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Richlite - Yay or nay?

Blues Lawyer

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Mar 16, 2023
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1000001139.jpg

One of my bucket list guitars has always been a Les Paul Custom in Heritage Cherry Sunburst. It's what my dad played and that guitar is what I always thought of as the ultimate guitar as a kid.

For whatever reason, Gibson just isn't putting out a lot of Customs in that finish.

However, there are plenty of 2014 Customs in a real nice price range (for me) but the only issue is the Richlite fretboard.

I don't flip guitars anymore. Once they cone into my house, they're pretty much here to stay. So resale value isn't a pressing concern for me.

Is the difference between richlite and ebony worth the couple of thousand dollars? Would you say no to a Custom at a low price just because of Richlite?
 

Wizard1183

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Jan 20, 2018
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View attachment 24253

One of my bucket list guitars has always been a Les Paul Custom in Heritage Cherry Sunburst. It's what my dad played and that guitar is what I always thought of as the ultimate guitar as a kid.

For whatever reason, Gibson just isn't putting out a lot of Customs in that finish.

However, there are plenty of 2014 Customs in a real nice price range (for me) but the only issue is the Richlite fretboard.

I don't flip guitars anymore. Once they cone into my house, they're pretty much here to stay. So resale value isn't a pressing concern for me.

Is the difference between richlite and ebony worth the couple of thousand dollars? Would you say no to a Custom at a low price just because of Richlite?
Take a blind fold, put it on and play both. Can you tell the difference? Didn’t think so…
 

jb_abides

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Is the difference between richlite and ebony worth the couple of thousand dollars?

Question 1: I am not following exactly what you are asking here... If you are saying you expect to get a $2k discount on the Richlite, and it's a good guitar, and priced well, then take it!

Would you say no to a Custom at a low price just because of Richlite?

Question 2: Is this really the question, and rephrased Question 1...? I would not say no, in fact I bought a used Wine Red LP Custom with a Richlite board from the same era at a very good discount and it's wonderful.

While a great ebony board is always welcome (and for many, preferable), Richlite looks and feels great in its own right.

The basic factor which you have indicated you are free from, is resale. Not because Richlite is bad, but because there's a heavy bias towards ebony.

If you love the guitar and intend to keep it, plus can get a good price, then win-win!

BTW, this guitar looks great! Some of HCS look too clown-y for me, but this one has very nice gradations, at least in that photo. Some nice grain pattern, too. Probably some peek-a-boo flame...

Good luck and let us know!
 

Subliminal lanimilbuS

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I can help a little. Can't say as to what affect Richlite might have on tone, as I never owned one. That takes time to tell. I did play one and I could actually notice a difference in feel. I bend a lot and maybe I am accustomed to ebony more from having them for years, but the Richlite did feel different to me. Can't say in a bad way or not as once again not enough time playing. Gibson doesn't offer it anymore so I don't know if that is something to take into consideration. Do some searches on the internet for "problem with richlite fretboard" or "don't like richlite fretboard" or other things like that and see if you get any hits.
 

bursty

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Dec 25, 2012
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564
@Blues Lawyer

If Richlite isn't an issue for you and you can obtain a guitar that you want at a desirable price point then that sounds like a good combination to seriously consider.
As far as Gibson producing LP Custom examples with Ebony or with Richlite boards I got no skin in that game because I stopped playing Gibson guitars over 45 years ago after I got my first MIJ Flying V. That's a whole different rabbit hole. :D
Having said that I do like 'real' wood, I have owned several LP Custom types with both Ebony and with rosewood boards but I certainly prefer examples with Ebony boards.
Also, I have never played any guitar with a Richlite board.
One thing I have noticed with guitars that do have Richlite boards is a visual effect; the boards seem to have a type of semi gloss sheen to the boards. This visual just doesn't look quite right to my eyes and my eyes are nearly 63 years old and still function PDG. I have never seen this 'Richlite sheen' on any Ebony or rosewood board.
One other item of note: Several years ago I went to a local wood supply and hobby shop to purchase some Spanish Cedar for a cigar related project I was working on. I shopped around the store for some time and noticed many different species of lumber in the wood selections. I noticed there were several jet black Ebony boards available that were perfect candidates for any luthier interested in using these for guitar fingerboards. These Ebony examples were all quartersawn and were ready to be surfaced and worked into the correct size for just about any type guitar fingerboard. All of these Ebony examples were $20. o_O
When I think about that it kinda makes me wonder why Gibson is reportedly adding $2K to the retail price of an Ebony board Custom versus a Richlite example. :rolleyes:


My observations and opinions aside; just go for what you want and what you can live with because it will be your guitar. Good luck .......
 
