By Magali Cervantes
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Working a pedal-powered carpentry machine, Argentine luthier Ezequiel Galasso is giving beat-up skateboards a new lease on life, recycling them into electric guitars coveted by the likes of American rock band Pearl Jam.
In one corner of his workshop in Almagro, Buenos Aires' up-and-coming tango district, skateboard decks stripped of their black grip tape and wheels are piled high.
With his bushy beard and haze of long, dark hair standing on end, Galasso, 32, looks every bit the inventor. The idea to convert the boards into guitars, he said, came from a conversation four years ago with Spanish-born professional skater Gianfranco de Gennaro.
The skater told Galasso he traded in his scratched and bashed boards, made of maple hardwood, every two weeks.
"He told me (the board) has a lot of energy within it from when you take the sheet of wood, dye the layers, compact it," Galasso said. "There is also a designer, the graphics, and the skater leaves his or her mark on it."
Galasso pairs together two boards, one for the guitar's body, the other for the neck.
"All of this energy ends up in the garbage can. And so we saw this resistant material with colors and ... we thought, can we make a guitar from this?"
They could and they dubbed the result the "skate guitar". Buyers were often musicians looking for a guitar with a difference, and one that could take a knock.
Skaters too were enthusiastic, often nostalgic about what happened to their boards when no longer fit for use on skate ramps. American vertical skateboarding pioneer Tony Hawk is one of several to have donated boards to Galasso's project.
Galasso is coy about the price of his guitars. He develops batches of 10 at a time and then puts them up for sale by word-of-mouth or on social media.
Last year, his dream came alive when Pearl Jam trashed one of his guitars live on stage at a gig in the Argentine capital.
Pearl Jam dedicated the cover track "I Believe in Miracles" to "the guy who made a guitar from a skateboard".
(Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Richard Lough, Mary Milliken and Gunna Dickson)