Sk8 Shades are hand crafted sunglasses made from recycled skateboards by one South Africa’s best skateboard ramp builders, Dave De Witt. We caught up with him at his home based workshop in Sarnia to see how he puts them together. We will be giving away a pair of Dave’s shades this week so follow us on Twitter to learn more: @itswhatiminto
Tell us a bit about yourself… Born in Durban, I grew up in Sarnia/Pinetown. After High School I started an apprenticeship in the weaving mills of the Frame Textile Corporation. When Wavehouse opened in 2001 I was among the first employees, learning to ride the Flowrider was fun and I was soon on my way to Italy to ride demo’s all day in the heat of the Italian summer, quite the change from being stuck in a +100 decibel weaving mill, working night shift, with no one to talk to. Soon after the hype wore off, the skatepark started taking strain and we were asked to try fix it. From then on any repairs were taken on by a few of us and eventually it became my job to fix all the ramps, run skate park events and manage the skatepark. 5 years later the Freedom of the Seas set sail as the first Cruise Ship to be equipped with a Flowrider, and they needed experienced operators, cheers, off to the Caribbean! Two contracts, a visit to Bob Marley’s grave and a Columbian encounter later, I was dismissed for Inappropriate Guest Interaction…
In 2008 I got a break and started building skateparks, bowls and halfpipes for Quiksilver SA in Jeffrey’s Bay, Port Alfred and East London, with a few smaller jobs on the side. This died down eventually and I started using my tools to make furniture and do odd jobs around the house to pay some kind of rent. My mom is a seamstress so we always have a lot of people over and they started asking me to make things for them. I obliged and eventually started making custom furniture, built in cupboards etc. This is a rough game, doing quotes and waiting around for weeks at a time for a reply, I kept thinking I have to find something small that I can do to fill the gaps. In May this year my shades broke, I had seen a few pairs of wooden glasses around and some sunglasses made from skateboards online, so I figured here is a challenge. My first pair received a load of Facebook “likes” and comments asking “how much?” and I knew I was onto something. Luckily I had secured two projects, building some ramps for Red Bull and a halfpipe in Pretoria for a friend, because I needed a few more tools to get production going on the Sk8shades. I got back from Pretoria mid-July, bought some new tools (bandsaw, scroll saw, dremels etc.) and concentrated on refining my technique. The I Heart Market was the first real test; I wanted to see what people’s reaction would be. 50 likes on Facebook is good, but you never know if people are just being polite, a sale to a stranger was what I was looking for and I was stoked I made two with one pair off to Japan! I thought at first making shades would be a part time job, but nowadays I don’t have time to do anything else, and with summer approaching fast I’m going into production mode.
Tell us about the process from skateboard to finished product… The process is drawn out over 3-5 days, with around 4 hours being dedicated to each pair of shades produced. The board’s come in, have their griptape removed, are ripped into strips and have their noses and tails cut off. I then head off to my local woodshop to have them planed flat on both sides. The blanks are cross-cut and then sorted into different colourways before being sanded and laminated overnight. These colour blocks are then sliced into veneers +/-1.5mm thick and sanded. The veneers are then laminated in a curved mould overnight and left to cure for a further 24hrs. Once all that is done, I shape the lens aperture and then the frame in a couple of templates I developed. The temples come from re-sawn noses and tails, which takes advantage of the available curve. Edges get rounded over with a mini router bit and the groove for the lens is cut. Nose pads are cut from off cuts from the lens aperture. Final sanding is done by hand and then the hinges are flush mounted, glued and riveted into place. Currently I am using a general lead-free clear lacquer as the sealer/finish but am looking into more natural finishes like Beeswax, oils, etc.
Where do you get the old boards from? Used boards come in from all over. Some are my old boards, but most come from friends and anyone else that is willing to donate. There is even a guy in Jozi, that I have never met, who is collecting boards for me; so far he’s got 19!
Do you have any off cuts from the process and what do you do with them? There is only 1 part of the skateboard I have trouble using to make shades so I have a lot of these pieces lying around. Recently my friend asked me to make him a skateboard rack, so I thought about it for a bit and figured a way to use these pieces as the supports. I also get a few small off-cuts from making the shades, I have experimented with making rings out of these but they are not strong enough. I’m not sure to do with them just yet as they are not good for making anything but jewellery or something small.
Where can people buy your sunglasses? Currently I have a shop on Etsy www.etsy.com/Shop/Sk8Shades mostly for international orders and I attend the I Heart Market on the first Saturday of the month at the Moses Mabhida stadium. Alternatively you can contact me through my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/sk8shades or e-mail email@example.com to setup an appointment. I also do custom frames and can have any prescription lens fitted.
If you are in Johannesburg from the 23 – 25 November 2012, check out the Artlogic stand at the Sanlam Investments FoodWineDesign Fair on the Hyde Park Corner Shopping Centre Rooftop as they will be stocking some Sk8shades. http://foodwinedesign.co.za