Why Do So Many People Want Nitrocellulose Lacquer On Elecric Guitars

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  • AlexO said:
    Nitro was what was on the "golden age of guitars."

    We all know we can't get away from that as the way things should be. If it was Poly that would be the finish we all want


    Let's be honest, this the real reason. 
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  • And I’m out here spraying water based like a nutter
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  • ThePrettyDamnedThePrettyDamned Frets: 6157
    edited October 14
    And I’m out here spraying water based like a nutter
    I'm probably going to use a water-based acrylic on a new guitar. I imagine it's a bit tougher to get a beautiful gloss due to having to avoid sanding through each layer, but I'm hopeful I can do well and will be practising a lot... 

    Edit: also, just because lots of people like the past, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do better ;) 
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 334
    Off topic a touch - I hate gloss paint at home on the wood work - I use satinwood - Not sure what chemical make up is in the paint - I dare say @SteveRobinson and/or @GoldenEraGuitars might shed some light on this 

    My point is that on my bath room door, where often a damp towel might be hanging, that the finish has naturally distressed over the last 2/3 years since I last painted it - It looks so effective and can imagine it looking nice on a good old Tele reissue
    It isn't actually off-topic at all.  I have always used Dulux Satinwood for doors, skirtings, etc.  Being less reflective, the satin finish doesn't show up slight runs or undulations as much.  When I was repainting my bathroom door and kitchen skirting boards around 2013 I bought some white Dulux Satinwood only to discover that it was the "quick dry" water-based kind rather than the old kind of solvent-based paint.  When I say "water-based", I suspect it still has some kind of evaporating solvent in it, but it certainly doesn't get you high or sting your eyes while it is drying.   I had roughened up the existing layer(s) of hardened gloss paint on the door with sandpaper to give it a key, but the water based stuff was terrible to try and paint on.  It was like trying to smear mayonnaise onto glass.  It started drying very quickly where it was almost impossible to blend in the runs or thicker applications but, despite appearing to be drying it took ages to actually do so.

    Suspecting I had a bad batch of the paint I complained to Dulux.  They replied saying that they would send me a voucher to go back to B&Q and get a can of the solvent-based Satinwood, but they did stress that their traditional solvent-based "gloss" paints were not the same as I may be used to of old.  Pressure on paint manufacturers from the EU and other worldwide bodies to reduce the amounts of volatile solvents from paint and varnish had forced them to change their gloss paints and they could no longer guarantee that white and light shades of paint would stay true to their original shade and were likely to yellow much faster than old solvent gloss paints.  The only white or light "gloss" paint they were confident would retain their whiteness or shade was water-based stuff that always is faster drying, but never achieves a rock hard coating.  They also said that they had had to offer free instructional courses to professional decorators to teach them the best methods to apply the new modified paint formulations to achieve the same results they managed with traditional gloss.

    I eventually managed to level out the paint on the bathroom door with the new water-based Satinwood using a roller.  The paint has never truly dried hard, and the water-based clear varnish I used on my bannisters still has a slightly sticky feel after almost 10 years.  I do notice that water splashes on the door of my bathroom show temporarily as water marks even after I dry the door off with a towel.  Despite what Dulux said, the paint has yellowed slightly since application but it's a nicer yellowing than very old white gloss would be.

    What I have noticed is that the water-based clear varnishes you get these days are milky when applied and have a slightly satin sheen even if advertised as glossy.  Even though they appear to dry clear, I did a side-by-side comparison on a piece of pine using water-based and solvent-based clear varnishes, and the water-based stuff is definitely not absolutely clear when dry.  It has a very slight opacity to it that actually enhanced the already richly darkened pine bannisters better than absolutely clear varnish would have done.  Had my bannisters been sunburst, I have a feeling that the water-based varnish would have looked better than rock-hard clear solvent-based varnish.

    Perhaps that is what makes some old "nitro" finished Fender guitars look better than the thick glassy "toffee apple" (good metaphor) "dipped" finishes on later Fenders, i.e. a slight opacity with less reflection.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 57977
    munckee said:
    @icbm my 76 strat's finish is worn.  I know the chap I bought it from who said he never touched it in terms of relicing but it was played to death by his friend who had it before him.  I would have thought it was poly but he suggested it was acrylic.

