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Matt Ross Handcrafts Pens From Old Skateboard Decks

Handmade Pen Made From Up-cycled Skateboard Decks. Photo Credit: Matt Ross

Featuring Matt Ross Wood Design

As a maker, I have it pretty easy. Once I create a print, I can reproduce it relatively easy. Major props to those hands-on folks. We’re talkin’ woodworkers, leathercrafters, seamstresses…All of the creators that really put in the hours on single pieces. I wanted to give a shoutout to a friend of mine that found passion in turning old skateboard decks into functional works of art. Matt Ross out of London, Ontario spends hours on each handcrafted project, and it really shows.

I was pumped when Ross was down to turn two of my old decks into a writing tool of awesomeness. Ross let me pick the pen features and then picked up my decks to make it happen.

It’s really interesting to hear about other peoples’ passions in creating and I asked Matt how he got started. “When I was 13, I built my own mini ramp by myself, and after that, I wanted to get more into woodworking. I started watching construction shows and slowly got more into it” Ross explained. Worth mentioning, that it must have been a sick ramp because Ross still rips to this day.

Ross continues “I was at Canadian Tire one day and the Mastercraft mini lathe was on sale and I decided to buy it. I had no idea what he was going to do with it.” Soon after Ross picked up that lathe, he got into pen making out of exotic woods. After a few successful projects, Ross was chilling with a buddy one night and they thought it’d be sick to use skateboard decks instead of other woods. Anyone who skates knows that old decks are easy to come by, which aside from being totally awesome, Ross can save on raw material costs as well.

Ross notes “People talk about the art behind what I do, I just tend to make things that have a function.”

original skateboard decks before turning into segmented pen blanks
Original skateboard decks before turning into segmented pen blanks

I gave Ross two decks. The first one was a brand I tried to start back in high school. NCM Skateboards. I silk-screened blank decks and shirts to help pay for college, so turning this deck into something I can use every day had sentimental value. NCM Skateboards was sort of my “lemonade stand” back then, where I learned the basics of a side hustle. The other deck was just an old RipNDip that I had laying around, but it’s pretty sick too, right?!

Showing the skateboard deck layers on the new segmented pen blanks.

When you see how much goes into a handmade item, you have a real appreciation for the final product. I’m not able to show you the hours of stripping the old decks and slicing them down into small pieces, which takes hours (Believe me, I heard all about it from Ross). Following that, there’s a LOT of cutting and glueing to create 2 blocks which are now the segmented pen blanks, this is about a 2-3 day process which accounts for drying time.

When those are dry, a perfectly drilled hole needs to go through the segments. The drill holes need to be precise for the pen kit to fit for the pen to work flawlessly.

Segmented pen blanks on the pen mandrel.

The segmented pen blanks are mounted on the pen mandrel, it looks like it’s almost together, but those metal pieces are actually bushings and they’re the same size of the pen kit that’s going to fit onto the pen blanks.

Polishing and finishing.

While it’s still mounted, it’s polished and finished while it’s still mounted on the pen mandrel. During this process, the pen begins to actually look like a pen. At this time, the pen still has a ways to go, the pen kit still needs to be installed onto the segmented pen blank.

Keep in mind, this whole process can go sideways at any step of the way. Ross mentioned it gets a bit nerve-racking because hours of work can be thrown away. The further you get into a project, the scarier it gets because there’s always a chance you could throw away the hours you already put into the project if the segmented pen blanks crack or chip during this process.

These handcrafted pens take about 12-15 hours to finish and the going rate for these ranges from $80 to $150. The pens that Ross craft use popular premium pen cartridges from brands like Parker & Cross so your pen can last a lifetime with refills easy to come by.

Matt has been getting into a lot of other handmade items, like light switches, bowls, and even lamps (yes desk lamps made out of skateboard decks!). Check out some of his other work by hitting up his Instagram.

