First point of call was a large expanse of shelves with adjacent machinery. These shelves contained the banks of acetate material in varying sizes for the spectacle frame fronts and temples. Tom explained how each acetate sheet has a natural curve which dictates the front and rear of the material. “If you go against the curve that frame will continually loosen as it ages” Tom explained. “So if you’ve ever wondered why your sample colours can only be used one way, this is the reason.”
Next to Tom was a large industrial jigsaw to cut the plates into usable sizes and a shaper machine to reduce the thickness of the plates for various designs. Behind him stood a large industrial looking, stainless steel box fronted by a hefty looking steel door. This was his acetate oven. Once the acetate had been stored for a period it was then pre-aged to reduce shrinkage. Excess water was removed from the acetate so that once crafted into the final spectacle frame it maintained it’s design as closely as possible. Tom expressed that when this care is taken the finished eyewear is much improved in its quality and requires less adjustment after dispensing by the Optician. “It’s part of the reason you pay for quality over quantity. “Tom continued.
Next on the agenda was a high rendered wall with a rather solid, heavy looking locked door. We all waited patiently as Tom revealed this was his champagne tasting experience. The door opened with a small muted fanfare and we all eagerly edged forward to discover a large empty store room. Tom elaborated that the room would be filled with stock once the factory was running at full capacity, hence the champagne experience, and we were getting a taste of what was to come.
Our next introduction was to what Tom referred to “as our first real machine on the tour.” This was “TD Bespokeanator 6.” A very sophisticated one of a kind, custom-made, programmable CNC machine. Unlike other CNC spectacle machines, this one had Toms magic bestowed on it. It has enhanced programming and Tom has “bespoked” the tool to his own design.
This enables its tools to be changed efficiently and programming altered frequently to produce bespoke, one-of-a-kind product with a minimum of down time. “This enables a much more affordable bespoke experience for our customers.” Tom enthused. Side by side with “Bespokeanator 6” was a second CNC machine set up to produce the “ready-to-wear” frame fronts. These would produce Tom’s stock supplies and would run with only the change in colour palette required after each set up.
Throughout the tour Tom emphasized his ambition to grow the talent in his business introducing us to his three new apprentices. One of these, John, had started just three days earlier and his first job was learning how to hand-polish the spectacle frames. John elaborated that it was expected to take a minimum of three months of training before Tom was confident an apprentice was competent at hand-polishing to his exacting standards.
Part 3 … /