Spine Optics

SpineOptics manufacture glasses frames that have an alternative hinge mechanism. While I am sure it solves a problem in someone's world, for me, it was simply a case of - oh, they will do - and the fancy hinges came along for the ride.

This entry exists because of the implications of what happens when it breaks. I have had a pair for under two years, and at a would-struggle-to-be-more-inconvenient-moment they broke …a lot.

How normal hinges work:

Things have come on a bunch since I was small - but generally speaking, there is a part of a hinge on the arm, and apart on the frame. The two are bound together by a tiny screw that goes through the top. The use of Loctite (or nail varnish!) can stop these things escaping. However - if they do escape - given that the arm and frame hinge knuckles neatly tesselate - they will hold their connection point, and you can wire, tape, zip tie - whatever you need to get through the day.

The most significant issue with the design was when things went beyond the point at which the hinge would articulate up to. Part of the robustness of the model was that the arm butted up against the frame thus preventing over rotation and providing stability with the arms only going out perpendicular from the frame. This was also their weakness. While you would rarely sit there trying to bend the arms off - life - especially when at school would often involve scenarios that even CERN would struggle to recreate. BEHOLD the evolution to a little sprint loaded sliding mount. Allowing the arm to move outwards, and preventing (up to a point - a ridiculous point) the arm being used against the frame as a fulcrum to tear either the side off of the frame or the hinge from the frame. Either way - it worked a treat in preventing the majority of sorry and puppy-eyed moments when you present your parents with the tattered remains of your MEANS OF SEEING THE WORLD. In those days almost certainly in a shade of brown/black barely tortoiseshell NHS specials. Tiresome.

Spine Glasses work differently:

So SpineOptics extend the concept of the spring loaded hinge mount to a completely fluid articulated joint: Think armadillo meets spine. "Huzzah!" I hear you cry - at last - we are living in the future. ALL THE THINGS!


There is something you need to get used to straight away. They close.

The arms snap closed onto the frame as you take them off. If you, like me, were a person who the optician would bemoan removing and placing on your specs one-handed as a child… well that is not going to happen unless you are happy to peer through arms and perch them in a Pince Nez stylee.

Moving on from this - life is good.


So there I was. Travelled across country for a week of bootcamp tuition and two tough certification exams on the Friday. Not very me at all. But here I am, and be careful what you wish for.

Trying to be as calm as I could - 4 hours train and wander down back roads late night Sunday to the hotel. Unpack. Get stuff ready for the morning. Take a good long look at the person in the mirror who is about to push the go button on this new challenge….. take off glasses to wash face…. to hear a snap, and a procession of segments of metal plopping into the bowl. Like beads from a broken necklace. Unthreading. with an arm on my ear and rest of my glasses in my hands.


This is suboptimal.

How they work:

A cable heads through some interlocking plates around a corner, and back to whence it came. The cables are terminated in metal blocks, and a spring on each keeps them under tension. The very same tension holds them onto your head or closes the arms when you take them off.

The cable is very much like a bike brake cable. The terminations looking a little higher quality - but you get the idea. Two multi-stranded wires. Equally just like any brake cable exposed to the elements - it is going to snap at some point.
Welcome to my world.

The pain:

Okay - so having sourced some super glue I now realise there are SO MANY JOINTS to stick together - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY. MY FINGERS ARE STUCK TO THEM/MYSELF/EVERYTHING/OTHER.

At least it held for a few hours, refix, held for a few hours to get me through the day and then some heavy reworking with the leatherman file safely back in the "is that a knife sir?" hotel room and some regluing got me up to three days before the next reglue.

Rarely have I yearned for "some tape on my glasses" - but that would have really done the trick if it had not have been for an overly complex solution.

On the upside, I bemused/amused the instructor - and it distracted me from the horrors (… I have seen things you would not believe…) of the week.

Note to self. When looking to do things differently - ENSURE that there is a good justification for that, and it is thought through. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) rules.

Rant ends. … I feel better for that.

NB - the site does make some good points. They flex in and out to hold the head. They also, to a much lesser degree allow for up and down movement which the hinge - either generation does not.

2 Responses to “Spine Optics

  • My optician uses a piece of heat shrink tubing (clear) as a “splint” to repair failed hinges. It’s essentially a much better version of wrapping the formerly hinged joint with tape.
    I don’t know whether there’s any adhesive in the tubing (doesn’t look like it) like the pieces sold for watertight seals when splicing wires. The splint works great and is much better than dabbing super glue on tiny bits of metal IMHO (the cyanoacrylate glue always ends up on a lens in my experience — the next time I’m forced to do this, I’m masking the lenses with blue painters tape).
    I’m surprised I’ve never seen these splints sold as part of an emergency glasses repair kits (usually at the register at the better independent hardware stores in the US — no idea whether you get the teeny screwdriver/screws/magnifying impulse purchase pack in the UK.)

    • anthony
      5 years ago

      Good morning Ken,
      Ahh – yes, heatshrink – that would have worked nicely I guess, possibly even in clear as well. The problem was two fold:
      1// Away from home, stressed, about to undergo a weeks training bootcamp followed by exams (that I was likely to fail);
      2// The mechanism on these glasses was needlessly complex, and had corroded.
      From the point of view of a fix ‘in the field’ and with the time available then things were not looking great. Heat shrink gun and wraps – yes, ideal, but were a long way away at home that I would not be back to for a week.
      Cyranocrylate by its nature gives off fumes. These are great if you are trying to secure finger prints – but not ideal if you are near plastics that will fog, or mist in its presense. Keeping it very away does work none the less. I guess I am blessed with a steady hand… but would not be using it to stick clear plastic cockpits on model planes for sure … with… or without masking tape.
      Repair kits – they used to do them when I was a child – tiny screwdrivers were harder to come by in those days. I remember the clear plastic affair, with a variety of spare screws, counter sunk and otherwise, and the magnifying glass – clearly for lon sighted people I am guessing – little or no use to me!
      Anyway – the point here was as much the SIMPLE SOLUTIONS ARE USUALLY BEST stands here, a multiply articulated joint on a pair of glasses – overkill.
      As a stand in – I got a set of Oakley Crosslink Heavy ordered and sent to the hotel directly – which while intended to be the new ‘spare’ are now the every day. While they do have an over engineered hinge – it is engineered to snap off and snap back. Now THAT is what I am talking about – oh and super comfy nose piece too (adjustable for bridge). Nice.
      Thanks for the interaction though Ken – have a great day : )

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