Custom Matt Ross Pen
Custom Matt Ross Pen

Good Ideas

Good idea
Good idea

A lot of the books I’ve read lately talk about the concept of “good ideas”. When I think of the concept of good ideas, I think about creativity. The concept of creativity is interesting. Absolutely everyone is capable of creativity and therefore capable of good ideas, and I’d like to talk a bit about that. I’ll be referencing some good reads that I’ll outline at the end of this post.

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is objective. Not everyone will see the same idea as creative, but the concept can be explained rather simply. Allen Gannett lays it out really well in his book The Creative Curve, where he simply states that “creativity is the combination of familiarity and novelty.” When you’re able to successfully marry the two opposing forces, you’ve got a creative new idea.

An Example

Consider food trends, and let’s use plant-based food as an example. Food producers take very familiar meat products and create plant-based alternatives in the form of them. If the latest vegan patty wasn’t marketed as a burger substitute, there’s a good chance that it wouldn’t be as successful.

You Can Brainstorm Good Ideas

You can spend hours trying to whiteboard new ideas, matching up familiar and novel concepts. This exercise can be fun, and who knows, it could also be rewarding. Off the top of my head…here are a few concepts that are familiar with a novel approach.

  • Eyewear that can play music
  • A vending machine that dispenses smoothies
  • Luggage that charges devices inside it
  • Socks with a stash pocket (Yea, I don’t know…)

I’m sure that all of these ideas exist, whether they’re good or bad, I’m sure someone may think that they’re creative. The point is that you can use the simple formula of Familiar + Novel to come up with your own. For this, I recommend you pick up The Creative Curve to build on this concept (Link below).

Good Ideas Can Arrive When You Least Expect Them

In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about the two parts of the brain, the passive and the deliberate areas (Kahneman refers to them as System 1 & 2). Kahneman touches on the point that when we deliberately try to think of good ideas, our mind gets cluttered (I’m paraphrasing here) and it’s often difficult to force those good ideas, whereas when our mind is clear, our automatic thoughts have room to breathe and we have those “ah-ha!” moments, you know “shower thoughts” as some people say. This concept assumes that we have great ideas buried in our mind and when our mind is clear, they finally surface. Experts say that the best way to inspire this type of thought is through meditation or simply by taking a vacation, where you literally take a break from thinking too much.

Good Ideas Can be Deliberate or Passive

So you can effectively brainstorm good ideas or let them come naturally. The key is to write them down as soon as possible! When it comes to good ideas, the worst feeling is forgetting what they were. Have a notepad handy or use an app to scribble down your good ideas whenever you get them. Always be ready for a good idea.

Collaboration

You can’t always do it on your own. Coming from a classic read from 2009 by John C. Maxwell, How Successful People Think, it’s even better when you collaborate with others. This can turn a good idea into a great one. Create your own personal network of thinkers and always be prepared for great ideas to come about. The really cool thing about collaborating is that the next big idea can come from anyone. It could be a friend, a colleague, a customer or even a stranger.

Asking For Your Help

With this all in mind, I’d love to collaborate with you! I’ve created a questionnaire that asks you a few questions so that I can come up with new ideas. Your input is extremely appreciated and your information will be kept to myself. The survey should only take a few minutes and it means a lot to better understand my readers and customers.

A Reward to My Etsy Shoppers

For everyone who has purchased something from my Etsy shop that has completed my survey, they will be entered into a draw for a chance to win their Etsy purchase. The instructions are outlined in the survey to qualify.

Please Click This Link to Find my Quick Questionnaire

Lastly, as promised…

Here are links to the books I mentioned above. If you want to spark up great ideas and learn more about good ideas and creativity in general, these are a great start!

The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell

My Sweet New Drawing Pads

Personalized Left Handed Drawing Pads
Personalized Left Handed Drawing Pads

Okay, so I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, oops. The good news is, summer is here and I’ve got some crafting adventures in the works!

In the meantime, I’m super pumped to share my sweet new drawing pads that I had made just for me!

At face value, they’re just sketch pads, but I made sure the basics were covered to give me everything that I wanted in a drawing pad.

What Makes These Drawing Pads So Special?

