Laser Engraved Skateboards Are Too Beautiful to Ride

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Laser Engraved Skateboard Decks

If you’re not following any professional laser engravers on Instagram, let me get you started with Smuglabs, whose work on these custom skateboard decks recently caught my eye.


Smuglabs is a one-man operation run by Brett Blaisdell and his trusty 75-watt Epilog Laser Engraver.  Brett was nice enough to answer an email I sent him asking for more details on the decks. He put me in touch with his client, Joshan Paybarah from the So Fresh Company, who had this to say about the project and its history.

The So Fresh SF Back Story:

I grew up on a dead end street that backed up to the train tracks and was on the service road for the Clearview Expressway in Queens, New York in the 80s and 90s. It was literally an intersection for graffiti and skateboarding, both of which shaped and molded my formative years. I used graffiti for the artistic misadventures that I craved and skateboarding as the athletic outlet that allowed me to gain confidence that any youth needs to survive high school.

Fast forward to 2007 and I am living out in San Francisco still skating, and still drawing graffiti. I had learned to use Illustrator and rendered a sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge and thought that it would be cool to laser engrave it into a deck so I could have some art to hang in my apartment. So I asked around and I met up with some folks in Oakland, but the timing was bad so there wasn’t any traction for the project. I decided to sit on the designs and focused on other endeavors.

Laser Engraved Skateboard Decks
The complete collection of So Fresh SF laser engraved skateboards. Photo by Will Paybarah.

Fast forward again to Christmas 2014 and my brothers Will and Azi came to visit my wife and I. We have two kids and they were out in SF to spend the holidays with us. I had been sketching and did the SF logo as a cover up of some drawings I wasn’t happy with. I thought the SF Logo was cool so I showed him that and some of the other designs I had done but mothballed.

By this time I had 3 Illustrator drawings (the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, and the Sutro Tower) and Will said he hadn’t seen anything like it and asked why I was just sitting on this stuff. I didn’t have a good reason, I mean sure, I had kids, but they have been an inspiration for me, and once they were asleep I did have the time. My other brother Azi agreed and kept saying that I needed to get this stuff out so everyone could see it.  

It took me another month to get the designs to a point I felt was good for production, at which point Will pointed me in Brett’s direction. Brett owns and runs Smuglabs, who had done stuff for some of Will’s friends and had turned around some really beautiful stuff for them. So I emailed Brett and he was so awesome. He cut the first version of the decks for me and I put them up on Facebook to see what the reaction would be, and it was overwhelmingly positive. I went back to the drawing board and with Will and Brett’s input I finalized the designs and we did an initial run of 15 decks.

Laser Engraved Skate Decks on Display
So Fresh SF’s laser engraved skate decks on display at Blueprint Tap Room.

It’s been really great to bring this project to fruition and working alongside my brother Will has been awesome. So that’s where we are right now. We’ll be producing some apparel in the very near future and then doing some different iterations of the So Fresh SF logo. After that, we’re going to feature some of the other cities that Will and I are tied to. The funny thing is that now that this project has finally come to life I still don’t have any decks to hang on my wall because they’ve either sold or are hanging in the city. Once we slow down after the holidays I should be able to get a set hung, but I’ve been saying that for the past couple of months now. It’s a good problem to have…

You can find more information on the So Fresh SF skateboard decks on the company’s website.

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I make stuff, play music, and sometimes make stuff that plays music. Fan of donuts, Arduino, BEAM robotics, skateboarding, Buckminster Fuller, and blinking lights.

View more articles by Donald Bell


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