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Thread: Richlite bridges

  1. #1
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    Default Richlite bridges

    Does anyone have experience with using Richlite for bridges? I just cut a custom bridge for a customer/builder from a blank of Richlite that he sent me (the Richlite had a made in Montana sticker which was a surprise).

    He also bought an ebony bridge that he is going to use to A-B check the Richlite but Iím curious if the experiment has been done before and if Richlite is an option I should consider offering ...

    Thanks,

    Vern Brekke
    Bridger Products

  2. #2
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Vern,
    Very interested in hearing your thoughts after milling a bridge from Richlite.
    Steve

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    The Richlite was easy to machine and it sanded and buffed well. The material was a bit darker than the ebony that I used for the other bridge and the feel was more similar to wood than phenolic.

    The fingerboard blank was a bit thinner than 5/16 (.3125) and I was a little concerned about the direction of the grain for bridges since I start with a .35 blank and would have to drill, tap and slot in the opposite direction from the normal fingerboard usage. My experience with other phenolic sheets has been that they are strong the direction of the layered paper (pressure to the top or bottom of a sheet) but more likely to split when drilled or tapped from the edges.

    The Richlite did fine with the drilling, tapping and slotting processes even though the blank was thinner than I would normally like to work with. I can appreciate that Richlite may have better dimensional stability than wood as my bridges have relatively tight tolerances and it is better if they donít change over time and humidity.

    Locking the brass inserts into the threaded holes required some extra thread lock applied on the Richlite threads instead of just on the brass - which is all that is usually required. I donít have any experience trying to glue it to anything else.

    I didnít compare the weight of the two bridges (the ebony one was my standard width) but the Richlite did seem denser than ebony.

    In conclusion, Richlite was relatively easy to work with, had a pleasant look/feel and potentially increased dimensional stability. Iím just wondering how it will affect the sound on different instruments.

  4. #4
    Registered User Jim DeSalvio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    My only experience with Richlite is on fingerboards for guitars, as a sub for ebony. The same guitar had a Richlite bridge. I am impressed with this material, as it looks great, and does not need and maintenance!!! I know a lot of folks do not like "fake wood", but when used for some parts of instruments, I think it works well.
    Jim D

  5. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by VernBrekke View Post
    ...(the Richlite had a made in Montana sticker which was a surprise)...
    That is surprising although Martin says it's a sustainable wood product so I guess it has to come from someplace where they have wood products. I've been shying away from Martin guitars that use it as a fingerboard material only because I'm not sure how it's going to last and I don't know what happens when it needs to be refretted.

    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Apr-16-2019 at 5:54pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Vern
    you might want to reach out to Patrick Heavner who developed/owns/builds Pisgah banjos. He is very accessable and a super nice fellow. Patrick has used richlite for years on fingerboards with his open backs. I've owned and played a bunch of them and they sound and play excellent. They age very well. I've yet to see any issues with his fingerboards-refrets look fine as well.

    any of his models that have a black fingerboard will be using richlite. he developed and manufactures his own brass hardware that he sells also. Carter Vintage just had him do a Carter Vintage signature open back.
    https://cartervintage.com/collection...vg-special-new

    I used to know his access for the richlite but it escapes me.

    https://www.pisgahbanjos.com/about/

    I use and enjoy your work daily, concerning mandolin bridges.

    d

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Compressed paper and glue. Swell.

  8. #8
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Hildreth View Post
    Compressed paper and glue. Swell.
    As are trees . . . but with more pores and inconsistencies.

    Steve

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  10. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    When I was a youngster in shop class we built sailboats that were pretty intense with hollow hulls. When a kid got too close with the gouge and went through the side the shop teacher repaired the hole with layers of paper and glue. When they were finished you really couldn't see or hear the spot when you tapped the hull (unless you looked inside). That was basically typing paper and wood glue and it has held up for years (Most of us still have our boats believe it or not). This process makes that one look prehistoric.

