A friend of mine has been considering buying a Les Paul Supreme or Custom (hoping to get it as a Christmas guitar). So as a favor, I did a bit of research on new Les Pauls and saw that all the new models, save the Standards use either Richlite or baked maple fretboards. Admittedly, I was a bit shocked by the use of Richlite, which is generally used as counter-top material, and thought what in the world possessed Gibson to make fretboards out of a fabricated material? But doing my best to keep an open mind, I perused my favorite forums to find discussions on the material.
What I found is that there are two camps out there: Purists and players. Purists want everything completely natural, and won’t even settle for laminated boards – they want a solid piece of wood. I was in this camp at first. However, I got brought back down to earth by the “players” whose only concern was that the guitar felt, played and sounded good. That has kind of been my ethos with gear, and I kind of forget it when I started getting into historic reissue Les Pauls. What I forgot is that my guitars are all players (with the exception of “Ox,” my ’59 replica which was specifically purchased for investment). What’s important to me is that a guitar feels, plays, and sounds appealing to me, and more importantly, that I can make music with it. So I’m going to get off my high horse, and take a good look at Richlite, and see if I can play some new Les Pauls.
As far as Richlite is concerned though, it’s actually highly appealing to me because it’s made in a very “green” way. Part of it is made from wood pulp from managed and sustainable forests plus pulp from recycled paper. On top of that, the heat used to incinerate the volatile materials from the production process is used to dry the material, so there is little thermal pollution, and finally, NO hazardous waste production.
Perhaps with Gibson getting busted for purchasing exotic woods from illegal sources was a good thing. Also, that Gibson, the manufacturer of what is one of the most iconic electric guitars in history, would choose to use a fabricated, “green” material for a tonewood is actually pretty cool to me, and could lead the way for other manufacturers to consider using green materials as well.
Can’t wait to try one out!