a biT rich(LiTe)

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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.

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