a biT rich(LiTe)
I was reading your feature on rosewood and it got me thinking about my all-original 1980 Gibson ‘The Paul’ Firebrand Deluxe. My friend just got a 2014 Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul that no longer comes with an ebony fretboard – it has a Richlite ’board instead. So where does that put the Firebrand? It was made as a budget guitar, but the Paul had a walnut body and ebony ’board and the Deluxe was all-mahogany with an ebony ’board and had T-Top pickups. I just think it’s crazy that a £3,500 Gibson Custom no longer comes with an ebony ’board, but a guitar that cost $529 new a few years ago had one as standard. John Mcclung, via email It’s tempting to say that the world of 1980, in which it was possible to use mahogany and ebony on a budget guitar, led directly to the world of 2017 that needs to use Richlite! Guitars aren’t really the main offenders here – the furniture industry, for example, has used far more of those dwindling commodities. Nonetheless, while hardwood trees take hundreds of years to grow, chairs, tables (and, yes, guitars) take considerably less time to make and sell. A more sustainable approach to sourcing tonewoods and greater acceptance of alternatives by consumers seems to be essential today.
If Richlite is a step too far, there are plenty of alternative tonewoods coming to light at the moment that have good potential in terms of sustainability while retaining great tone. Check out the paulownia/spruce body of the Brad Paisley Tele on p98, for example. Likewise, Taylor is to switch to the rosewood-like copafera as a replacement in the back and sides of its lower-end guitars.