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Marking the end of an era in optical repair

Across the ophthalmic sector there are many people who contribute an extraordinary amount to the profession, but avoid the spotlight. Though they do not often receive it, these people deserve recognition for their role in making optometry as exceptional as it is.

Reg Quaife is one such person. For nearly 60 years he provided engineering solutions to the optical profession, but has now taken down his shingle and retired.

I first met Reg in 1984 when my ophthalmoscope needed a service. Reg came to my rescue and returned the instrument back to its original, pristine condition by ultrasonically cleaning each individual lens, followed by painstakingly positioning them back into their individual carriers. I admired his precision, patience and attention to detail, and we have been career-long friends ever since.

Reg has a remarkable history, dating back to 1960 when UK Optical Bausch & Lomb employed him as a toolmaker. His job was to both develop and make the tooling for the manufacture of spectacle frames. Later on he became involved in the instrument department servicing most optical equipment.

Of the company’s 60 staff, Reg was one of six in this department. In contrast to today, almost all frames were handmade in Australia. It would take three months to design and construct the tools needed to manufacture a single frame. It’s hard to believe now, where CNC design and 3D printing can produce spectacle frames within days or even hours.

"Reg looks back on his career with great fondness. He had a simple mantra in business: be truthful, be honest, no stories to make a sale"

After 12 years Reg joined Kennedy Optical, a wholesale lens laboratory that also sold spectacle frames and lens edging equipment. Reg looked after the lens edgers within the laboratory, which led to him establishing a service department that was later opened to the general optometric and optical public.

As this flourished, the company acquired an agency for ophthalmic equipment.

This was where Reg honed his current skills. It would often take four months or more to source parts from overseas, however Reg could often make a replacement quicker and better than the original.

In 1980 Reg took on the instrument side of the business. This marked the birth of his company, Servicing Optics, which was established in the garage of his modest home.

At first Servicing Optics was the only independent company which both serviced and repaired almost every ophthalmic instrument on the market, irrespective of brand, type, make or model. Reg recalls the generosity of several optometrists who supported him throughout those fledgling years.

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Reg quickly became the ‘go to’ man for everything optics, and then more. His portfolio was diverse, from helping people both sell and buy their businesses to being an inventor with the unique ability to make ideas become reality.

Some of his more notable projects include a driver reaction device developed in collaboration with the RACV, and a role in the creation of Medmont’s benchmark visual field analyser. He also helped to design one of the early remote controlled illuminated letter charts, which are now ubiquitous throughout the optical industry.

A constant in my dealings with Reg were the familiar people who answered the phones at Servicing Optics.

All his employees were all long serving; a testament to the way Reg looked after those who looked after him.

Reg looks back on his career with great fondness. He had a simple mantra in business: be truthful, be honest, no stories to make a sale. If Reg did not believe in the product, there was no way he would recommend it.

I asked him on what he was looking forward to in retirement. He replied: “Things I never had time to do when I was working; travelling with my wife, Joy, and the occasional Wednesday afternoon game of golf.”

Reg has always been one to avoid the limelight and let his actions do the talking, but people like him deserve a lot of credit for what they bring to the profession. He has been the right-hand man for so many of us as he has been so reliable, so consistent and so knowledgeable. He has always been true to his roots and is still the same man I first met 35 years ago.

Name: Malcolm Gin
Qualifications: BScOptom
Workplace: Eyes & Optics Wonthaggi Victoria
Position: Optometrist
Special interests: Co management ocular disease
Location: Wonthaggi
Years in the profession: 35


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