If you're interested in learning PDR, start here.
In the last article we discussed the importance of knowing your vision and its limitations when it comes to learning and doing PDR. Knowing these limitations and how to eliminate or compensate for them is absolutely necessary if we want to easily be able to see our tool tip even in the bottom of the deepest dents and creases. Any experienced tech knows there is nothing that will screw up a dent worse than not seeing your tip until its too late. If there are even a couple bad over pushes in your dent, especially in the sweet spot, ( impact point) the chances of a true 100% finish or even a fast repair are gone. But what if you know your eyesight is fine or is corrected to as good as its going to get, and you still can’t see your tip before making over pushes inside your deeper dents and creases? The next step is usually determining if you are using the right reflection type for your eyes and brain. This may get a bit technical but we’ll try and keep things as simple as possible.
Believe it or not, the way your brain processes visual information has more to do with the type of reflection you need than you eyes do. Two people with identical vision in every way may still need two completely different reflection types. A good example of this is the old fight between techs that like a traditional fog board vs. those that use a line board. A line board tech may ONLY be able to use a line board because his brain will not process what are called analog visual signals, but he can easily process digital information. Such a tech can spend years trying to see things in a fog board that his brain will never allow him to see. I’ve found that about 2-3% of techs absolutely need a line board to get the best visual info for them. On the other hand, a person whose brain can not process digital info but only sees analog information will never see a thing in a line board no matter how much time he spends working with it. Such a tech will need some type of fog reflection or possibly a hybrid fog to see the visual info he needs.
Now most people can process both types of visual info, but will tend to be more analog visually. These people can use either reflection but will usually see best from some type of fog reflection. If this person is more over on the digital side of the scale though, he will do best with a combination board made of a wide hard line stripe with just a small fog on both edges of the line.
So how do you know which type you are, or if you are a mixture of both types? Its fairly easy to find out.
#1 If looking at a properly adjusted standard fog reflection in a panel does not show you variations of shading from dark to light grey in and around the dent, and you don’t see these shades change as you move the board or your head slightly, then chances are you will need a line board or straight fluorescent reflection. Also, if you do not see a gradual fade in the fogged area of the reflection board itself, but instead see a fuzzy thick line or even a hard line, then a fog reflection probably will not work for you.
If you fall into this category, a video on how to read a line board, or some personal instruction should very quickly make things click for you. You will probably feel a line board just makes perfect sense to you and you almost intuitively know what your looking at with just a little instruction.
#2 If looking at a line board any more than 5 minutes gives you a headache, makes you slightly dizzy, or you feel something like a buzzing in your head, or in extreme cases makes you feel like throwing up, you are almost entirely an analog person. You will need some type of fog reflection, and will probably never be able to use a line board. One notable exception to this is in extreme cases such as heavy UV damage to the eye from too much arc welding or long term sun exposure. This type of tech, even though he would probably benefit from some type of standard fog may need a bright fluorescent light type of fog or even a straight fluorescent tube light with no fog at all. This would be a bright hard edge reflection. But even in this extreme case, the tech will not be able to use a line board successfully.
#3 If looking at a line board for a while only confuses you, or you don’t know what your looking at, you are probably both analog and digital and just need to understand the line reflection better to use it. This is BY FAR the most common type of tech. In my opinion this tech will usually benefit most from some type of fog reflection. For these techs, a line reflection does have some uses which we will discuss in a future article.
Again, in my opinion most techs can learn to use some type of fog. There are MANY different types out there now, and I think this reflection type will show the most detail and visual information to techs that can use it. But what about those techs who know their eyes are fine and who have been trained with every reflection out there and still don’t feel like they see things the way they should. Don’t give up until you find some one who knows the visual side of a technique called Brain Gym. You can find these specialists in almost every part of the country now as the techniques are gaining in popularity rapidly. If you bring the different types of reflections to these people they can test you and give you certain exercises that will help you determine which reflection works best for your brain and eyes together.
Of course sometimes no matter what any one does there are some people that despite all efforts, who seemingly should be good candidates for this trade, still can not learn PDR. Brain Gym is not 100% effective for some people. But with this technique, you will almost always know immediately if you have a problem that can be helped or not. If this sounds like you, you can save months of agony and wasted money by looking up one of these specialists first.
There are other possible causes of not being able to make sense of any reflection. Most of these are more obvious though. Learning or processing disabilities are by far the most common.. If you have been diagnosed with an input or output category type of learning problem, PDR will be extremely difficult or even impossible for you to learn. If you were diagnosed with problems in the integration or storage category you should still be able to learn PDR but at a slower pace. Other problems such as dyslexia, ADD, etc can be worked with to a point. Past head or eye trauma can also make PDR a bad fit for you. If you even suspect something like a disability is hindering your progress, you will of course want to get examined by a specialist before going any further.