Last edited:

DrewB

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Jul 15, 2001
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1,439
I have one of the GC-exclusive Martin OOO acoustics from about 10 years ago. After I bought it used, I found out it has a Richlite fretboard. It didn't change my opinion of the guitar one iota (admittedly a weird thing - I expect worse of myself). I don't think about it at all when I'm playing, just something along the lines of, "dang, I love this guitar."
 

Jethro Rocker

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Nov 6, 2022
Messages
283
I have fingerboards of ebony, rosewood, finished maple, raw maple and richlite. While subtley different they all play fine and if one didn't know it was richlite, one wouldn't complain. It's not like richlite feels icky. Very smooth.
Looks like a beautiful guitar, get it play it and enjoy it regardless .
 

Amp360

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Feb 16, 2012
Messages
855
I had a Les Paul TV Junior with Richlite. I couldn't tell the difference in feel or sound. However, I should note my fingers generally don't touch the wood on the fretboard much, as I have a very light touch. The only guitars I've ever had re-fretted have been used.

If you really dig in and play heavy-handed, maybe there's a difference. The only thing that would worry me would be if for some reason I bought one used and it needed a refret would there be an issue. I doubt there would be, as Gibson and Martin make excellent instruments, but who knows?

On a LPC I like Ebony for tradition's sake but the Richlite is cool on the modern ones.

I bought one of those Moderne reissues about 10 or 15 years ago and it has granadillo. Man, that's a sweet fretboard! I think it probably cost Gibson some bucks to do those!
 

Subliminal lanimilbuS

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Messages
318
@Blues Lawyer

If Richlite isn't an issue for you and you can obtain a guitar that you want at a desirable price point then that sounds like a good combination to seriously consider.
As far as Gibson producing LP Custom examples with Ebony or with Richlite boards I got no skin in that game because I stopped playing Gibson guitars over 45 years ago after I got my first MIJ Flying V. That's a whole different rabbit hole. :D
Having said that I do like 'real' wood, I have owned several LP Custom types with both Ebony and with rosewood boards but I certainly prefer examples with Ebony boards.
Also, I have never played any guitar with a Richlite board.
One thing I have noticed with guitars that do have Richlite boards is a visual effect; the boards seem to have a type of semi gloss sheen to the boards. This visual just doesn't look quite right to my eyes and my eyes are nearly 63 years old and still function PDG. I have never seen this 'Richlite sheen' on any Ebony or rosewood board.
One other item of note: Several years ago I went to a local wood supply and hobby shop to purchase some Spanish Cedar for a cigar related project I was working on. I shopped around the store for some time and noticed many different species of lumber in the wood selections. I noticed there were several jet black Ebony boards available that were perfect candidates for any luthier interested in using these for guitar fingerboards. These Ebony examples were all quartersawn and were ready to be surfaced and worked into the correct size for just about any type guitar fingerboard. All of these Ebony examples were $20. o_O
When I think about that it kinda makes me wonder why Gibson is reportedly adding $2K to the retail price of an Ebony board Custom versus a Richlite example. :rolleyes:


My observations and opinions aside; just go for what you want and what you can live with because it will be your guitar. Good luck .......
Dang that was a good price for nice ebony boards. I am only seeing crappy looking ones for $50. Why didn't you buy those for me? Just out of curiosity does anyone possible reading this thread have any experience with cutting richlite. Just wondering what it is like for putting fret slots into and sanding. Also, what does it wear like? If you leave really fine scratch marks will they smooth out over time with play?
 

