510,023 active members
3,128 visitors online
Register for free
IndustryArena Forum > Other Machines > General Other Machine Discussion > Hello everyone, bespoke spectacle maker in London pulling my hair out.
Results 1 to 4 of 4
  1. #1

    Hello everyone, bespoke spectacle maker in London pulling my hair out.

    Hi there,

    A little background.

    I'm a bespoke spectacle maker in London. Not many of us around and as a result there isn't much of a market for smaller scale trade specific machinery. I currently perform all tasks the old fashioned way, by hand. A pair of acetate frames take around 11 hours, time being saved if I am working on concurrent pairs (less tool setups). For anyone interested there's a video of my whole process at the botom of this post.

    Our intention is to have a range of glasses that fit certain needs that can be produced at a higher volume than the completely handmades and not require the bespoke design time. Therefore I’ll need decent repeatability as there will be other parts of the process using jigs.

    Me and the missus have just got hold of some cash and want to use it to improve the productivity of my workshop. I've already got hold of perfect sized barrelling machine to take care of the majority of polishing time (approx 1/4 of time if hand polished on a buffing machine). The next most obvious purchase would be a cnc. This would take care of cutting out the front, some profiling with shaped cutters, cutting hinge slots (usually 4mm x 1mm deep), making jigs etc. We also currently use a 3rd party to laser cut 4mm mdf templates for the client to use in making a choice of design.

    I’ve been looking into a suitable machine for some time now and am still somewhat at a loss. I’ve bounced around my budget limit from most probably over specced to hobby and back again. I’ll list out what I believe to be relevant and would love some input from you guys regarding where I should spend my cash.


    £2-4k. We don’t have a load to spend but I’m hoping that some of my particular requirements will keep costs down. I would love to push it to £5-6k but we have to also buy raw materials and some other kit.


    We exclusively use cellulose acetate. A relatively soft thermoplastic, softer than acrylic, doesn’t chip, deforms around 150C and melts not far after that. After years as a woodworker it’s so easy, I rarely have to sharpen my tools. The vintage French patten copying machines tend to use 8mm shank router style cutters, I haven’t been able to ascertain at what rpm.


    I currently get stuff to .1mm. They are small, symetrical objects, often going to 1.5mm around the lens bottom so tolerances are relatively important. Once cut by the machine I will have to file/sand machining marks off by hand so anything under 0.1/0.2mm is overkill. As I said before the main thing is repeatability. A small hinge out by .3mm or off angle can cause issues further down the line.


    This is where I think my budget gets a bit of a breather. The blanks I work from are 170x70x6mm. Ideally I would like a work envelope to allow me to have a number of jobs lined up. I intend to use shaped cutters to do some 2.5D shaping (think curved transitions in thicknes) and maybe do chamfering etc. It would be nice to be able to run a few jobs at once and cut down on number of tool changes.

    Even with that provision I could get away with the smaller bed sizes manufactures offer.


    My aim with this first round of funds is to increase the workshop capacity x2 in order to allow me to start using profits to expand furhur. Even with the barrelling machine and CNC there will still be a lot of hand work. For that reason I don’t need the machine to tear through material as I will be just creating a backlog.


    There are some specialised cutters available that are 8mm shank (I have some lens groovers) so it would be great if that were an option.
    We currently use Rhino to produce templates. I have little experience with CAM software but would like to maintain Rhino as my main drafting package.

    As I said, I’ve been scanning the market for ages but am now in a position to take the plunge. I have considered second hand, but am weary of getting an abused machine and scouting around for parts. I considered DIY but I just don’t have to time to fully research, acquire parts, assemble and troubleshoot.

    There doesn’t appear to be many uk/west European manufactures of good quality smaller machines. I was considering just getting a Shapeoko with a Kress, but think I’ll be looking to replace it pretty quickly. I’ve just had a butchers at the Axiom i2R4 which with extras comes in around £4k.

    I’ve also seen that there are some very talented makers here, but for the life of me cant find the proper section in which to post a request for a quote.


    Hello everyone, nice to meet you.
    I handmake Spectacles out of cellulose acetate – may need lower rpms to avoid melting
    I want a small decent 2.5D machine for £2-£4k
    Up to 8mm collet.
    In UK

  2. #2
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Re: Hello everyone, bespoke spectacle maker in London pulling my hair out.

    If I want to get specs I'd go to Specsavers…….why be different.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Re: Hello everyone, bespoke spectacle maker in London pulling my hair out.

    Wow, watched your video - what a lot of handwork!

    That Axiom iR2 looks a bit flimsy but having said that your working material is soft and if this is exclusive for your needs might be OK. As far as making the MDF templates (laser cut), a capable machine might be able to make these for you as well.

    Having watched the process you use there are two things I'd consider quite seriously:

    1. A rotary table (4th axis). Your frames could be mounted in this to carve/mold one side, flip it 180 degrees then do a lot of the molding on the other side; as well as some of the edge rounding.
    2 An ATC (Auto Tool Changer) although this would blow your budget quickly

    Your hinge mounts etc could also be drilled as well as cutting your lens slots. This takes us back to tool changes which are a PITA. Given you are using a non-conductive material, an auto-tool height setter could still be used by using a piece of aluminium foil between the workpiece and tool and allowing for the thickness of the aluminium foil.

    There would be some sophisticated coding required and the steps involved in each process would need to be considered carefully, this is why the ATC would make this much more useful

    As far as cutting the blanks and doing perhaps much of the carving, this could easily be done as a two sided manual approach as well. Laying out the blanks for frames and ear rods (or whatever they are called) on a larger table surface would give you a good head start for the finishing work.

    If time is not so important, much of what the end product looks like could be achieved using a carving approach however this can be a slow process.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2018

    Re: Hello everyone, bespoke spectacle maker in London pulling my hair out.

    Hi WFS - Have a look at Rhinocam then you stay in the rhino environment. Start very simple, Your lucky as glasses are small. Get a cheap chinese machine and get some experience and learning under your belt. I make kit routers and even so would suggest you start cheaper then my machines. Once you get some experience you can then move to rotating fixtures, tool changes etc. Plastics cutting will require some specialised tooling but thats all in the catalogues. Starting with std tools will be fine. You may have to get an 8mm adaptor made as a small machine will be 1/4" max. ER11 which is a common small spindle will go to 7mm. You can get a machinist to turn the 8mm to 7mm easy.

    A question. I used to make custom bicycle frames and the culture back then (30 years ago) was if you said it was hand made it "was" hand made. There was even push back to mitering tubes on a lathe vs hand cutting a mitre. So will you be able to say they are hand made when you start CNCing them? Do you see this as a problem? In Australia you will
    get a great little machine for 4000 pounds! ($7500AUD) there are a few commercial quality machines at that price so I expect to see them in europe...Peter

Similar Threads

  1. Engraving.. and pulling my hair out!
    By RussMachine in forum Autodesk CAM
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 03-20-2017, 02:07 AM
  2. Pulling my hair out!!! Lasercut 5.3
    By spudnick in forum LaserCut
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-30-2016, 04:39 PM
  3. pulling my hair out
    By joey414 in forum General Laser Engraving / Cutting Machine Discussion
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 10-07-2013, 10:14 PM
  4. pulling hair out
    By radioman in forum DIY CNC Router Table Machines
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 01-05-2010, 10:16 PM
  5. 203V Pulling my hair out!!
    By WilliamD in forum Gecko Drives
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 04-18-2008, 07:09 AM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts