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 Post subject: Synthetic Dream Material
PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 12:00 pm 
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I am testing a possible flute making material made locally in Tacoma called Richlite. Its density at 78 pounds per cubic foot is very close to Blackwood and identical to Mopane. It comes in sheets of a minimum size of 4 X 8 feet, and up to a thickness of 3". A sheet of 1.5" material weighs over 300 ponds and costs over $1400. However, it would render about 100 flutes, with a material cost around $14.27 per flute.

I purchased one of their sample boxes and experimented this morning with the largest piece, which is made from several layers of paper dyed in different colors. It requires sharper tooling than I used but turned reasonably well with my dull ones, with just a tiny bit of shallow tear-out which sanded away easily. Boring it was a dream. It produces shavings instead of the continuous ribbon that plastics produce. Finishing went well using my usual sandpaper grades of 120 150 220 320 400 and 0000 steel wool. I further polished it with the automotive rubbing compound TR3 to a nice semigloss.

The Material Data Sheets for this material discuss some of the components used in manufacture but report no untoward results from machining etc. I did not encounter any strange odors etc. when machining this material. I used the usual precautions including an N95 mask.

On Monday I am heading down to their plant in Tacoma and going through a remnant pile to find enough for a flute or some flutes. I have high hopes for this material as something that looks attractive and can be machined into flutes with the practices I currently use. Exciting!

I left these images at full size so that it can be inspected.

Casey

Image

Image

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 12:41 pm 
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Thanks for the heads up Casey! That does sound interesting.

When you are at their plant perhaps you could ask them a bit more about the chemical composition and potential
off-gassing issues. Based on what I can find online, after a brief 5 minute search, I have the impression that the
paper substrate is infused with phenolic resin which is then cured. Phenolic resins are often made from phenol
formaldehyde. After curing they can off-gas formaldehyde, which is a human carcinogen. The rate of off-gassing
diminishes over time.

I think it would be worth learning a bit more about exactly what is in the resin they use for this particular product,
whether it contains formaldehyde, whether it off-gasses after being machined, and the expected levels of exposure
one might face working with it, or using it in a woodwind instrument.

Oh, and the other thing that might be interesting to ask them about is biodegradability. I read an article that said
that some phenolic resins can be broken down over time by white fungus ... which is a good thing for eventual
disposal of waste materials.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 2:35 pm 
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According to the Material Safety Data Sheet methanol and formaldehyde are used in the resin mix. Here is a link to the sheet:

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0042/9509/8437/files/FINAL-SDS-US_Eng_Richlite_-Skatelite_-Whalelite_-Whaleboard_-Paper_Composite_Materi....pdf

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 2:37 pm 
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It seems safe enough. Blackwood is a Rosewood and these have some carcinogens that become significant with a long term exposure. Cocus is worse.

Casey

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 2:56 pm 
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I've made many guitar fretboards out of richlite--well maybe eight. It's great stuff in a lot of ways. You can plane it and sand it, and you can polish it to a high gloss. It's fairly tough on the fret saw, but it holds the fret really well. It has to be glued with epoxy, but ordinary hardware store epoxy works. It makes a great substitute for an ebony fretboard. Gibson and Martin both used it for a while till purists got too upset. My main guitar has a richlite board.

We have multiple cutting boards made out of the stuff and we put them in the dishwasher multiple times a week. The stuff holds up really well. I don't know enough to know about any off gassing or health problems. But I'm far from an expert on such matters

I've always wondered how it would work in a flute


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 8:59 pm 
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Casey, good luck with the project, this new material looks promising as an alternative to Delrin for those who want a more "natural" material that isn't an endangered or soon-to-be endangered hardwood.

The color options are intriguing, but my guess is that you might have success with more conservative black and blonde (boxwood-ish) color options, with "Irish" flute players being such a conservative group.

Casey Burns wrote:
It seems safe enough. Blackwood is a Rosewood and these have some carcinogens that become significant with a long term exposure. Cocus is worse.

