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!