Creative Conversations | Sanford Shapes

It’s not secret that I am a sucker for handmade anything: meals made from scratch, scarves sewn by hand, furniture made without machinery. I always finding myself falling in love with with the stories behind the artisanal things I in my life because I appreciate the creativity, vision, and effort it takes to do something the hard way.

A while back, a friend told me that there was a “guy in your ‘hood who makes skateboards,” when we were working on an action sports project together and I had to check it out! I reached out to Don and Cari Sanford, owner’s of Sanford Shapes, and they invited me to come see them in action. I met them at their workshop in Leucadia and got a behind the scenes look at how these beautiful skateboards are made by hand. And (no joke) I started skating because I got my very own Sanford Shapes board!

Sanford Shapes is something special and has a story, product, and people you can stand behind. Here is our creative conversation:

Sanford Shapes

From Don and Cari:

In your “grown up” world, you are a general contractor. How did you get into shaping skateboards?

One summer, the nephews were bored and wanted to build a skateboard.  I was challenged by the process.  Most things I’d worked with were primarily straight and square.  The skateboards don’t have a straight line on them and the concave decks offered a new challenge.

Was the first board any good? Do you still have it?

I think the first one out of the mold failed; but I recall the second or third one being successful.  I believe our friend Jake kept it.  He must have known we were on to something.

Tell us about your design process. How do you come up with such cool patterns and shapes?

It’s truly a group effort, although Cari has been the most instrumental.  It’s a combination of visualizing a pattern and also figuring out how to make it efficiently.  The available wood scraps also play a part in it.  We make patterns from what we have in front of us.

What’s the most difficult or time consuming part of the building process?

Up until recently, cutting the veneers was most time consuming.  We just got equipped with a monster band saw, so that will now be easy.

We’ve visited your shop and saw something really cool and inspiring while we were there – you’re crew. Tell everyone about who helps you make all of these boards.

It’s a group of local teens (some our nephews.)  All avid surfers and skaters who have developed some amazing skills in the shop.  The boards are extremely gratifying to make, but seeing these guys be the hands behind them is even more rewarding.

Sanford Shapes

What do you hope that they learn from this whole experience?

They’re learning a real skill and using their hands to create something special.  They’re putting the iphones down and engaging in something that makes them use their minds and think critically.  We also let them handle some of the business affairs.  Maintaining accounts and invoicing is real life experience that they can grow from.

When was the first time you realized that you were making something special?

We did the Encinitas street fair a few years ago, not knowing how people would respond.  We had amazing feedback and sold heaps of boards.  It really pumped us up and made us realize we were on to something.

Where do you see Sanford Shapes going? What are your goals for the business?

We want to continue to grow it, but keep it handcrafted with an artisan vibe.  We are close to doing online sales, which has been a goal for quite a while.  We will offer shipping domestically and internationally and hope to get boards across the globe.

What are you most excited about?

Continuing to build our brand and seeing the stoke that people get from our boards. The craft of Sanford Shapes is so rewarding.  Sharing it with family and friends is priceless!  And all the cool people we’ve met… beyond cool!

Where is your favorite place to skate?

Ironically, I’m not much of a skater.  I’m afraid of getting hurt and not being able to surf!

Sanford Shapes

From the groms:

How did you guys get into making skateboards?

Our uncle is a woodworker and has his own workshop.  Out of summer boredom, we were always trying to make things in the shop.  Because we love skateboarding, we tried making one and it went from there.

How involved are you guys in the design process? Do you guys basically get to imagine the perfect board and build it?

We’re all very involved in the design process.  When someone comes up with an idea for a new wood pattern, we go out into the shop and try to make it come to life using the woods that we have.

Did you guys have any experience working with these tools? What was the hardest thing to learn?

We didn’t have any experience with the tools until Don taught us everything we needed to know.  He taught us how to properly use the tools in a safe way.  Some of the tools took lots of practice to get good at.  One of the hardest things to learn is to pay attention to all of the little details of the board-making process.  There are a lot of details involved.

When was the first time you realized you were a part of something special?

Once the boards started looking really cool and unique, and they started selling all around town, we realized we were getting into something awesome!

Working at Sanford Shapes seems like it is one of the coolest gigs out there. Do you guys see yourselves doing this for a long time?

Working is a lot of fun in the shop.  We hope to keep doing it as long as people enjoy our boards.

Where do you see Sanford Shapes going? What are your goals for the business?

We hope to see Sanford Shapes be as big as possible, and our goal is to influence as many people around the world as possible!

What are you most excited about?

We are excited to just keep having fun, being creative, and meeting new people who are interested in our work.

Favorite place to skate | Cruising around Encinitas on our boards!

Dumbest thing you’ve done on a skateboard | One of us skated off a roof into a quarter-pipe a while ago.  He pulled it, but it was pretty dumb.

You need to go to to buy a skateboard!

The best thing about what I do is | We’re working but still having fun!!

Sanford Shapes

My personal Sanford Shapes board.