Meet the maker - Nick Pourfard of Prisma Guitars
The two worlds of skateboarding & music have crossed over ever since the 1970's saw the counter culture of skateboarding emerge. Seeing both worlds influencing the other throughout the years, even going further back to the classic surf sound of the 50s/60s. Taking this connection a step further is guitar maker, Nick Pourfard of Prisma Guitars.
Prisma Guitars UK - An Interview with Nick Pourfard

Combining a love of skateboarding and the guitar, Nick set out to build custom guitars from the recycled hard rock maple skateboard decks . This has been no easy task, but the instruments coming out of his San Francisco based workshop have begun to be noticed world wide. I wanted to put together another in our series of 'Meet the maker' interviews with Nick, to give an insight into his craft, vision and instruments.

Prisma Guitars UK - An interview with Nick Pourfard

J - I always start these interviews with a trip down memory lane, back to where it all began. After all, we're on a guitar website here huh! So let's talk about guitar playing, What inspired you to first pick up the guitar? 

N - I started playing guitar because my mom made me. I actually started with bass. I quickly switched to guitar and I believe thats the same time I started skating. 

J - Making a guitar from scratch often seems like an unobtainable skill to so many guitarists, what was it that inspired you to take your love of guitar playing further by building your own? Did you have wood shop experience or did you learn as you went on perhaps?

N - I actually taught myself how to woodwork. I would buy second-hand tools, read up on how they worked and what they did, then try to make something. I never made something because I wanted the object I was building, I made it to use and learn about materials and tools. Later on, I felt confident to build a guitar, but I wanted it to be special and sentimental to me, so I chose to make it out of my old skateboards.

Prisma Guitars UK - An interview with Nick Pourfard

J - There are so many aspects of skate culture which clearly influence your take on guitar making, more than just including decks in the builds. How do you feel the skateboarding culture and ideology fits in with the making guitars too? Do you think the freedom skateboarding has translates to guitar making?

N - Totally, I really couldn't give a shit about what anyone says is the true and only way something can be done or should be done. Those are guys that are trapped in a traditional world or an industry that is stale.You can push the limits to anything and that's what I am trying to do and prove. That I can make a guitar that is familiar enough to someone who plays, but still unique in its own right while sounding better than most.

J - Working with a recycled material introduces so many alternative factors to the build that perhaps conventional luthiers wouldn't even encounter. How did working with recycled skateboard decks affect your guitar builds early on, was it trial and error and a pile of failed attempts, or did it just work as a material for you instantly?

N - I never really had a total failure, but I have learned a lot about the material itself and it's problems and limits. Now I have learned just about everything about using it and what can and can't be done. I will say it takes about 3 days to produce a body blank alone, which is 3 days more than the traditional guitar building process. It is a lot of work!

Prisma Guitars UK - An Interview with Nick Pourfard

J - There's a sense of history with a recycled material, I have seen it with makers that use reclaimed woods from old buildings or structures in their guitars too for example. Being a skateboarder for so many years yourself, do you find working with a material that has lived another life as somebody's outlet, in this case an old skateboard, affect your builds or your approach? Creating something which already has a story, a history for example.

N - Sometimes I do. I really need to know more about the particular boards I use to influence anything. For example, I am building a guitar right now out of Wes Kremer's old boards. I know Wes pretty well and he explained some of the stories he had on particular boards he was giving me and that he learned how to skate on most of them. That type of thing can really help me choose the aesthetic and sound path of the build. Make it fit more for his style.

J - We see a lot of unique body shapes with your builds, does the inspiration come from other guitars or makers, or do you look elsewhere for shapes and styles? & how what does the development and prototype stage look like for you, perhaps rough sketches, or going straight to a piece of wood with the router(!) etc?

N - I mostly begin by looking at other shapes. I have a giant guitar encyclopedia. I make note of the ones I like most and then I try to create something with certain elements of the guitars I made note of while adding something original. I draw these first in AutoCAD, then I laser cut them to see how the size looks and feels. Then I produce a real template and begin my build.

Prisma Guitars UK - An interview with Nick Pourfard

J - Speaking of new shapes and builds, last year we saw the introduction of the Sunset Series, a core guitar spec with customization options. Where did the inspiration come from with both the series, and the idea of creating a model like that?

N - I wanted to create a more standardized model with minor use of the material to show how tastefully it can be used. It is meant for the guy that is more traditional. I really was inspired by the neighborhood I live in (The Sunset), so I based it off of that. Its is such a vibrant surf-cultured neighborhood. I intended for every guitar to be painted similar colors to the houses on the street. This also inspired its surf-rock look and sound. It really is my favorite model to date and it so versatile, I can play so many styles with it.

J - There are so many detailed stages in guitar making, let alone with the approach you take. Are there any of these stages in particular you really love doing?  

N - I love the design process the most. We are releasing a new bass and guitar shape soon that you will dig!

Prisma Guitars UK - An interview with Nick Pourfard

J - Doing something different to the norm can grab attention in so many ways. I can imagine some players may see the idea of a guitar made from skateboards as a 'novelty', how have you found reactions once players began to hear and play your guitars since their conception?

N - At first and even now people who first hear of us think of it as a novelty, but when they play or see them in person they seem to always change their mind. I try to remind people that we really are experienced in the building process and there are zero sacrifices made to tone and craftsmanship. We are not building these for exposure or to be different, we build them because we want to and we know we can do it our own way.

J - Prisma clearly has a pretty firm vision, does that project to future plans for the name and the guitars? Where do you plan on taking Prisma?

N - I do want to start building our shapes and styles without boards if the customer wants. I believe our sound and quality is there, and if someone wants our own original shapes they should be able to order it as they please. Our branding is the triangle, not the boards. People may freak out on me, but I am staying true to my roots, just expanding horizons, no rules!

Prisma Guitars UK - An interview with Nick Pourfard

I've been a fan of Nick's work with Prisma Guitars for a long time, truly enjoying watching, and admiring from afar. But one of my goals for this store was to work hard and be able to offer Prisma here in the UK. I'm incredible proud that this is now happening, to see the Prisma name adorning the store is a big achievement and an honour for me. When you see, play and hear these guitars you'll understand why that is the case.

To view the range of Prisma Guitars we have available here in the UK, as well as the custom instruments you can spec to your tastes, be sure to check out the Prisma Guitars collection here at the Home of Tone. 
Thanks for reading, and thank you to Nick for taking the time to chat with us for our reading pleasure!


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