Tuesday, April 30, 2019

TD Tom Davies Factory Tour - Part 4

Next was the Shocking bath. This isn’t what you think! There are no unscrupulous hygiene practices afoot at the TD Factory. This was a vat of oil, maintained at a specific temperature, to enable the setting of any adjustments made to buffalo horn frames. Originally when Tom was experimenting with horn frame production he had used an old ice-cream freezer for this. Want not, waste not!

Adjacent to the “shocking freezer” was an almost “steam-punk” looking pneumatic ram. This was the temple-shooting machine. This fired the strengthening core, which for all TD Tom Davies frames is high grade titanium, into the acetate temples. On the same desk was the silver solder apparatus and titanium pulse welder.

Behind this row of equipment, the underneath of the mezzanine is efficiently used. No part of the factory is free from Tom’s innovation and this area is no exception. Housed here, the tumbling and polishing drums. In mainstream spectacle frame production, the pieces of each frame are tumbled in large drums, often filled with bamboo pellets.

Due to the individual nature of the TD Tom Davies eyewear, this just wasn’t up to Tom’s exacting standards. He has both varied the sizing of these drums to enable individual and multiple frames to be tumbled efficiently, but also uses different types of wooden pellets to achieve different levels of desired finish. Tom doesn’t believe in “one size fits all!”

Adjacent to the tumbling is the “elves grotto!” Here the state-of-the-art laser engraving is conducted and stock ready to be shipped is housed. Tom was excited to say they have in excess of one million UK pounds (C$1.7million) of ready-to-wear frames ready for customers drastically reducing wait times and improving shipping efficiencies.

Part 3 ... /
Part 5 ... /

By Dr. John Wilson

Thursday, January 24, 2019

TD Tom Davies Factory Tour - Part 3

The polishing machine consisted of two industrial polishing wheels, controlled by way of a foot pedal allowing the operator safe use of both hands, and numerous different grades of polish blocks. Too harsh a polish at the wrong stage would spoil the final result. Alternatively, too fine a polish, too early in the process, would lengthen the time taken to achieve the end result, thus rendering the final completed frames more expensive to manufacture.

Perpendicular to the polishing station was the hand sand-blaster. This resembled a piece of lab equipment from the film “Outbreak.” A transparent fronted box with two entrance holes attached to thick, rubberized, internal, self-contained gloves used to hold the apparatus being treated (sand-blasted). Tom explained that doing this by hand required proper training, but well worth it, as the finish achieved was far superior to a mass-produced product.

Behind us was a couple of work benches where an experienced spectacle maker was hand-finishing the ready-to-wear frames ensuring all edges and joints where “square” and smooth when running your finger across it. “It’s what all Opticians expect when they’re selecting their frame stock. The better the joint, the better the finished spectacles.”

Around the corner to the next set of benches was the lug insertion machine. Tom had pioneered the use of a low melting-point metal alloy to cast a die to hold the frame front in the correct position in order to heat-sink the lug into the acetate front of the spectacles if not riveted. The alloy die could be produced in minutes, unlike the previous method of machining the die. This again allowed more cost-effective production of bespoke frames. Tom was proud to say that this method has been adopted by most of the spectacle industry.

Part 2 ... /
Part 4 ... /

By Dr. John Wilson

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

TD Tom Davies Factory Tour - Part 2

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 ... /

By Dr. John Wilson

Thursday, August 2, 2018

TD Tom Davies Factory Tour - Part 1

We were over in London, UK, in January, visiting our homeland for 100% Optical. Dr. Euan and myself (Dr. John) had been invited to give a lecture on our experiences of practicing optometry in Canada and the UK. Whilst over the pond Tom Davies of TD Tom Davies invited us to visit his new Bespoke London factory. Well this was an opportunity not to be missed!

It was Friday afternoon when we jumped in a “Black Cab” to head to the factory which is close to Heathrow Airport. Talk about interesting. London Cabbies know something about everything and our Cabbie was no exception. Suffice to say we put the world to rights.

Before we knew it, we pulled up at some large white industrial units surrounded by tall black railings. There were numerous damaged Mercedes cars in the parking lot (we later found out that this was the storage compound for the Mercedes repair centre) to our left, but we needed to find number 1. The security guard directed us to the right and told us we needed to be at the other end of the building.

