Questions of sustainability are cropping up everywhere these days. And guitar and gear makers are definitely part of the conversation. While there’s no single way to design and innovate for today while preparing for a greener tomorrow, some brands are expanding the traditional builds of guitars through reclaimed materials.
Over the last few years, a few major guitar makers have dabbled in reclaimed resource designs. For example, both Fender and Paul Reed Smith released lines crafted out of reclaimed tone woods to enhance ethical sourcing and resourcing of raw materials.
One designer, however, caught the interest of everyone from the gear world, fashion industry, and extreme sports enthusiasts. With Nick Pourfard at the helm, Prisma Guitars has built a small empire of reclaimed guitars by using busted up and donated skateboard decks.
With an interest in carpentry that began in his high school days, Nick Pourfard turned his teenage hobby of skateboarding into a lutherie business in 2014. Based out of San Diego, Pourfard is proving that turning into a pro skater can mean many things.
So how do you go from kick flip top to rock solid tone wood?
Pourfard and his team of three full time craftspeople crank out around seven instruments per month. But it all starts with a donation of skate decks. And, apparently, in his neck of the woods, there’s no shortage of these repurposed raw materials.
As a rule, skateboard decks are made out of hard-pressed, ply maple. By compressing them together and adding splashes of color, Pourfard created a proprietary exterior that has become symbolic of the Prisma look. In an interview with Company Week, he noted that part of this inspiration was from the cross-section look of the skate decks, but part was from the prismatic design on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Making a guitar body out of skate decks can take anywhere from four to fifty decks under heavy compression. The designs on the upper end of that number are skate deck through and through, from the cap, to the body, the headstock, and even inlays in the metallic volume and tone pots.
After experimenting with the process in his late teens, Pourfard was surprised to find that the brilliant visual effect was matched with a shockingly rich and deep sustain. As reported in an interview with Reverb.com, Pourfard reflected that in hindsight this makes sense since some top of the line instruments by builders such as Martin are indeed of laminated woods.
With a non-traditional idea of upcycling guitars, Prisma’s sights are set on sustainability. Sometimes the catalyst for change is doing the unthinkable. For Pourfard, the ethic of innovation started from this openness to the unknown. As he related to SD Voyager, “I just decided to be the wildcard in the guitar world, I wanted to create a product that is totally new and pays homage to vintage instruments, without just recreating them.” Turns out, by reclaiming the ruined remains of a high school hobby, Pourfard is not only just standing out but standing up for building and designing with sustainability in mind.