Review of a new handle material (Ritchlite)

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
A couple months ago I stumbled upon what I thought would be a great new handle material. The material is called Ritchlite. It's a paper laminate material, that is inexpensive, and touted as being "sustainable". Personally that doesn't mean anything to me, but I suppose it may to some. It is available in a number of mixed colors, and thicknesses. I purchased 3/16" thick, in Black/Red for my purposes.

So, I thought I'd give it a try, with the idea that it would become the handle material for the newest member of my EBK series of knives. So, as a test bed, I finished out one of the new knives, and used this material for the handle scales.

The material is VERY easy to cut with any type of fine toothed saw that will cut wood. It does exhibit some ragged flaring along the cut edges.

I attached the material to a prepped tang with Acraglas, and found that the material absorbed a significant amount of the Acraglas. This indicates to me that when finished, the material needs some type of sealer/finish to prevent from absorbing any liquids it might come into contact with.

Once the Acragls was cured, it was time to finish out the handle. I started with a 50 grit on the flat platen, just to taper the handle material, making is thinner in the front, and thicker at the back. I also went all around the perimeter/edges to clean them up, and that's where the issues began. Even with a sharp/new 50 grit belt, running a VERY low speed, the edges of the material scorched/burnt to an awful looking caramel/yellow color, and all the nearby red layers turned a dirty yellow. It also smelled like a smoldering piece of paper. YUK!
Next I switch to a new 220 grit belt on the slack belt attachment, and started to radius/finish out the handle...... any time I got near or on an edge....you guessed it....scorch! I put on another new 220 belt, and slowed the speed to less than 10% on my controller (you could literally read the print on the back of the belt as it went by).... And then is was just touch it a bit on the belt, back off and wait a bit for the material to cool, and back...... long story short, it took 4 new 220 belts, and nearly an hour to finish out one handle, in order to keep the material from scorching.
I also did not like the fact that the "red" came out looking like a bubble gum pink color.

I think is COULD be a great handle material, but to be so, I think it needs a formula change to a phenolic resin like a true paper micarta. As it is, for me, it requires far too much time, and consumes too many belts, when compared to G10 or micarta. (although G10 and Micarta dust is horrible, I prefer either as a handle material to the Ritchlite....... and you should ALWAYS wear a respirator no matter what you are grinding!) (You mileage may vary)
I placed an order for G10..... my only decision now, for the new generation of EBKs.....is do I use Black/Blue as I always have on EBKs? Or Black/Red?

I didn't get a pic of it sanded to 600 and polished, but it does come out slick as glass.....until it meets a liquid.....any spot the liquid touches, the material slightly soaks it up, and it leaves a dark spot. Below are pics of bead blasted, with tones down the "bubble gum" appearance of the red, and a pic of it after applying a coat of Tru-Oil...

Bead Blasted:


After a coat of Tru-Oil:
 

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
What a shame that it turned out to be a difficult material. It’s great looking stuff. I tried a similar liner material some years back because it’s hard to find liners with color that pops. It all seemed great until I started shaping the handle on the belt and the liner material melted.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
I hear ya!! Used to be.....that when someone brought out a new knifemaking product, they would actually put it in the hands of knifemakers for testing..... guess that's too much trouble anymore..... now we just waste money to find out something is unusable. :rolleyes:
 

J. Doyle

Dealer - Purveyor
That bead blast look doesn't look too bad....but I see what you mean about the bubble gum color. That's unfortunate.

I tested some pure black richlite. I kinda felt like it was a crappier paper micarta so it never made it for handle material. It might have some applications as spacer/accent material but not much beyond that IMO.

It started to get popular recently when Martin guitars started using it for fretboard as a "sustainable" alternative to ebony "with the look and feel of ebony".....not sure how anyone could ever confuse the two?
 

cdent

Well-Known Member
Nice walk through Ed. I know you can fiddle with lighting and get some of your nice pictures. But, between the material/time cost and not quite knock your socks off looks, maybe run don't walk away? I think you came out way ahead by testing it out. I'm probably a blue guy, a nice clean red-n-black handle on your wedge point ebk would be slick!

I can still clearly recall looking over a very expensive knife on a high end name makers table. He had used a couple of tasteful thin red spacers on either side of a premiun musk ox handle. Red coloring had bled a good quarter inch into the musk ox, i suppose it sort of a faded into bubblegum look. I bet he would have rather learned that on some sort of test piece.

Here's hoping this bug fizzles out, and soon, Craig
 

Nick Riggi

Well-Known Member
I bought a piece of Richlite last year the the NY Custom Knife Show- used it in a few builds- including this little neck knife. I found it easy to work with and finish- maybe a bit cleaner than G-10 and more economical.
 

Attachments

Smallshop

KNIFE MAKER
I bought a piece of Richlite last year the the NY Custom Knife Show- used it in a few builds- including this little neck knife. I found it easy to work with and finish- maybe a bit cleaner than G-10 and more economical.
how did you finish the top surfaces?
 

