A new bench lamp (or two)

Mag light - close-up through lens

I hate getting old. I used to have terrific eyesight. These days, not so much.

But rather than try to ignore the inevitable, I’ve decided to throw money at it instead. A few years ago, I bought awesome reading glasses, which also get a regular workout at the hobby bench. (They’re even slim enough to fit inside safety glasses.)

Yesterday, I took another step, and purchased a magnifying bench lamp. There are many of these on the market, but I picked a nice one offered by Canadian-based tool specialist Lee Valley because I trust the company to source quality products that are designed for people who build things – whether it’s furniture or F-units, carving or cabooses.

Bench lamp - overview

The lamp does not have a brand name – but given that the box is clearly printed with the Lee Valley catalogue number I suspect they’ve sourced this directly from a manufacturer.

The lamp is catalogue number 17J30.30 – and here’s what Lee Valley has to say about it:

This is an excellent magnifying lamp. Its array has 56 LEDs with a color temperature akin to daylight (6500 kelvin), making it well suited for task lighting.
The 5″ 3-diopter optical-grade glass lens focuses at a comfortable distance (3″ to 9″) for detailed work. Its spring balance mechanisms are fully enclosed and the lamp has a maximum overall extension of 47″.

The lamp head is adjustable for viewing angle, has an integral flip-up lens dust cover and comes with a 2-1/2″ capacity table-mounting clamp. The LEDs are rated to last 50,000 hours, equivalent to 5 hours per day for 27 years. UL/CUL certified.

To let you mount the lamp in a dog hole, stainless-steel bushings with a 3/4″ or 20mm outside diameter are available separately.

I also purchased the 3/4″ bushing and installed the lamp in a dog hole on my work bench.

The 3-diopter really makes a difference. In the following photo, you can see identical bottles of Vallejo wash both inside the lens, and outside to the left:

Mag light - inside and outside the lens

I’m really pleased with this purchase. While I hope I don’t have to use it all the time, it will certainly help with those fiddly operations, such as reading mouse print on decals or painting figures. In fact, I actually bought two of these lamps and installed the second one on my desk in my home office, where I frequently paint war-game miniatures while waiting for clients to call me back.

Mag light - upstairs

I’m not yet ready for an optivisor – and maybe with these lights, I can put that off for a few more years. If you have a Lee Valley in your area, check out this lamp: They’ll have one on display, and I bet you’ll add one to your “must have” list.

12 thoughts on “A new bench lamp (or two)

  1. I have tried an Optivisor, but found it a little uncomfortable on my head. For many years I have used a jeweller’s loupe, in my case one which clips onto my spectacles.

    Plus plenty of illumination: overhead strip light, an Ott-lite, an “architect’s lamp”, and another of those fitted with a daylight bulb. Sometimes 3 out of the 4!

    The Ott-lite I have is a fold away job, and generally if I only had one light source, I would go for that, with the loupe as it suits me as a “four-eyes” due to short sightedness, but I think lots of light is good no matter how old one is!

  2. Trevor, I crossed that bridge quite a few years ago. I live with an Optivisor at the workbench. I’m going to look into those lights — there must be something similar down here. I wonder if the array of LEDs put out a stronger light than some of those wimpy fluorescent rings.


  3. For the DIY type you can build your own desk light. A couple of friends have built them and say the are great.

    Adam Savage’s One Day Builds: Custom Workbench LED Lamp

  4. As you know, I use many methods. Two lit magnifiers, an opti-visor, magnifying glass etc. It is not only the fact that we are getting old, we look at screens a lot more than we did in the past. Those little pixels do take their toll. I put some mole skin on the inside of my opti-visor and it is now comfortable.

  5. This is a popular topic, from a comment count perspective. It must be certain demographic.
    My light choice is the Ottlite “Creative Curves”. It has decent light output, the right color temperature for me, and is compact enough that it can travel with me. I like them well enough that I’ve purchased three so they are wherever I want to be (or if I need extra task lighting). Plus it’ll charge my phone…


    In the last week, a fold down LED light bar by Foredom inadvertently caught my attention – it ticks two boxes: light and tool organization (if you get extra shelves). No idea how weel it lights or works, but it’s an interesting solution:


    As for me, I’ve decided on using the Optivisor; long-armed task lighting didn’t work well in my workspace (although I love the dog hole mount – great idea)

  6. I highly recommend safety glasses with reading lenses built in. “Safety cheaters” are available at some safety supply stores. Though not cheap, they are useable where safety glasses are advisable as well as for model work.

    • Hey Nelson:
      I got the racks from a local gaming store (Meeplemart). A number of manufacturers make them, in a variety of configurations and for different sizes bottles.
      Worth a trip to see what they have.

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