Up the final steps we went, only an hour early, and pressed the buzzer for the intercom. “Euan and John from Ocean. We’re early.” Our reply was prompt and welcoming, “No worries, I’ll be right down.” The chap that met us was tall, slim and stylish. He showed us through what seemed a maze of corridors past rooms with names like “The Lego Room” and the “Staff room of tranquillity,” then up some black, rugged and industrial looking steps onto the mezzanine.

Immediately in front of us there were doors to the factory offices and two retro arcade machines. One had an impressive array of 80’s video games and the other being an original Star Wars slot machine. Adjacent to these an impressively stocked black coloured, mirrored bar complete with a couple of draft ales on tap and fancy bar stools. On the bar was a huge Bluetooth speaker and “bean to cup” coffee machine.

To the right of the bar was the staff area. This consisted of numerous fitted kitchen units, microwave, large side-by-side refrigerator, central prep island with large chef’s oven and three large tables and associated chairs. At the furthest of these was Tom, Allister and another man engaged in a meeting. To the left of us where the toys. Large air-hockey table covered with a huge artists canvas, a bar football game, another arcade game and a full-size, two-person Sega Rallye game, the ultimate console arcade game IMHO.

At this point we were introduced to some of the staff, graphic designers, sales and admin support. As we were early it was suggested that we should sample a few drinks at the bar and practice on the Sega Rallye game, well it would be rude not too! After only a short period we got our recognisable, robust welcoming from Tom.

For anyone who’s never see or met Tom, he’s a decent sized chap, probably 6’ 2’’, with an athletic to heavy build, strawberry blonde, short cropped hair and sporting a reasonable amount of designer stubble. His greeting is becoming of his stature but often involves a hug and this was no exception. He’s a very warm, welcoming and giving man whom we are honoured to call a friend. Immediately Tom challenged Euan to the Sega Rally game. This was too much fun not to post live on FaceBook but unfortunately Tom was well practiced, and Euan was beaten!!!! (Only just if you ask Euan.)

After just a short wait we were joined by Dr. Michael Johnson from Johnson & Furze Opotmetrists, another Independent Optometrist and fellow TD Tom Davies stockist. Now the tour was ready to begin!

Part 2 ... /


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

TD Tom Davies Factory Tour - Part 5

We were then led along a narrow corridor beside the elves grotto to what can only be called “the staff enrichment region” of the factory.

Through the first door we were treated to a room full of Lego. Not just bright coloured bricks, although there was a huge number of these, but multiple specialized models from airports to zoo’s. My favourite was the Millennium Falcon and Star Wars collection, which, if you follow us on Social Media will be no surprise, as that morning both Euan and I had attended a fully immersive VR Star Wars game in a nearby shopping mall. Euan had worn his Rebel Alliance Tee shirt especially. Really, he did!!!!!

The next door was the Room of Tranquillity. As we entered it was dimly lit with LED mood lighting.  There was a small atomiser emitting calming scent and towards the back a large, rather comfortable -looking, very padded chair. Tom announced his attendance into the room which brought the chair to life via a Google Alexa device. Once in the chair you can select your desired massage through voice activation. Very cool, and relaxing.

These two rooms were to both challenge and relax staff through the day to improve their creativity and mood.

As the work day was coming to a close Tom invited us to stay for a spot of dinner and a drink before returning to our hotel ready for our Independent Optometry Conference the following day. Little did we know that the tour was not yet over. We were then shown up to the roof.

The entirety of the factory roof had been turned into a roof-top patio area, fully equipped with a fully functioning bar, a BBQ that Tom’s good friend Heston Blumenthal had presented him as a gift on the opening of the factory, which was massive, a raised performance area for invited bands/musicians to play and a life-size ceramic, multicoloured Zebra. Everyone needs a multicoloured Zebra, don’t they?

Dusk had fallen but this being London, the street and building lights filled the night sky with an ambient glow that only a large conurbation can. In the distance were planes taking off and landing at Heathrow Airport but with the music playing you could easily have imagined being in a trendy Mediterranean bar, that is, if there wasn’t a frigid breeze reminding you that, “this, my friend, is London in January and don’t you forget it!”

Part 4 ... /

By Dr. John Wilson