Australian skateboard mag Refill has put together an interesting exhibition of laser engraved skateboards under the title Refill Seven. 80 artists were asked to design each their deck, which were then produced in a limited edition of 50 copies each. Price? $500.
Laser cutting is getting a lot of attention recently as one of the first digital fabrication technologies to become truly cheap and accessible. It can easily be used for “printing” images into unusual materials, or for constructing parts for complex forms. Usages include custom signage, jewelry design, models in paper or plastic etc.
In terms of laser cutting used as an image medium, Refill Seven is one of the most interesting examples to date. Skate and surf culture has always been fond of customization, so laser engraving skateboards makes perfect sense. Most of the pieces are in the baroque style popular with skaters, with only a few examples of abstract work. There doesn’t seem to be any computational pieces, so in that sense the uniquely digital nature of the technology has been passed over.
Technically, the project is very advanced. A rotating clamp was used to ensure smooth engraving even in non-flat areas. For obvious reasons laser cutting is oriented towards lines, but here filled areas are smoothly drawn. According to Wired Magazine a resolution of 1200 DPI was achieved, which is far beyond most current laser cutting.
For another take on skateboard customization, check out Mekanism Skateboard’s new collaboration with Peter Zimmermann, an established German painter. Zimmermann painted 60 blank boards with epoxy resin, giving a three-dimensional textured surface that is spectacularly colorful.
The Zimmermann boards are intended for the art market rather than teenage skaters, and have so far proven very popular with art collectors. A previous Mekanism collab with John Maeda was blogged on Generator.x in 2005.