We have experimented with carrying “wood substitutes” in the past but never had much success. Clearly, times have changed as these two great products are selling briskly, and finding their way into a wide variety of guitar maker’s shops.
There are two main reasons for their popularity. The first is that both product lines are immune to the import and export hassles falling on some other woods, most notably, Rosewood. Secondly, the dark, even color is not readily found in true wood fingerboards. Finally, it should be noted that both products can strengthen the overall stability of the neck as they are less susceptible to changes in humidity compared to regular wood fingerboards.
Richlite has been in steady use by a number of manufacturers. It’s a phenolic based material with exceptional hardness. It can be a little rough on edge tools but is generally considered very machinable. It polishes out to a very slick, smooth surface and holds frets well. It can be glued with regular wood glue, but you will need to scuff the surface prior to gluing. It’s made in the US, the product we sell is environmentally certified, and it is 100% consistent and will not shrink over time. We offer it for fingerboard blanks but have found it is also great for use as a jig making material! We have it available in black and brown colors.
Rocklite which is made in the U.K., is newer to market. It is a little lighter in weight than true Ebony but has the very convincing feel of real wood (where Richlite can be a little synthetic feeling). There is visual evidence of something like ‘grain’ as it is made from real wood fiber. It too can be glued with wood glue, is environmentally certified, 100% consistent and will not shrink over time.