Two companies are transforming one work of art into another.

In a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in San Diego’s Barrio Logan art district, David Keith of SpexWax plies away at making frames from old records.

Ten years ago, Keith—whose former boss came up with the idea to create frames from vinyl—bought an old Lou Reed album for 25 cents and began work on his first frame. While creating multiple frames at once, Keith hand makes each SpexWax frame in about three to four weeks using a CNC-controlled router to make initial cuts of flat records, then individual pieces are sanded with a mouse sander and glued together.

“The next step I call ‘subtractive sculpting,’” Keith said. “We sand off the excess glue and round the edges of the frame using inverted belt sanders, hand Dremel tools and three different grits of hand sanding.”

Although vinyl frames look and feel like normal plastic, Keith says they’re not.

“Each frame is a wearable, functional piece of ‘artwear’ that must be cared for at all times,” he said. “Never leave them in the car as the heat can deform the frame. I always say, ‘If they’re not on your face, they are in the case.’”

Another company producing vinyl frames is Vinylize Eyewear. In the late ‘90s, founder and designer Zachary Tipton had been making rimless frames but then wanted to explore plastics. His Seattle workshop housed his father’s old record collection and lo and behold, Tipton realized that one vinyl record had enough material to produce three frames.

Now, almost 20 years later, Vinylize frames are made in a factory in Budapest, Hungary, and comprise five collections: NVSBLE, Vinylize Classic, Vinylize Executive, ACDC and Grillz. The colorful NVSBLE line is made from clear vinyl laminated onto crystal acetate and is dyed in various colors, while ACDC is made from the rock band’s “Back in Black” album vinyl. Vinylize also allows customers the option of customizing a frame: simply send them the vinyl and choose the frame style, and Vinylize will make it. Celebrity wearers of custom styles include Robbie Williams, Fred Durst and Mick Fleetwood.

Vinylize was even commissioned by the Sziget music festival held in Budapest to create a custom sunglass frame for hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar. This style, called “TPAB” after Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was made from the actual album vinyl and featured a rhodium-plated sterling silver brow.
All Vinylize frames are made by laminating acetate to vinyl and are milled on a CNC milling machine.

“The biggest limitation is the age of the material: the older the vinyl is, the more brittle it is,” Tipton explained. “Last summer we shipped a frame made from The Beatle’s ‘Revolver.’ That album is about 50 years old so we had to be extra careful during the manufacturing process.”


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