With that comment on carcinogens, can I assume you're talking about dust inhalation for flute makers with regard to cocus? And not mouth or finger contact with a finished flute?

I know some people have contact dermatitis reactions with blackwood or cocus, but I haven't heard that there is a carcinogenic hazard for players of cocus flutes (looking nervously at my cocus flute).


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 9:40 pm 
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it most likely like diamond wood, wood is paper, and diamond wood is stabilzed layered resin/glued wood , Walt sweet used to make whistles out of this stuff , heavy and tough,, somethings similar to this is used for insulators or winding protectors, in the electric field i believe, yacht rails but sun is not too great for it , of sun degrades everything right

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Last edited by cavefish on Sat Mar 07, 2020 9:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2020 9:42 pm 
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Casey Burns wrote:
It seems safe enough. Blackwood is a Rosewood and these have some carcinogens that become significant with a long term exposure. Cocus is worse.

Casey

did alot of projects with rosewood, ebony etc. didnt wear a mask, dust not good for the lungs for a few days

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2020 4:28 pm 
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With the paper being a factor, how does it handle moisture?


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2020 6:11 pm 
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awildman wrote:
With the paper being a factor, how does it handle moisture?


It sounds like there is enough resin in the material that it acts like resin-infused wood. Or even better moisture resistance, as it's basically resin-infused wood pulp (if I understand the material correctly).


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2020 7:21 pm 
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I want to show the people at Edensaw tomorrow this turned piece. And then I'll probably soak it overnight and see what that does to it. From what I have been told its pretty impervious to the point that any kind of finish will not adhere to it, unless its some sort of resin (such as epoxy) based.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 11:09 am 
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Cool project. What features are you looking for with material?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 7:38 pm 
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This material has many features that I like in a flute making material: density (very close to blackwood), stability and resistance to cracking, ease of machining, odor-free while machining, ability to take a polish, and the ability to deform with a careful application of heat (this is to ovalize the bore shape). Its a little resistant to turning unless one's tools are sharp and the correct angles. It doesn't seem to produce a continuous ribbon the way Delrin and other plastic are known for. It finishes up quickly and its durable. They use this material for skateboarding surfaces!

Today I went down to one of Edensaw's warehouses in Tacoma and filled up the back seat with various remnants - some a dark slate color, some reddish, and some banded pieces similar to the ones in the pictures above. I brought home enough for about a dozen flutes and maybe some bagpipes. I look forqard to making a flute from it later this month.

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Coming Soon: An Ergonomic Low G flute!
http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2020 9:31 am 
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Thanks. Please let us know how the flute turns out.

Do you think a flute made of Richlite will be less prone to issues with temperature and humidity than the normal flute woods? Or about the same?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2020 12:56 pm 
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WaltP wrote:
Thanks. Please let us know how the flute turns out.

Do you think a flute made of Richlite will be less prone to issues with temperature and humidity than the normal flute woods? Or about the same?



I can't speak for a flute but as mentioned I've made a bunch of guitar fretboards out of the stuff and we have several butting boards which have been going into the dishwasher multiple times a week for a decade. It's extremely tough and durable stuff and shows no signs of delamination despite again multiple dishwasher cycles a week over a period of ten years. It does get some knife wear and some scratches but it's structurally sound. I can't imagine it would have even the slightest difficulty from use in a flute.

My experiences have never involved turning it but I've planed it, sawed it, drilled it, radiused the fretboard (involves sanding or machining a curve into the top surface) sawn fret slots, tapped in frets, and polished it to various levels of sheen. It machines very nicely and consistently but I would think it would take sharp tools and would wear them pretty quickly, but probably not as quickly as some wood with silica in it. I've never noticed an odor from it.

A lot of guitar makers swear by this stuff: Rocklite (https://www.rocklite.co.uk/) which is made from wood fibers in some sort of matrix. I posted about it before and some flute makers here expressed an interest. Has anyone tried it? They offer billiard cue blanks, so I assume they could manage a flute blank


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