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  1. #1
    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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=senpx1Wwon0

    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 Iíll 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.

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

    Budget

    £2-4k. We donít have a load to spend but Iím 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.

    Material

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

    Accuracy

    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.

    Size

    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.

    Productivity

    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 donít need the machine to tear through material as I will be just creating a backlog.


    Other

    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, Iíve 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 donít have to time to fully research, acquire parts, assemble and troubleshoot.

    There doesnít 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 Iíll be looking to replace it pretty quickly. Iíve just had a butchers at the Axiom i2R4 which with extras comes in around £4k.


    Iíve 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.


    TLDR./

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

  2. #2
    Welcome to the forum! Enjoyed watching the video - you've enlightened me, I had no idea that you could get bespoke frames - although I feel slightly sorry for your arms with all that filing!

    I think if I were you I'd be looking at small used machines aimed at the pro-hobbyist / small production, something like a little Tormach, or an older Boxford from a college, or alternatively a pre-converted (or converting yourself) mini-mill (Sieg X3 or similar). All of these would nicely fit into your working envelope, and give you plenty of scope for more materials in the future.

    I'd be keeping clear of the 'maker' type machines, X Carve / Shapeoko / Workbee - after having read up on machine design for a while, none of these strike me as particularly well thought out, and they don't appear to be using high quality components. I wonder how many of them will be around in five years time. Having said that, by making CNC affordable and accessible, they have gathered a decent following... Maybe I judge them too quickly.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by AndyUK View Post
    Welcome to the forum! Enjoyed watching the video - you've enlightened me, I had no idea that you could get bespoke frames - although I feel slightly sorry for your arms with all that filing!

    I think if I were you I'd be looking at small used machines aimed at the pro-hobbyist / small production, something like a little Tormach, or an older Boxford from a college, or alternatively a pre-converted (or converting yourself) mini-mill (Sieg X3 or similar). All of these would nicely fit into your working envelope, and give you plenty of scope for more materials in the future.

    I'd be keeping clear of the 'maker' type machines, X Carve / Shapeoko / Workbee - after having read up on machine design for a while, none of these strike me as particularly well thought out, and they don't appear to be using high quality components. I wonder how many of them will be around in five years time. Having said that, by making CNC affordable and accessible, they have gathered a decent following... Maybe I judge them too quickly.
    Thanks for the reply.

    I had no idea about bespoke frames till my partner, a dispensing optician, told me the people she used for the service were in their later years. I was a cabinet maker for 15 years and looking to start my own furniture workshop. The cost of doing so in London would've been very high, so I spent a couple of years setting up a small spectacle workshop and working out the process. The optical world is very insular and not very forthcoming, working out the process was easy enough, sourcing hardware and machinery not so.

    Coming from the bespoke furniture world I was amazed that bespoke eyewear isn't really a thing. The majority of our customers have interesting facial geometries (big noses, little noses, wide pupil distance, massive heads, tiny heads), and can't find suitable frames off the shelf. My big challange will be getting a suitable apprentice to train up to help with the workload.

    As for the CNC, I've seen a Boxfords pop up on ebay and thought they looked suitable. Am I right in understanding the majority of them need converting to work with the likes of Mach3/4?

    I've had a direct message of a reputable forum member who has offered thier services, thinking this will be the best route tbh.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Worshipfulspectacles View Post
    I've had a direct message of a reputable forum member who has offered thier services, thinking this will be the best route tbh.
    Definitely the best route if the member's name has a musical connotation and hails from God's country.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Worshipfulspectacles View Post
    As for the CNC, I've seen a Boxfords pop up on ebay and thought they looked suitable. Am I right in understanding the majority of them need converting to work with the likes of Mach3/4?

    I've had a direct message of a reputable forum member who has offered thier services, thinking this will be the best route tbh.
    Yes, they would need conversion, but there is plenty of information out there.

    I didn't know if this was in aforementioned forum member's remit, so preferred not to assume. But if this is an option to you (which it would appear to be!), you'll end up with a far more capable machine than any other option at comparable price points. Plus it will be new with expert support.

  6. #6
    JAZZCNC's Avatar
    Lives in wakefield, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 21 Hours Ago Forum Superstar, has done so much to help others, they deserve a medal. Has been a member for 8-9 years. Has a total post count of 6,340. Received thanks 1,045 times, giving thanks to others 46 times.
    Quote Originally Posted by AndyGuid View Post
    Definitely the best route if the member's name has a musical connotation and hails from God's country.
    Ee-ba-Gum Tha's ony gon sus'd it old lad...

