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Many Toolmongers are familiar with the eye strain that comes with years of examining fine measurements, instruction manuals, and other close-up work in the shop. Since it’s such a common issue, a slew of companies makes various types of magnifying and bifocal safety glasses — 3M, Fastcap, DeWalt, Apex, and Smith and Wesson, to name a few (pictured above are the $10 SB-9000 bifocal safety glasses from Phillips Safety Products).

As someone who’s worn glasses most of my life, I’ve always been suspicious of drugstore-type generic “reading” glasses and the like. Everyone who needs vision correction has specific requirements, and generic safety bifocals sound to me about as appealing as cochlear implants from Walmart or dental work from the 7-11.

But maybe I’m completely wrong, and inexpensive magnifying safety glasses are just a quick way to get a close look, like a standard magnifying glass. In fact, DeWalt’s High Performance Safety Glasses [What’s This?] (pictured above, in a cool, Fonzie-esque smoky gray) seem to be popular at Amazon, and many reviewers claim it’s a perfectly fine and affordable alternative to expensive prescription safety glasses. Most bifocal safety glasses offer various options in magnification power, and if you do pick up a pair, they should meet ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association) or ANSI requirements for eye protection.

So, what do Toolmongers think? Pay for quality, or keep a few cheap pairs around to protect your aging eyes (and the regular glasses you’ve already invested in)?

ISEA Eye and Face Protection Standards
Street Pricing for Magnifying Safety Glasses [Google Products]
Magnifying Safety Glasses Via Amazon [What’s This?]


17 Responses to Hot Or Not: Magnifying Safety Glasses

  1. Tetsubo says:

    I wear prescription bifocal safety glasses everyday at work. My company has them dealt through Wal-Mart. I literally couldn’t do my job without them. They are even ‘no line’ so they aren’t all that noticeable. I can see a use for these over the counter models.

  2. BJN says:

    You may be right from the point of view of needing real prescription glasses, but you’re completely wrong for folks who just need close up magnification.

    Readers and bifocal safety glasses are better for people who are losing close focusing ability with age, at least if your eyes are losing compliance like mine. I just need some magnification and I’m not worried about different correction for each eye. If you need real prescription glasses, then get something custom and vastly more expensive. For me, the bifocal safety glasses work fine and they’re better than the awkward mode of trying to wear a pair of specs behind safety glasses.

    The magnified area is quite low in my bifocal goggles, so they’re not great for doing a lot of close work since that means looking through them at an awkward angle. But they’re good when I’m doing measurements and cuts but I’m also looking at stuff at medium to long distances.

  3. russ says:

    I use them also but I bought mine at Woodcraft for under $7. They have made life so easy for me. Yes, they are ANSI Z 87. I can’t compare these to prescription glasses as my eyes didn’t start going bad enough until a few years ago for me to need reading glasses. Wearing these was easier than wearing reading glasses and safety glasses. So in that respect they have their place.

    People don’t even notice they are bi-focals until they put them on. Hopefully less chance of them growing wings and catching the thermals.

    I have heard pros and cons from people that wear glasses between the bi-focals and progressive lenses. So that is probably a personal preference.

  4. MikeT says:

    I’ve seen little stick on magnifiers that you can use to make your own, and read a review of them by a happy electrician who was having to wear his cheaters upside down so that he could see the detail when he was working on ceiling fixtures.

  5. ttamnoswad says:

    Seems like a good idea………

    But any improvement in safety glasses is a great idea, I don’t understand the continuing marketing of cheap plastic gimmicky safety glasses. They don’t fit, lenses scratch easily and all the plastic edges from the injection moulding process tear up your face.

    Does anyone make/market “high quality” safety glasses, that look like my decent pair of black framed, modest wrap sunglasses that I wear everyday…….but just with a clear lens instead?

    No…..those Dale Earnhart mirrored glasses are clapped out……as are all the “Oakley” inspired designs.

    If a guy showed up on my job site with some blue/yellow mirrored safety glasses, I would also suspect that this was his favorite tool……


    So…….i want.nylon frames, clear lenses, full framed, modest wrap, full sized, semi rectangular shape, strong hinges and of course “shooting range approved” would be good too.

    thanks….someone get on that asap.

  6. Jim says:


    Try here for starters. They have some high quality safety glasses.


    And, if you want “shooting range approved”:


    Hope this helps.

  7. browndog77 says:

    Smokin’!! I have been using drugstore readers for 15 years, with occasional increases in the diopter strength (@2.5 presently). They always hang from a strap around my neck. I ordered these as soon as I saw the posting. It is difficult to find even sunglasses in a bi-focal style locally. The only thing that would make these even better would be a second diopter area across the top of the lens for over-head work. Or on-your-knees under the sink work!

  8. IronHerder says:

    When my dad was a carpenter 50+ years ago, one of his crew mates had the optical shop make him glasses with reading correction on top half of the lenses, just because his part of the construction was overhead work. Not much new under the sun, I guess. One of his other crew mates loved rain-flooded newly-excavated basements, because he use the water to mark level for the concrete floor (poured after it dried out, duh).

  9. paganwonder says:

    45 years with perfect vision and now 5+ plus years needing readers. I really like my expensive ($40) Safety/readers alot more than the “cheapo” plastic versions I started out with. At this point I’m on the brink of buying expensive prescription safety glasses so I can just wear them all day and not be so tempted to take them off all the time. The biggest problem with bi-focals on the job-site is down climbing, I keep mis-judging the distance to ground thru the magnifiers!

  10. I’m another satisfied user of these. I don’t need reading glasses (yet), but I work with small electrical components often, and the extra magnification is great. I can really check the solder on SMD components, for example. I got the ones with LED lights on the sides, too.

    I have other glasses for more macroscopic projects.

  11. MattW says:


    McMaster Carr 5116T11. I ran across them while looking for some of these to order.

  12. browndog77 says:

    Thanks, Matt!

  13. Mike E says:

    Here’s another good source for bifocal safety glasses. http://www.safetyglassesusa.com/safreadglas.html

  14. Rick says:

    I got LASIK in 2003. Problem solved..

    For now. (Ω_Ω)

  15. Andrai says:

    here are the readers from Uvex

    Uvex FitLogic® Reading Magnifers

    Genesis® Reading Magnifiers

    and the first over the glasses Goggle Reader Uvex Stealth® Reader

  16. Squidwelder says:


    I can’t stand these things. Every time I use them, I wind up with a headache. I’m blessed with better-than-average sight, and making out fine details has never really been difficult for me. In addition, while I’m welding, the magnifying sections either throw me off or make too much glare on a frequent enough basis that they become very aggravating. I have chucked more than one of these across the shop because I got tired of seeing things magnified when I don’t want them to be. I leave my glasses on underneath my hood because it’s so much simpler than donning and doffing them every time I lift the thing to remove slag (I use SMAW a lot if you can’t tell).

    As I said, I’m blessed with good eyesight. I give them a terrible review because they’re a solution looking for a problem for me to solve them with. If I want or need magnification, I get a magnifier. But for those who find constant magnification an absolute must or need correction, I can see these being the bee’s knees. But for me, I just don’t get enough advantage out of having bifocal safety glasses, and walking around the shop or the ship with these on is hazardous in and of itself.

  17. Jennifer says:

    As someone who takes safety glasses on and off throughout the day I personally do not like magnifyers – they mess with my eyes. Unfortunately it appears that most places that list glasses online for sale do not list whether the glasses magnify or not in the product description. This is unfortunate as I feel that anything that is going to alter the way that your eyes function (even if it is perceived by most as in a positive way) should be listed as such!

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