In the center of Nick Pourfard's Workshop is a stack of what looks to be well over 300 skateboard decks, all of which come from various shops and previous owners from across the country. The stress cracks, fractured lumber, and dried blood on some of the boards only intensify the finished appearance of Pourfard’s instruments, giving each piece a dominating quality with looks of affection from their maker. Down in his garage, which also serves as his workshop, Nick produces his one-of-a-kind, handcrafted guitars. His home isn't in the most assuming of places, it rests in San Francisco's quiet suburban-like Sunset district. The location also serves as a testament to Nicks unassuming character, which circulates around his being able to produce such individually charged pieces of musical art.
Music has few boundaries; it's increasingly innovative and forever changing, as are some of the instrumental methods used to generate a particular sound within everyday frequencies. It’s with this sentiment, that just for a moment, one may allow oneself space to operate on a frequency less traveled, where one may succinctly leave room for authenticity and craftsmanship. As a designer and artist, Nick Pourfard has managed to fuse his love for skateboarding and music into a tangible expression, encapsulated around six strings, made of classical necks, and carefully crafted polished wood, all of which stem from recycled skateboard decks.
Nick’s approach to birthing these musical creations comes from a humble place, yet it is his drive and candor that chronicles each guitar he labors over. Each has its own story, it’s own journey; It makes one think about the duality of characteristics that bring together the fundamentals of ingenuity, art and culture, to make music full of new sight and true sound.––William Lankford
William Lankford: Can you walk me through the accident that took place in your shop?
Nick Pourfard: So basically I was working on some of the guitars, trying to make body blanks that would eventually become completed guitars. The beginnings of the process more or less. The tool I was using stopped working and I took a break to repair it. After repairing it, I continued to work and then it broke again, so again I repaired it and continued on. It was a fan on my dust collector, never in a million years did i think that would be the tool that I would injure myself using. It has no blades, and it's basically just a giant vacuum, like how the hell did that happen, you know? I became frustrated because I couldn't get anything done because it kept stopping, and it was taking me much longer than it should have. So, I turned everything off opened the fan to examine it and while doing that It just turned on while my hand was in the machine. It cut two of my fingers off and mangled my entire hand down to my wrist. I had someone immediately call an ambulance and I was taken to a finger doctor who sewed everything back together, leaving me with a bunch of pins in my hands and over sixty stitches. I'm definitely gonna have to be in rehab for a while. I realized all of the things we take for granted in our everyday lives that I can’t do at the moment, so I'm looking forward to being to do normal things like tying my shoes and not taking 10 minutes to open a door.
So what's been going on with production, did you have to hire on other people after your accident?
I ended up hiring a few guys that I trust, and I'm in the process of training them, but again there are things that are difficult when you can't show them hands-on what to do. I have to be very vocal about what needs to happen while in production. Now, I realize that having a business and trying to do everything kinda sucks when something like this happens. Things are definitely moving forward in the company without me working, so I think I just really needed to step back for a moment and think about what really needed to happen. Now, I'm focusing more on the trade show NAMM which is in January in Anaheim. It's the biggest show I do, and moreso a buyers' show for stores and other businesses from around the world. Everything’s looking up for this portion of things, all of the orders are taken care of etc. I guess this was the most convenient time to injure myself because given that the show is so big, I already finished about ninety percent of what needed to get done and the guys just needed to come in and basically finish what I started.
As far as the artistry and the craftsmanship behind the guitars, given that the overall material comes from recycled decks, where does that all come from? Such as the finish, the color streams, etc.
I wanna take these skateboards and take them as far away from being skateboards as possible, if that makes sense. I have no intention to show graphics or brand companies or things of that sort. I want someone to look at the guitar for example, someone who may not know the company, and ask us how we got the colors and finish, and possibly questions about the varnish and paint. They get confused and that's my goal. I see it as, I've taken this broken board, glued it all back up, and I've given it new life and a home as being this guitar, except it's not. It's not showing qualities of being a skateboard, other than the fact that it was once used as one, and the wood was from a skateboard and has its own story. I like the idea of someone learning about that, and the more you explain, the more they begin to understand, like the color patterns etc. I typically don't know what color patterns are gonna come up. I have a kind of general idea, which comes from how I glue it up and press it. For the most part it's like… you get what you get. So, if you have one of my guitars, it's a visual serial number and can never be repeated. You can track the lifespan of this guitar without ever holding it… because I can't make the same one again. If the person who got the guitar got a pink, green, and purple guitar, with a particular setup and construction, then it's like, you can follow that instrument wherever it goes. They're all one of a kind, and that's the coolest part in terms of the design elements that I'm using for the most part. All of my own unique shapes aside from the traditional shapes, anything else, I've completely drawn from scratch. They may seem familar, but they're entirely unique. The guitar is so familiar in its shape and style, I feel like people can relate to that because guitar enthusiasts are very much into vintage gear and the history of the instrument. I wanted to pay homage to original builders, while being completely unique within my own designs.
Where do you get the boards from?
I remember a time when I physically couldn't make guitars because I didn't have enough boards. Now, people call and email from all over the world offering their boards, and I just send them my shipping address. Or, If I do decide to grab them from a distributor or shop, they're usually keen on helping out. I just made a guitar for Wes Kramer out of his boards that he road and learned on as a kid, and just ended up giving it to him. I believe he won Thrasher's Skater of the Year a couple years back, and he's one of the best in my opinion, the best dude on and off, you know.
Surrounding that Idea, It seems like you're getting into a more sentimental nature. Would you agree?
Some people are definitely sentimental when it comes to their boards, it's like, they learned how to ride on these boards, and they would say to me, “I'd like to turn these into one of your guitars”, and possibly give it to a family member. Now they're in another form that you can re-utilize, and still appreciate the concept behind it. Wes saved those boards because they had sentimental value and a guitar is something that's just more utilitarian now, and somewhat artistic. If you wanna get philosophical about it, I guess you could say whoever was riding on some of these boards before they came to me, using it in their particular city or wherever, and I now I use the boards as my own way to express what I'm trying to do, and then we pass it on to whoever buys one of the guitars, and now they are going to use it to make music. The coolest thing for me about skating is that people go to a spot and are gonna do their tricks on whatever board they're using, and one person might skate that spot one way and someone else will skate it in an entirely different way. There are no rules, and there are no limits, and people are just gonna do whatever they want on their board and that's the whole nature of skateboarding. It's like, everyone has their own way of going about it, and that's kind of the same thing with building or music. I'm not following any rules, I don't give a shit what anyone says about how I’m supposed make whatever it is that I’m making. At the end of the day, my finished result will be functional and the best that I can make. Some people are attached to an antiquated way of thinking In terms of guitar designs. They think because its always been one way, that it has to be like that. When I give a guitar to someone, and they begin to make their music, it may not be music I like, and may not be music you like, but it's in their heads and in their hands, and they're going to do whatever they want.
How has the skateboard community responded to your designs?
Justin “Figgy” Figueroa bought a guitar that was made from his boards, and Brian Hansen (AKA Slash)’s old boards, at the time they were roommates. I’ve made a guitar now out of A.J. Zavala’s boards, Tyler Surrey's boards, and I've probably got enough of Wes’s boards to make another one. We did two or three guitars with Brian Delatorre's boards, and he ended up giving us a bunch more. Growing up in San Diego, running into other skaters is normal, whether at the skatepark or the coffee shop, you know. You're gonna see these guys around, and it's gonna keep happening. Now the same thing goes for San Francisco.
Photos by Mitchell Mylius