In the next article we will be discussing various types of fog reflections and how to tell what works best for you.
Any techs knows that PDR is a highly visual art. Most good techs have trained their eyes to see the small subtleties in the reflection, and are easily able to see their tool tip in any size, type, or depth of dent long before they make an over push. The bottom of the dent or crease should appear clear, very detailed, and show you exactly where to make every push. If you need to over push the bottom of your dent to see your tip, that may just be the first sign that something is wrong. The most common problems are:
#1 Visual problems that needs attention. (a lot more common than you might think)
#2 Using the wrong reflection for your eyes (even more common than visual problems)
#3 Not understanding how to properly use the reflection.
#4 A learning or processing disability.
In the next few articles in the coming months we will be discussing the various reasons that beginners and even some seasoned techs sometimes have trouble seeing their work clearly or finding their tip quick enough. We’ll start with the foundational problems and work from there.
It’s always surprising to see how many techs pay little or no attention to their eye health. Part of the reason for this is that most eye problems creep up on us so slowly, that we don’t notice them until they become major issues. Even if the problem doesn’t become a major hindrance, you may have a minor issue that is keeping you from producing as well as you could. Very often once a tech gets these problems corrected, he will notice his speed and quality have improved dramatically, and sometimes very dramatically! Isn’t it funny how we techs will spend all kinds of money on tools, lighting systems etc, but the most basic tool of all….our eyesight is barely given a second thought? Most techs think a trip to the family optometrist every ten years is good enough. Actually for people doing what we do an Ophthalmologist is a much better choice. An Ophthalmologist is a doctor that specializes in all eye disorders, and will catch problems that optometrists aren’t trained or equipped to diagnose. An exam every three years is recommended and only makes common sense when you think about how your ability to make a living is so dependent on healthy eyes.
Let me give a couple of quick examples. A 14 year hail tech noticed he was frequently having to darken the reflection he had used for years. He told me he had to slow down a lot just to see what he always saw easily inside his dent just a couple years ago. He was also having mild headaches and was getting dizzy spells that were getting worse. He went to his optometrist and was told that this was just age related and related to the strain he was putting on his eyes due to his trade. The optometrist prescribed a slightly different contact lens and sent him on his way. He finally saw an Ophthalmologist a few months later, and found out he had a fairly common bacterial infection in both eyes and had probably had it for a few years. After over a month of specialized antibiotics his vision had greatly improved, and most of his speed and quality returned over a four month period. His headaches and dizziness also disappeared. However the bacteria did permanent damage to one eye, fortunately not enough to make much of a difference to his work.
Another recent example was a tech that wanted to start a career in PDR. He got an exam from an Ophthalmologist and was told he had above average eyesight, but that he had a permanent condition that made it very difficult to distinguish light intensity changes. There are many eye disorders that can cause this same symptom and can sometimes account for why some techs can’t use any type of traditional fog reflection. This made it necessary for him to learn from a line board or natural reflection exclusively, as he could not process what happens with a fog or tube light reflection.
One more example. Some years ago an older tech noticed his ability to focus was deteriorating. He was also getting mild eye strain headaches. An Ophthalmological exam determined that his problem was age related but more severe than normal. He was given specific eye exercises to do along with supplements. It took about 8 months, but his ability to focus improved so much he was able to work 10 hour days whereas before he was lucky to work 6 or 7 before his eyes gave out. The headaches also improved because the eye strain was so relieved.
These are just some of many examples I’ve seen from many techs. I personally have fought a battle with my eyesight for many years since I hit 51 … many years ago!! I know several techs in a similar situation. Without the help of my Ophthalmologist I would probably not be able to do dent work today. Now that I’m in my 60s, I certainly want to make sure I can do this for as long as possible. The exercises I do everyday don’t take that long and I always notice a difference when I get lazy and don’t do them for a couple weeks.
Unfortunately some conditions can’t be cured ore even improved. But the vast majority can be vastly improved or totally cleared up once you know what is really causing the problem and get the right treatment. The important thing is to find out exactly what is going on as soon as possible. The longer most vision problems exist, the more permanent damage will result. DON’T WAIT until you have a problem to get examined. Fixing a problem before it becomes noticeable is a lot easier to treat than waiting until you notice something wrong.
Now there can be a big difference in the quality of care between ophthalmologists. Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest price. Do your research and find the doctor that gets the best reviews. Make sure the doctor you choose takes a broad approach to treatment including eye exercises, supplements, etc, and doesn’t just prescribe drugs or corrective lenses. Unfortunately, many doctors are taking a “care by the numbers” or mostly prescribing drugs approach to treatment. We all know there is a big difference between a quality PDR tech and an adequate one right? Well there is also a definite difference in ophthalmologists. It may take some time to find one in your area that takes a broad quality approach, but its more than worth the effort if you value your most important money making tool…your eyes!