bursty

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564
Dang that was a good price for nice ebony boards. I am only seeing crappy looking ones for $50. Why didn't you buy those for me? Just out of curiosity does anyone possible reading this thread have any experience with cutting richlite. Just wondering what it is like for putting fret slots into and sanding. Also, what does it wear like? If you leave really fine scratch marks will they smooth out over time with play?
from $20 for what I would consider 3A or 4A grade jet black African Ebony board blanks in August, 2016 to $50 for "crappy looking ones" is a 250% increase in <8 years. Throw in the difference in grade quality and that's some crazy price difference/inflation.
Stewmac has some for $30.

Most everything has gotten crazy expensive in the past few years/post pandemic. Some of my favorite cigars that used to be ~$25 a stick in mid 2021 are now $50 to $65 a stick, if you can even find them.

 

Jethro Rocker

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Also, what does it wear like?
Not sure yet but apparently it doesn't expand and contract like wood. My 2 Godins have Richlite that I thought was ebony as does the Lzzy Hale Explorer. I play hard and it seems totally fine to me, comfy.

I found this. Take it as you will.
Richlite will not corrode from or absorb oils, perspiration or dirt.
This acoustically superior material offers a consistent density that is moisture acclimated and inherently stable.
Richlite never shrinks, swells, warps, cups or twists over time.

Seems reasonable to me outside of collectors.
 

RJLII

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353
My LPC has an ebony FB and I wouldn't have it any other way. That said, I've played a couple acoustic guitars with Richlite and found it to be a fine fingerboard material. If I was buying a guitar that didn't have an ebony FB genealogy it would be just fine.
 

dnabbet2

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May 31, 2017
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I was about to chip in that I had a heat-split ebony board replaced with an ebony board ... that also split.

So I personally would be thrilled to have a Richlite board that isn't going to split.
 

Blues Lawyer

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I was about to chip in that I had a heat-split ebony board replaced with an ebony board ... that also split.

So I personally would be thrilled to have a Richlite board that isn't going to split.
Well.. I did it. I want to play the guitar, not stare at the guitar (or shove it under a bed in its case).

$3750 delivered. It should be here tomorrow.

Post buy rationalization incoming:

Why I said yes -

$3750 for a Les Paul Custom is a good price. In the event I do sell, I'll be able to recoup my money. All of the depreciation has been eaten by other people.

This isn't my only Les Paul Custom. My 68RI is.

I'm not a blacksmith and I don't play like a blacksmith. I don't wear down frets like a maniac. Refretting won't be an issue for a bit.

Even if I did need a refret, it probably wouldn't be a problem. In my research, I didn't just look here and on LPF. If anyone is as picky about specs as a Les Paul person, it's a Martin person. And the general consensus is that it's just as easy to refret as ebony. Martin and Taylor both use Richlite, and not just on entry-level models. Also, my Elite Stratocaster has an ebony fretboard on it. Very streaky (though that's the charm of it) because it's not dyed.

Also, the real "problem" with refretting a Les Paul Custom with Richlite would be the same as with ebony: no more nibs.

Also, as a bonus, the seller had put in a set of Pearly Gates, but is, of course, including the original 490R & 498T pickups. If l like the Pearly Gates, I can keep them in there. If I don't, I can put something else in. I've already got 490R & 498T in my 98 Standard.

Also, on the point of "real" ebony vs dyed ebony, Gibson dyes their ebony too. Pure black undyed ebony hasn't been put on production guitars in decades. My 08 SG Special has an ebony board. And I know that they didn't use undyed ebony on it. I'm pretty certain that my 06 Custom's board is similarly dyed.

So the pros seem to outweigh the cons. It's a good price, it's got a great top in a finish I've always wanted (even though I adore the tri-burst on my other Custom), and the Richlite almost certainly won't be a problem.

Now I just have to wait until tomorrow.
 

jb_abides

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Well.. I did it. I want to play the guitar, not stare at the guitar (or shove it under a bed in its case).

$3750 delivered. It should be here tomorrow.

