Craftsman builds custom skateboards
An honest eye for smooth rides
By James Card
Ian Gibson built his first skateboard as a boy in his grandfather’s workshop. There was one thing his grandfather said to him that stuck: “You can tell an honest man by the look in his eyes.”
Years later and many skateboards later, he got his first order to build a custom skateboard. He remembered the wisdom of his grandfather and Honest Eye Boardworks was born.
“That fits perfectly with what I’m doing. It’s a big thing to be honest and take care of people. And it sounded cool,” said Gibson. He sketched out an image of a single eye for a logo.
Gibson was an Army brat and grew up in Oregon, Hawaii, Washington and California. He acquired his first skateboard in California by trading a fixed-up BMX bike.
He moved to Wisconsin in 2009 after graduating from Central Christian College in Moberly, Missouri. It was there he met his future wife, Jess, who was a year ahead of him. He had a bad car accident his last year of school and she messaged him wondering about his condition.
They kept in touch and later he visited her in Pine River during Christmas break. They went skiing together and he broke his collar bone.
Gibson learned, the hard way, that snowboarding is not the same as skateboarding.
With a broken collar bone and one arm in a sling, he asked Jess to marry him.
In 2012 while both of them were working at Nordic Mountain, a ski instructor knew he was into skateboarding and asked for a good board to buy. Gibson offered to build her one. She was his first customer.
Since then he was averaged 20 boards per year, although he admits the past couple years he slowed down. They had their first child, James, and they bought and fixed up a house along the Waupaca River not far from the Danes Hall.
Natural form of suspension
He builds the boards out of maple, birch or bamboo and the board is built up by gluing and cold pressing laminated layers. The layers add flex compared to old school solid-wood boards.
“When you’re going over bumps, it’s a natural form of suspension,” said Gibson.
The laminated boards are quieter and have a less click-clack sound on the pavement.
The hardware and wheels are sourced from various companies depending on what kind of skating the customer wants to do. There are hard and soft wheels and they are rated by a durometer, a device for measuring the hardness of a material.
Harder wheels are smooth and fun for sliding. For cruising around town over cracked sidewalks and small pebbles, softer wheels are better.
Finishing a skateboard
Gibson’s favorite part is the finish. He took up wood burning and sketches out customer requests that have ranged from a Japanese cherry tree to a mermaid. After that he adds a UV-resistant clear coating.
Completely finished boards range from $300 to $600.
“These are for a person that has been doing it for years and know what they like and they know what they want,” said Gibson.
He also works on boards that need upgrades or repairs and does refurbish jobs.
“It’s cool to see all the miles that have gone onto one and get to breathe more life into it,” said Gibson.
He refurbished a board from a friend in Chicago who skated to work every day. The board had more miles on it than his car.
For beginners and children, he will build more basic starter boards for $25 to $75.
Gibson said Waupaca has a lot of sweet hills for skating. The skateboarding area at Swan Park is nice but he would like to see it get better. He has helped advocate for the Greenville Skate Park and the Appleton Skate Park.
“It’s been fun to get to do those projects. I’m hoping at some point we can get together something to make it better. My absolute dream would be to see an indoor park in the Waupaca area,” said Gibson.
The closets indoor skateboarding parks are Green Bay and Milwaukee.
The best way to contact Honest Eye Boardworks is at [email protected] and through Instagram and Facebook.