    I just can't get past my desire to have an ebony fingerboard.... yet.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    I love the look, feel, and smell of actual wood, but am becoming open to alternate options that are more sustainable and more stable for certain uses. Would I ever trade my spruce/BRW D-28 (ok, it’s a Yairi copy, but awesome) for a newer Martin with Richlite? No. But, I’ll also never take the thing camping in extreme temps or leave it in a parked car when traveling. I probably wouldn’t do that even with an entry level Martin. But, carbon fiber? I’ve been thinking seriously about turning one of my guitars into a carbon fiber parlor sized guitar for just such purposes. Add a pickup, and I bet it becomes my go to for praise band stuff when we’re amplified, too, and I don’t have to worry as much about someone knocking it off a stand.

    I’m just considering this step at this point, and had to really resist jumping on the Mix recently in the classifieds, but I’m in the midst of home projects and have 2 kids in college presently, so passed.
    Chuck

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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    That is surprising although Martin says it's a sustainable wood product so I guess it has to come from someplace where they have wood products. I've been shying away from Martin guitars that use it as a fingerboard material only because I'm not sure how it's going to last and I don't know what happens when it needs to be refretted.
    In my singular experience, it's essentially the same as ebony. I refretted and replaced the crumbling inlays on my bandmate's Martin which has been played hard over the years. Following standard procedure (lightly heating the frets for removal, prep the inlay mortises with a Dremel, chamfer the fret slots and tap frets in -- using CA glue where necessary) it was indistinguishable from previous boards I've done.

    The only difference is visual, in its uniformity. Because it's layered, you can sometimes see the "grain lines" that look like perfectly slab cut oak. I've heard of newer versions of these composites that have a more natural, random appearance while retaining the uniform density, etc.

    If I didn't already have a slotted rosewood board, I'd be considering Richlite (or Rocklite) on my current mandolin build.

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    I've owned a few martins with it, and honestly, if it had not be printed in the spec list of the instruments, I never would have known that I did not have this deep black great looking piece of ebony on each one of the guitars. pretty sure the guitars also had richlite bridges.

    d

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    I have a D12X, which has a spruce top but everything else is ‘alternative,’ including the HPL (Formica ) back and sides. It sounds surprisingly good - no comparison to my OM-21, but in a different price class. Fingerboard and bridge are richlite. I actually like the feel better than any ebony, rosewood, or maple fingerboard I’ve ever played, and there’s no fret sprout. I’m sold on richlite, and it would be in no way a reason for me to reject a guitar. I even like the stratobond neck - not pretty, but stable, which is useful on a 12-string.

    There is a similar material manufactured in Britain that looks more like wood. It’s a different process but looks interesting. I just can’t remember what it is called.

    Steven

    Edit: it’s called rocklite

  17. #14

    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    I'm finishing up a Martin 000 kit for a customer and it has a Richlite FB and bridge. I've had no problems with it at all, fretting was no different than ebony. Up close you can tell, it's too uniform in color for natural wood, from 5 feet away I doubt anyone would notice. If Martin is sure enough about it to use it, I have to think it will be just fine. Not the same of course, but I'd bet it will function quite well. I have a feeling that the bridge may be less prone to cracking, but that's just a hunch.

  18. #15
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    There is a similar material manufactured in Britain that looks more like wood. Itís a different process but looks interesting. I just canít remember what it is called.
    Yep Rocklite, it makes extremely good fretboards, and I currently use it on all of mine. It is less dense and less stiff than a really good piece of ebony though. On the other hand, significantly better than some of the rubbishy ebony-likes that are touted around. Also no tap tone to speak of so don't try to make marimba bars out of it

    I believe Fylde built a complete mandolin from the stuff and it turned out pretty nice - they haven't repeated the experiment though, probably because the stuff is not particularly cheap compared to say maple.

    Workability is significantly easier than ebony, on the occasional instance where I've mucked up a fret and had to pull and re-do it all worked out fine.

    As for ageing - well I guess who knows, but it's important to point out that ebony can deteriorate really quite badly over time too, I've lost count of the number of vintage instruments whose boards and/or bridges were crumbling to dust, OK so I admit the instruments had more years in them than any of us will reach Varies by maker and the exact species and quality of ebony - Gelas mandolins are shockingly bad, one or 2 others nearly like new.

