There are some tools that are almost as useful as the hairpin, paper clip or tweezers. Yet, very few people know about them. One of these is called a Stereo Microscope or, alternately, a Dissecting Microscope. In past years, they were so expensive that no matter how useful they might be they were simply beyond the average person's budget.
The SMZ-04, for instance, that I showed in an earlier article sell for over $700 at the linked URL. I would NEVER suggest someone buy an SMZ-04 as a crafting tool. The good news is that as expensive as that high end scope is, it is NOT my favorite Stereo Microscope. Nor, do I think the optics are all that much better than my favorite Stereo Microscope.
Here is my favorite Stereo Microscope and I DO recommend it for crafting and just about about everything else around the house. It gets used a lot. It's the 20 power My First Lab iExplore Stereo Scope.
I use the CA Scientific version of this microscope. But, I just found another source with an excellent price. BH Photo sells the Ken-O-Vision version of this same Chinese manufactured scope. I think it's fair to assume that they probably come from the same supplier.
At BHPhoto they sell the Ken-O-Vision 20x Stereoscope for just $67.50. And, believe me, that is a bargain. First, it is a great thing to have around if you have children and grandchildren. And, it's also a great thing to have around if you want to inspect things, like the condition of your blades. The following pictures were taken with the predecessor of the iExplore or Ken-O-Vision. The iExplore's and Ken-O-Vision's optics are better. But, we can clearly see that while there is some wear at the very tip, in a pinch I can re-use this blade.
Suppose I'd come to the end of all my new blades and my new supply had not arrived yet. I have 20 used blades. But, which ones are hopelessly dull or broken and which ones might have a little more life in them. You won't have to guess with this versatile microscope.
By the way, if you are looking for a present for a child and your are thinking about a first microscope, this is the microscope I would recommend. A child can explore coins, printed images, their fingers, bugs, dolls, flowers... just about anything and everything. A Compound Microscope will be used less than a Stereo Microscope over the entire lifetime of the child.
Both of these scopes use a battery powered long-life LED lighting system. So, there is no need to plug it in to view your blades and bugs.