  7. Hey there Spectacle Maker,

    it looks like you've done your homework and have a good idea of what you need, that's great

    To make it harder for you I'll disagree with Andy (though I'm not an expert at all) and say that something -like- a shapeoko could be good as a first CNC machine, even second hand. I have one and yes it's quite limited and sometimes not user friendly but if you find one that has a good working workflow it can be a very cheap way to start. Then after a few months you'll have a better idea of what you'll need. But because you're only machining plastic and don't necesarily want something super fast, even a small belt driven machine could work for you..

    If you go for something 'overengineered' I'd make that overengineered in software, not hardware. Cause you don't need ballscrews or fast/strong motors cause you're not machining metals, but a reliable software that doesn't cause you problems and you can trust and work on other things while the machine is working would be ideal for you

    I'd be interested in talking with you if you needed a bespoke machinery maybe for another step of the process (nice video you shared indeed) as I specialize on special purpose machinery. You mention it's hard to find tools for your trade so let me know if there's a solution you'd love to have!

    cheers!

  8. #8
    I would tend to favour the Boxford VMC route, especially if you can get one from a Technical College (are they still called that?). They tend to have little use and be just the basic spec. ('scuse the pun).

    My Father-in-Law was a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, having started as an Optical Apprentice in 1932. He retired in 1994 after 62 years and died in 2005.His career saw him as a Senior Hospital Optician, Lecturer and Examiner at Aston University for the BOA and President of the BOA. He was a Geordie and a very down-to-earth man.

    I wish you well in your venture, producing a hand made, quality item.

    Cheers,

    Rob-T
    Last edited by cropwell; 2 Weeks Ago at 11:59 PM.
    ďA DEAD (in a ditch) STATESMAN
    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?
    from EPITAPHS OF BREXIT 2016 - ????Ē

    Thanks to ― Rudyard Kipling 1865 - 1936

  9. #9
    I was a cabinet maker for 15 years and looking to start my own furniture workshop.
    From a fellow time served cabinetmaker, unless you have a very good top end clientele established in the UK you will starve. I moved back to the UK, lost my client base and quickly discovered I needed to be in "engineering" to earn a living. Moving into a niche market such as you have is a very smart and fortuitous move. All your hand skills are transferable. CNC is the way forward (says he who resisted it for a long while!).
    I wish you well.

  10. #10
    JAZZCNC's Avatar
    Lives in wakefield, United Kingdom. Last Activity: 21 Hours Ago Forum Superstar, has done so much to help others, they deserve a medal. Has been a member for 8-9 years. Has a total post count of 6,340. Received thanks 1,045 times, giving thanks to others 46 times.
    Quote Originally Posted by JaviPK7 View Post
    Hey there Spectacle Maker,

    it looks like you've done your homework and have a good idea of what you need, that's great

    To make it harder for you I'll disagree with Andy (though I'm not an expert at all) and say that something -like- a shapeoko could be good as a first CNC machine, even second hand. I have one and yes it's quite limited and sometimes not user friendly but if you find one that has a good working workflow it can be a very cheap way to start. Then after a few months you'll have a better idea of what you'll need. But because you're only machining plastic and don't necesarily want something super fast, even a small belt driven machine could work for you..

    If you go for something 'overengineered' I'd make that overengineered in software, not hardware. Cause you don't need ballscrews or fast/strong motors cause you're not machining metals, but a reliable software that doesn't cause you problems and you can trust and work on other things while the machine is working would be ideal for you
    No sorry, your wrong in this approach.? I've helped many people with small business ventures who have taken this route and without exception, all have regretted it and lost sleep, money and in some cases customers doing so.

    When first starting out your approach appears to work until things ramp up. Often new CNC users underestimate what the machines can do and how much they can increase productivity.
    Often when creative juices kick in it soon starts to lead to increased sales. It's here when shit hits the Fan.!
    They quickly realize the cheap machine they bought cannot keep up or wears out in matter of weeks as production ramps up. Yet the orders keep on rolling in.!
    This quickly leads to pulled hair, lost sleep not to mention lost income and lost or very unhappy customers.

    It's the worst route any business, large or small could take.

    And that's just on a business approach, don't even get me started on the cheap machines them self and all that comes with them..!!
    Last edited by JAZZCNC; 2 Weeks Ago at 08:31 PM.

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