  19. #16
    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Is anyone using self lubricating plastics like used in Blue Chip Picks on nuts and bridge saddles. As costly as that be it might help with any string binding when the humidity gets wonky.
    I think that these new material will be accepted readily when an improvement in function is perceived rather than builder cost savings. Japanese like glueless joinery could provide slots to hold a nut like this in place eliminating the need for adhesives.
    "A sudden clash of thunder, the mind doors burst open, and lo, there sits old man Buddha-nature in all his homeliness."
    CHAO-PIEN

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    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Hank,
    I've talked with Matthew Goins at BlueChip about the idea of making nuts. Hasn't happened yet . . .
    Steve

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  23. #18

    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    As a mandolin builder, I see no reason to ever not use a 2" wide wooden fingerboard. They are cheap and readily available, regardless of your wood choice. When mandolin fingerboards are no longer available, our problems are far beyond just fingerboards. I never struggle as a mandolin builder looking for fingerboard materials.

    As a double bass builder with 2" thick x 34" long x 4" wide fingerboards, alternatives are inevitable and welcomed as it is a daily struggle....

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  25. #19
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Hard maple is an alternative for ebony. My first bass fiddle was a 60 year old Kay with a dyed maple board. It was hard as a rock.
    The biggest problem is figuring out the best way to dye it.

    The ebony supply is being depleted. Sooner or later, we will have to accept alternatives, at least on less expensive instruments. Personally, I prefer solid wood to composites. But in 20 years, I don't expect to be working on instruments. The younger folks are going to have to handle the ebony/rosewood/mahogany etc. problem.

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Alternatives to the vinyl record have been figured out. Pretty sure we can figure this out, too. Some people will still prefer the original, but other alternatives can work just fine.

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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Personaly I can't see how wood is not a renewable resourse. Trees are crops like wheat or beans, just a longer cycle. Instead of trying to quit using wood and looking at it as unrenewable we should be planting more. Brazilian rosewood has been on our " save the planet" list for almost 50 years. Trees planted then should be getting well on the way to harvest by now. Why is it still unavailable? Because nothing is being done to renew this " unrenewable resourse. Rant over

  29. #22
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Wood is only a renewable resource if it is replanted and managed.

    Bob Taylor has instituted a program to manage and sustain ebony.

    It will take a lot more than 50 years for a rosewood tree to grow large enough to be suitable for guitar making. And I know of no efforts that are being made to replant and manage Brazilian rosewood.

    To make Brazilian rosewood available again in large quantities, it will require 3 generations of dedicated farming and management in conjunction with the approval, support, and co-operation of the people and government of Brazil. My hat is off to anyone who can successfully get such a project started. Sounds like an opportunity for a young person.

    CITES would never have come into being if our fauna and flora were being well cared for. As much CITES is disliked and complained about, they are merely an effort to prevent extinction of endangered species. And several of the woods that are desirable for instrument making are endangered.

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  31. #23
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    I haven't heard about the Taylor program? Any detailed info? I just read (and watched vids) about wasteful previous harvest and that they started accepting "less than pure black" ebony grades so less is wasted, but no mention of managed growing...
    I think BRW could be grown similarly to mahogany or IR but the original (best suitable) environment is long gone and state of preservation is such that authorities wouldn't likely allow even such wood be used (think about starting elephant farm for ivory...) Accepting of such wood would immediately raise interest and thus demand and that would mean more interest in poaching as well...
    Adrian

  32. #24
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    The Ebony Project is detailed in this issue of Wood and Steel magazine, the Taylor publication for Taylor owners. There have been other articles about it in past editions as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  33. #25
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Richlite bridges

    Quote Originally Posted by hank View Post
    Is anyone using self lubricating plastics like used in Blue Chip Picks on nuts and bridge saddles. As costly as that be it might help with any string binding when the humidity gets wonky.
    I think that these new material will be accepted readily when an improvement in function is perceived rather than builder cost savings. Japanese like glueless joinery could provide slots to hold a nut like this in place eliminating the need for adhesives.
    I think I read of a TUSQ nut material that had that property...
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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