What is Cellulose Acetate?
You may be wondering, what is acetate? Cellulose acetate is a plant-based plastic (bioplastic) which is made from natural cotton and wood fibers, which are derived from wood pulp and cotton “bolls.” Its characteristics and properties make it eco-friendly, sustainable and extremely durable.
Beginning in vast cotton fields, cotton is harvested using a machine that only removes the top “boll” part of the cotton plant. The cotton is then cleaned and separated from any contaminants like bugs and dirt, and then broken down and refined into pure cellulose.
Once this is complete, the cellulose is mixed with acetic acid (which is one of the main components of vinegar) to create cellulose acetate. At this point in the process, the cellulose acetate becomes very thick and opaque, with its thickness and texture resembling putty.
Thanks to cellulose acetate’s transparency and flexibility, this compound can be dyed with various unique colors and layered to create stunning eyeglass frame patterns. Using powdered disperse dye to tint the cellulose acetate, it is then mixed by hand to create striking colors. Finally, the cellulose acetate is inserted into large machines with metal rollers, which evenly disperses the color throughout the acetate.
The dyed cellulose acetate is placed into square-shaped molds to cure (to solidify) and prepare them for cutting.
When the cellulose acetate is finished solidifying, it is sliced into sheets and fragmented into small “pellets.” The pellets are used to create patterns by heating them and layering them on top of other colored acetate sheets. These pellets are used to create the popular tortoise shell frames.
The blocks are then cut into thin sheets using a hydraulic machine with an angled knife. At this stage, the cellulose acetate sheets are still very flexible and malleable.
Manually removed, the sheets are gently hanged in preparation for heat-stabilization. The cellulose acetate sheets hang in an oven at a stable temperature for a few days in order to completely cure and keep it from changing chemically or physically.
This step is crucial, and takes keen attention to detail to ensure the material is durable and prepared to be carved into eyeglass frames.
Using both a special machine called CNC and their bare hands, our Master Artisans carve out your unique frames, embed wire cores in both temples and insert multiple barrel hinges. Different steps will still be happening before the glasses are ready for the final inspection, from finishing in a vibratory tumbler barrel, hand-polishing at different stages, several washes, mounting lenses, just to name a few.
The result? Sturdy. Stunning. Sustainable Eyewear. Shop now