and let the scope get wobbly in the clamp. Not sure if Ray has the same scope as I do.

    Regarding the light - most times it is beneficial to turn off the built-in light and use an external source. The built in lights are generally not very high quality and when using them there is often a lot of scattered light, producing poor images and artifacts. Once you get your lighting dialed in it will be much easier to produce good images.
  16. I have a cheap loupe and it works....somewhat. I had to take the clear cap off the end so I could get the edge close enough to the lens. Also, if I don't have the angle and lighting right I can't see enough to be helpful. It can be a pain.
  17. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    Lots of very helpful and good stuff, gentlemen. I am enjoying trying to learn about these devices and figure out how to improve the use of the one I have and/or which one might be better than the one I have.

    Some possibilities...
    • An external light source sounds like a great plan. You'd think I could find something around the house, and I'd think so too.
    • Black or dark blue something (paper, plastic, rubber, piece of an old mat, cheap floor tile) as a surface upon which to rest the razor.
    • Maybe grind down or remove the plastic around the lens.
    • The metal stand which came in the mail today may be much more useful and an improvement over the gooseneck stand I used today.
    • Just buy another USB scope (like the one Ray has?) and try it out...Bad reviews be damned.
    • Forget about it and just use an optical loupe like I already have and/or buy the one mentioned earlier in this thread which is clearly the Rolls Royce of 10K loupes.
    It's not like what I'm already doing (in razor honing) isn't working but it seems to me that sharing photos is both interesting, fun, and useful. Besides, a clear view of the edge of the edge and of the bevel has got to be useful (and I already know it is). We're always on the lookout for a better edge, right.

    Happy shaves,

  18. Jim

    The Celestron scapehas a magnification knob on the front of the barrel. The focus adjustment on the stand moves the scope up and down. These two adjustments work in tandem to bring the image into focus. As such, the magnification is variable, but the higher the magnification, the closer you must be to the object viewed. On the unit I got, the stand is decent. There is a knob that you loosen to slide the bracket up and down as the coarse adjustment. Then there is a fine tuning knob. It is not perfect, but it works OK. The microscope can easily be removed from the bracket to be used handheld or to use with another stand as long as the diameter of the barrel fits.

    I am using the Celestron 5MP with Windows 10. However, the MicroCapture software is also available for Mac from the Celestron web site.

    In order to get close enough to the razor edge to get the detail I wanted, I had to grind down the clear ring. I do not think it is wise to remove it entirely as the ring also protects the LED lights around the lens that provide uniform illumination. I ground off about half of the original ring.

    Because a razor is not flat, but has a grind and the edge is beveled, the most difficult part is holding the blade such that the bevel is horizontal so it is entirely in focus. You need some type of "rest" to help you do that. The rest should be about half the thickness of the spine of the razor. The thickness required will depend on the width of the blade since the spine width with is generally related to the blade width. Be sure the blade rest is made of a material that won't damage the razor edge.

    Just to make sure we are talking about the same unit, here is the one I purchased. I think I paid more for it two years ago than the current price.

    I consider my purchase of the Pluggable scope to be a waste of money, but if my Celestron were to stop working, I would order another one. You can purchase more expensive scopes with higher magnification, but the resolution is more important than the magnification. The 5MP works fine.
  19. Same one I've got.
  20. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    Thanks, Ray.

    I think you've answered all the questions I had. Yes, I have been looking at the same model you purchased.

    I've not yet decided what to do. There really are atrocious reviews of the software for mac. This looks like a much more decent scope for non-mac users, but I may try it anyway. Pondering it I am.

    Happy shaves,


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