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Spex Wax makes spectacles out of 'wax' music recordings

It’s all in the name at eyewear manufacturer Spex Wax.

David Keith
Courtesy of Spex Wax

The San Diego-based creator of “recycled vinyl art-wear” “rescues and repurposes” damaged vinyl records—"wax," to use old lingo for vinyl records--and handcrafts them into custom sunglasses and eyeglasses.

“It’s the ultimate up-cycle,” says company founder David Keith, a visual artist and licensed optician. “Art for your face. Rescuing unplayable records, recrafting them with love and artistry.”

Keith had taught himself to make eyeglasses though his work as an optician. He got the idea for Spex Wax from a San Diego friend in the trade, and took it from there.

“We have a simple website that makes it appear that you’re dealing with someone big, but in reality it’s a small little enterprise,” says Keith. “I started in my living room. I was acquiring equipment and learning what works best in taking a flat record and making a pair of eyeglasses--a functional piece of art you can wear.”

Each original Spex Wax design is produced from a single recycled vinyl LP. It is precision cut by hand, burnished, and carefully assembled using hand-made Italian hinges, titanium nose pads from Japan and a slow curing, preserving and protecting process.

“Opticians are kind of a dying breed, what with Pearl Vision and Lenscrafters and all the insurances out there,” Keith notes. “So I turned a hobby of making glasses for me and my friends into what it is now. Randy Jackson has four pairs, music photographer Guido Karp bought a lot of pairs at an art show we did, and some bands in San Diego have them. Obviously, my path meets with those of people who love music and wear eyeglasses.”

Spex Wax obtains its raw materials from flea markets and attics, says Keith.

“We get a lot of stuff donated,” he says. “People with record collections pass away and their kin don’t know what to do with them. We pick out the good stuff to listen to, and the bad stuff we repurpose.”

Keith also gets eyewear wax from Gotta Groove Records, a vinyl record pressing plant in Cleveland.

“They do a lot of crazy colored vinyl, which is awesome because I can turn them into eyeglasses for someone. I can make a pair out of one album and add different colors in the middle or back—whatever you want to create your own look.”

Every Spex Wax pair, Keith adds, is one of a kind—and he also makes monocles: “I hear chefs—especially in New York—keep them in their pockets where they won’t get greasy.”

Keith, who also makes lamps out of vinyl record scraps as gifts for friends, offers various eyewear styles and allows customers to design their own.

“We do a lot of custom work,” he says. “We can custom-make glasses using a universal measuring tool like a credit card: You have someone take a picture of your face from about a foot away, while you hold a credit card alongside it. Being an optician, I’m very versed in seeing shapes on people’s faces and knowing what goes good with the jawline and accenting facial features.”

Prices vary from $500 to $1,200 depending on how involved the client is and various design options. And in keeping with the recycling principle behind Spex Wax, the eyeglass case for each pair is made out of an album jacket folded into a triangle case covered with a special laminate to make it “somewhat water resistant—in case you spill wine on it!” says Keith.

“So you get the whole record in an entirely different form,” he concludes. “The album still goes in and out of the jacket, but now it’s eyeglasses going in and out of a case.”

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