Post buy rationalization incoming:

Why I said yes -

$3750 for a Les Paul Custom is a good price. In the event I do sell, I'll be able to recoup my money. All of the depreciation has been eaten by other people.

This isn't my only Les Paul Custom. My 68RI is.

I'm not a blacksmith and I don't play like a blacksmith. I don't wear down frets like a maniac. Refretting won't be an issue for a bit.

Even if I did need a refret, it probably wouldn't be a problem. In my research, I didn't just look here and on LPF. If anyone is as picky about specs as a Les Paul person, it's a Martin person. And the general consensus is that it's just as easy to refret as ebony. Martin and Taylor both use Richlite, and not just on entry-level models. Also, my Elite Stratocaster has an ebony fretboard on it. Very streaky (though that's the charm of it) because it's not dyed.

Also, the real "problem" with refretting a Les Paul Custom with Richlite would be the same as with ebony: no more nibs.

Also, as a bonus, the seller had put in a set of Pearly Gates, but is, of course, including the original 490R & 498T pickups. If l like the Pearly Gates, I can keep them in there. If I don't, I can put something else in. I've already got 490R & 498T in my 98 Standard.

Also, on the point of "real" ebony vs dyed ebony, Gibson dyes their ebony too. Pure black undyed ebony hasn't been put on production guitars in decades. My 08 SG Special has an ebony board. And I know that they didn't use undyed ebony on it. I'm pretty certain that my 06 Custom's board is similarly dyed.

So the pros seem to outweigh the cons. It's a good price, it's got a great top in a finish I've always wanted (even though I adore the tri-burst on my other Custom), and the Richlite almost certainly won't be a problem.

Now I just have to wait until tomorrow.

Congrats. Keep us posted! 🍑

I for one like a freaky streaky ebony board, on the right guitar. It's an opportunity to do something different with the finish and trimmings to make it blend together in an aesthetic. I wouldn't mind seeing some 'modern' takes on Gibson using this approach.

That said, I am fairly conservative on historic and reissue models or those attempting that look, so dark black or even a dye job is preferred for those applications.
 

Blues Lawyer

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Congrats. Keep us posted! 🍑

I for one like a freaky streaky ebony board, on the right guitar. It's an opportunity to do something different with the finish and trimmings to make it blend together in an aesthetic.
It's on my American Elite Stratocaster. The guitar is Olympic Pearl and has a 10"-14" compound radius neck. Most of the board is nearly black but there's a long brown stripe that wends its way all the way down.

A nice guitar and a good modern take on the Strat.
 

Subliminal lanimilbuS

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Get back with how you think the fretboard feels after a bunch of play as I am curious on that. I like streaks, too, but I also like really nice dark uniform fretboards. Especially on a black custom. I talked to my favorite store about Richlite and they have only had one problem brought in. It was about a 10 years old Gibson that someone forgot in their van for a couple days at -20F. The fretboard separated from the neck at the nut for several frets. Maybe something to do with the Richlite not shrinking as mentioned and the neck can, I don't know, but I would never hopefully leave a guitar Richlite or not in my car at that temperature.
 

Blues Lawyer

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Get back with how you think the fretboard feels after a bunch of play as I am curious on that. I like streaks, too, but I also like really nice dark uniform fretboards. Especially on a black custom. I talked to my favorite store about Richlite and they have only had one problem brought in. It was about a 10 years old Gibson that someone forgot in their van for a couple days at -20F. The fretboard separated from the neck at the nut for several frets. Maybe something to do with the Richlite not shrinking as mentioned and the neck can, I don't know, but I would never hopefully leave a guitar Richlite or not in my car at that temperature.
Yikes.

My guitars live on the walls of my office and enjoy temperatures between 65-74° and humidity of about 50%.

The only guitar I have that's ever been in a van is my beater '05 American that I take when I go on vacation.
 

Dave P

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I'm sure Richlite is fine, I've actually refretted a guitar with a Richlite board, the stuff is actually less brittle than ebony. With that said, I guess if I'm forking out big bucks for a CS LPC, I'd much prefer if it were actually ebony.
 
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