Les Medley

New Member
Ed -- I do not have a dog in this fight, but I am surprised about your experience with Richlite. My wife is in the custom cabinetry field, and a few months back, I saw some scrap from an architectural millwork piece. I thought it was a great color, and I called the company.

Their customer service rep was clear that I could use a router, lathe, or mill on it, but that anything more than fine grit grinding was not suggested. It is a shame that you did not get the same information I did. Might have saved you some money and headaches. Les
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
There is no fight...... I am simply passing along my experiences with a material that is offered as a knife handle material, and hoping the process to possibly help others. It would indeed have been helpful to speak to the company that produces it prior to buying/trying, but then again, for knifemakers, there is nothing like actually holding, feeling, working, and finishing a product to find all of it's highs and lows.
 

Nick Riggi

Well-Known Member
how did you finish the top surfaces?
Ted, went to 600 grit on belts ( like all my handles) This material looked great at that point so I didnt hand sand at all-just went straight to the buffer- yellow wheel first then cotton wheel with dab of polish on it. Honestly, I was impressed with this stuff overall.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
Based on the pic, I can see why you didn't run into the same issues of scorching that I did. I think it depends on how it's used, so it appears to work well for your type of handles. I just couldn't get past the scorching......even with fresh belts and slow speeds. For me, the little extra cost of G10 is well worth it compared to the Ritchlite.......but again, mileage will vary from maker to maker. ;)
 

Taz575

Well-Known Member
I wanted to chime in here. I have used some Richlite and wanted to add some info.

First use of Richlite. Black/Maple IIRC? Every time I went to sand it, it turned tan on the lighter part often, even with little pressure/heat generated. It would burn and even trying to hand sand the burn off didn't seem to work :( I took this one to 400 on the belts at first. I switched to new, fresh belts and very light pressure and it did a little better. I did a lot of hand sanding, and it still has that darker "burned" look to it in some areas. Really frustrated me! I ended up at 220 off the belt and then dropped down to 120 hand sanding up to 600 hand sanding. Really frusturated after working this one, but there is a learning curve to all new materials!
richlite black white.jpg

Try #2. I used some of the blue canyon. You can see the burned edges around the pin holes. I was using an older drill bit. Switching to a newer drill bit solved this. Started with fresher belts and cleaned them more often and it went better. Went to 220 grit and then hand sanding from there. The material will buff up with a buffing wheel and matchless pink or other very fine compounds, but it's a weirder look. Its like a semiglosss? I may just leave it 600 grit hand in the future and then Tung Oil it. Tru Oil may work well, too.
10905-124612-canyon_richlite.jpg

This is the Black/Blue Richlite. I learned from my first 2 other handles. I got a new motor and went from a 2" drive pulley down to a 1 3/4" drive pulley and that slowed the belt down enough! Going to a 5" pulley would have worked, too on the drive shaft. This stuff likes slower speeds! New drill bit, no burn look around the holes. I am running a home built 2x36" sander with a 1750 rpm motor running a 1 3/4" drive pulley and 4" driveshaft pulley, 3" drive wheel. I started with a 40 grit ceramic, then a 80 grit AO, then 120 ceramic, then 120 j flex, 220 j flex with light pressure. I use a 2" contact wheel to do the profile shaping and contouring and the slack belt for cleanup. I kept cleaning the belts frequently, too. Not much burning visible like before. I dropped down to Norton 3X sandpaper 220 grit, then 320 grit DuraGold sandpaper and then went to 600 grit with the same DuraGold paper. I believe this picture was after buffing, but I cleaned everything with GooGone, so it made the handle more matte looking than shiny. Couple coats of Tung Oil for the finish and it's good to go!
Zhen2.jpg

The darker colors seem to do better with not showing the burned look like the black/white one did. I have people who love the black/blue look, but I could only find black/blue in G10! I hate G10 because it kills my bandsaw blades and I have to hacksaw and belt sand it to profile, which takes much longer and I don't like the feel of G10 in the hand; it feels to "hard" if that makes sense?

I have used Damagrip in the past (more color options), but the layers are thick, so there are less layers visible usually. It works very much like the stuff I used to make using MAS Epoxy Low Viscosity epoxy; very fuzzy feeling at lower grits!

I will use Richlite for some of my kitchen or fillet knife orders for the black/blue people like, but I prefer Micarta or other laminates. I would recommend staying away from lighter colors since anything seems to make it burn and discolor! I need to run my grinder at the slowest speed and go slow and let the belt to the work and clean the belt frequently and still did a lot of hand sanding. So it's cheaper than Micarta and works OK at very slow speeds, but you spend more time on it than other materials. I will work as a blue/black option; I prefer to work this over the G10 I have used in the past. I just got some Norplex Black/Blue G10 that I am going to try.
 
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