OH MY EYES’ sunglasses are handmade in Sabae, Japan, which is where Japanese eyewear production started more than 100 years ago. Craftsmen from Sabae were the first to produce frames in light but robust titanium, which is nickel-free and corrosion resistant.
When we visit one of the eyewear factories in the city of Sabae the craftsmen are busy polishing our OH-13 frame. This is one of the last stages in a long process that has included up to 200 different stages, over a period of five months.
The polishing stage alone takes several days and ends with a quality control and some more polishing before the frame is shipped to Stockholm, Sweden.
The loud buzzing noise from the machines, the smell of newly polished acetate and the craftsmen using their hardworking hands to put the finishing touches to the frames, is everyday life in Sabae where eyewear production dates back over 100 years.
Originally, Sabae was a poor farming village often hidden by snow in the winter months. In 1905, Masunaga Gozaemon and his brother Kohachi started producing glasses to secure additional income during the farming off-season. They invited skilled artisans from Osaka who taught the villagers the art of eyewear production, and until his day they still advance innovations, techniques, and drive world-class product quality.
Wherever we go, there is a factory or eyewear shop – 90 percent of the people of Sabae work within the eyewear industry. It is like a huge assembly line where skilled artisans craft each and every detail by hand. Whether it is making temples, small metal parts, glazing of the lenses or plating of metal colours, they all have their own expertise that together makes up the final high-end product.
Acetate frame process
Cutting: The production of plastic frames involves inner and outer edge cutting. The frames’ front greatly affects the impression of the face, and so the master artisans must alter the cutting method to suit the expression of each frame. To maintain quality, accuracy must be checked manually for each and every part.
- Filing: Filing the frame smooth is a time consuming job. A single file is used to soften and add warmth to the frame. To make the most comfortable glasses it is still best to adjust them by human hands rather than by machine.
- Temple: This step is called shooting. By using heat and pressure they can insert the cores without the need for a hole. Frames in which the cores have not been inserted at the right location will become misshapen, so precision is key.
Finishing: The skilled artisans only deem the plastic frame finishing process to be complete when they are fully satisfied. They continue to polish until fluorescent light reflects perfectly, without leaving a single blemish.
Metal frame process
- Die: The very quality of each die has enormous bearing on the final craftsmanship of thousands of pairs of glasses.
- Press: Pressing is labour intensive work. The various parts for the metal frames are machined with die-fitted press machines. Parts are repeatedly pressed and checked, and often the inspection process takes longer than the pressing process.
- Precision cutting: Advancements in machinery allow precision parts to be produced with remarkable speed. To maintain quality, however, accuracy must be checked manually for each and every part.
- Brazing: Parts are bonded, or brazed, at temperatures of 700 degrees or higher. Close examination of the heat glow tells whether the temperature is right, ensuring that each and every part fits perfectly.
- Polishing: The shine and depth you see in our metal frames come from the polishing. Frame dimensions can be affected by polishing, but the master artisans keep this to a very minimum.
- Inspection: Repeated quality inspections are conducted for each process, to check the strength and durability.
- Surface treatment: The subtle changes in some of these processes are indiscernible to the naked eye, but it is the repeated metal plating applications and surface machining processes that really brings out the shine.
- Finishing: There are many steps in the finishing process. One of them is to adjust the balance between left and right.