If one cannot afford a microscope, what is the next best option? Or, is there another option, I currently use an Opti-visor but it has limitations.
Chinese products are NOT an option.
Kent: There are other headset magnifiers similar to what surgeons wear, but for the life of me I can't get used to them. I've been using a scope for 24 years and anything else gives me fits. However, you might want to consider this option as some jewelers and engravers swear by them.
Winston Churchill uses nothing but a low power optivisor for his work, and most will agree that his engraving is among the finest the world has ever known. / ~Sam
For at least 20 years, I have been using a set of magnifiers that clip onto the front of my eyeglasses. They are lightweight, comfortable, and I can "look around" them when I raise my eyes off the work. They are available in strengths from 1 1/2x to 3 1/2x, although the working distance for the 3 1/2x is only 4 inches (it's 20" for the 1 1/2x).
You can find them by googling on "Opticaid." The price will be anywhere from $26 to $30, plus handling. I don't know the magnification I've got, but the working distance seems to be about 12," which is very comfortable. They're advertised for use by dentists, assembly-line workers, and embroiderers.
Nothing wrong with using an Optivisor or the Optica-aid thing. Sounds like the power range of Bill's Optica-aid is very similar to the Optivisor. A number 10 Optivisor is 3.5 x and is what I used for years. Admittedly, I love my microscope and would buy another one immediately if I had to, but this work on the bolster of a knife, smaller than a postage stamp, was done with pre-microscope (about 1988 I would guess) with optivisor and ain't to shabby.
Austin: Watching a TV screen to engrave limits you to 2D viewing. For full 3D you either need an optivisor, stereo microscope, or other magnifier that provides a seperate path for each eye. I've seen stone setter Blaine Lewis set stones while viewing a monitor during classes and he does an incredible job. However, when he's setting diamonds for real, he does not use a monitor. I suppose an engraver could learn to cut very well via a monitor if he/she had to. / ~Sam