I’m glad you asked. These sweet lil drawing pads are perfect, here’s why:

My sweet new drawing pads
My sweet new drawing pads
  1. 5×7″ landscape oriented – perfect for quick sketches and large enough for enough detail to capture and digitize.
  2. High-quality drawing paper – ideal for pencil sketches and heavy enough to handle ink illustrations
  3. Thick cardstock cover – so they’re sturdy enough to toss in my bag or into my motorcycle saddlebag.
  4. They’re backwards – Because I’m a lefty.

Now I can draw anywhere, because I made enough to have one with me wherever I go.

So simple, yet so awesome. Am I weird for being into these so much? Likely.

Improvement

Reading
Reading "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman.

3 Key Ways To Improve Anything (I Think)

I run Mattmade and everything that goes with it out of my home, and shipping the items that I sell is obviously a huge part of it, which again, is out of my home. With that in mind, I was recently selected to participate in a program for Canada Post to help improve their shipping services. The program was downtown and while getting ready this morning, I decided that it made more sense to take the subway rather than drive (Between Toronto morning traffic, parking downtown and all that stuff, I wasn’t into it).

With about an hour and a half of commute time, I could either bring my Nintendo Switch or my tablet (So either games or reading). I haven’t soaked up a lot of reading aside from a few pages each night, so I grabbed my tablet.

I’m currently reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, a fascinating dive into the two systems of thought and it helps shed light on why we think the way we do in both the intuitive system and then the more logical system. Books like these don’t spell out obvious life lessons for you, but they help give you the tools to better understand why things the way they are and then you can go ahead and apply them to your life. I dig that stuff.

So between reading on the subway and assisting in a program to improve shipping services, I wanted to share 3 fundamental (and different) ways that I like to improve that maybe you can apply to something in your life, whether it’s a skill, a habit or routine, or something in your business. I hope it’s helpful.

Improve by Learning

It’s 2019, knowledge is basically up for grabs. Here are 5 ways that I learn something new:

  • The internet. Start with Google and YouTube. There are free courses and resources on mostly everything. Simply start by googling what you want to learn and subscribe to tutorial YouTube channels.
  • Books. Libraries aren’t just for kids. The Toronto Library (for example) shares all of its combined resources for anyone in the city. So if you need a book, ebook or audiobook, it’s available, you just may have to put a hold on it. I use Libby to listen to free audiobooks available in our library network for free.
  • Communities of expertise. Whether it’s a club in real life or simply a Facebook group. There are people who want to teach and others that want to learn. Tag along for the experience and when you know enough, pay it forward.
  • Friends. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve got friends better than you at something. If that isn’t true, make a few new friends.
  • Go to the store. Whatever you want to learn, there’s a shop that specializes in it, and they usually have experts there. Want to get into nutrition? Visit a nutritional shop. They’re into it too. Want to learn about painting? Visit a craft store. You get the point.

Improving starts with wanting to do something better, so the list above is a good start. With all of the knowledge in the world, it’s no good if you don’t practice it though…

Improve by Doing

With little or no knowledge, you’ve got to try. If you don’t give something a shot, you’ll never get better. It’s like a fresh grad student thinking that they’re super good at business, but everything is theory until the rubber hits the road.

This is where you make mistakes, turn back to your notes and actually get better. Malcolm Gladwell references a theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something in his book The Outliers, and Allen Gannett takes that a step further in his book The Creative Curve by noting it can take 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to be good at something. Gannett explains that when you work on something, you should mindfully improve and get better in perfecting your craft. These two books are both great reads by the way.

Improve by Getting Feedback

As you continuously try to better yourself, accept any and all feedback. Not all of it will be what you want to hear, and not all of it will be true but average out your feedback and take it into consideration as you are on the path to improving, learning something new or offering a new product or service into your business. After that, rinse and repeat.

Circling back to the Canada Post study that I was involved in today. As much as I complain about service or shipping costs, Canada Post is doing something right by asking their users for honest feedback on the tools that they’re offering. I can imagine the folks at Canada Post went through a similar process in improving their systems.

Now ask yourself…

How are you making changes and improving aspects of your life and business or side hustle?