    There certainly seems to be a solid clearcoat under the paint, is it likely to be acrylic over poly?

    https://i.imgur.com/Pd6bFci.jpg ;
    If I remember correctly this is polyurethane over polyester sealer. The sealer is noticeably harder than the colour coat and they quite often come off like that. As far as I know Fender was only using polyurethane top finishes in the 1970s.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • TrentGuitarsTrentGuitars Frets: 954
    edited October 14
    All paint is gloss natively, it’s matting agents that give you satin and matt  sheens.
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  • GoldenEraGuitarsGoldenEraGuitars Frets: 7056
    tFB Trader
    All paint is gloss natively, it’s matting agents that give you satin and matt  sheens.
    … and for god sake, DONT mention “plasticisers”! :D

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  • All paint is gloss natively, it’s matting agents that give you satin and matt  sheens.
    … and for god sake, DONT mention “plasticisers”! :D
    Hold on let me get the lab coat 
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 334
    edited October 14
    I'm actually quite interested in how "matting agents" can give a satin or matt sheen.  I have often wondered this, but dismissed it as unimportant to my daily life in the broad scope of stuff that I really need to be thinking about.  I'm quite sure there will be a "how do they do it?" page somewhere out there I should really look for while it is on my mind and before I have to think about making dinner and going out to work.

    Quick Google.  Companies have been using Hydrated magnesium silicate Mg3Si4O10(OH)2, but other companies have developed a matting agent derived from ground olive seeds.

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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    Why do people always assume that anyone with a nitro finished relic guitar is either posing or trying to pass it off as a vintage guitar?  It's an aesthetic choice the buyer makes at the time of purchase. I've never known anyone playing a relic down at the Dog & Dart claim their Strat is a genuine 1954 model.
    Cause the "it's just an aesthetic choice" thing is just something they come up with to justify it to themselves and other guitar players.

    In reality they know anyone who isn't a guitarist, so 99% of people who will ever see their guitar, will assume it's vintage and they like that.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    All paint is gloss natively, it’s matting agents that give you satin and matt  sheens.
    Nice I find that quite interesting, would never have guessed. If anything I'd have thought the glossiness was added.

    My brother (a painter) would be ashamed of me.
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    The majority of vintage fender custom colours were GM paints. 

    The majority (if not all) of the metallics were acrylic base coats, early fender experiments included not using any white primer under the metallics and not clear coating over them either. Both proved to be a waste as it was cheaper to primer with white then use base coat. And not clear coating over the acrylic didn’t allow the metallics to “pop”. Both were aimed to save money of course. However, clear nitrocellulose was used over the top hence the yellowing/browning affect. 

    The major difference between poly-ester/poly-urethane finishes and single pack lacquer finishes is the former will not continue to dry up and gas out over time. They cure within weeks (usually chemically hardened fully at 6 weeks). Single pack cellulose will always get thinner, more brittle and wear 10 times quicker than any product that uses a body and hardener. 

    Spray ANY material thin enough and you’ll get similar traits to nitrocellulose… chipping, checking, dings etc. But it usually takes longer to wear through. 

    Most small builders are happy to use nitrocellulose and other single pack lacquers and paints because they’re easy to apply, easy to repair and are very easily accessible. 

    No one should be trying to convince anyone about the pros and cons of different finishes on a guitar. I enjoy both urethane and nitrocellulose in equal measures. If you believe that all the tone is in the finish of your guitar then you have read to many guitar forums, there are too many variables. 

    A thick cellulose finish will wear just as badly as a thick urethane finish. The chips will look like meteor craters, it’s unlike to craze and you might even notice the weight. 

    I would say for most people, the preconceived issue behind a urethane finish is that it’ll be very thick while a nitrocellulose finish will be thin. But again, that’s another fallacy. 
    A question for anyone, not just you (although you're one of the most likely people to know the answer): when thinner finishes are better and are pretty much preferred by everyone, why do most standard price range guitars have such a thick finish? I would have thought, if anything, they'd want to have as thin a finish as possible to save money on the paint, no?

    Not talking about really cheap guitars under 200 quid, I mean ones that are seen as quality like, say, a 500 quid Fender.
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  • GoldenEraGuitarsGoldenEraGuitars Frets: 7056
    tFB Trader
    thegummy said:
    All paint is gloss natively, it’s matting agents that give you satin and matt  sheens.
    Nice I find that quite interesting, would never have guessed. If anything I'd have thought the glossiness was added.

    My brother (a painter) would be ashamed of me.
    There’s a few good facts in this thread, there’s a few incorrect statements too. But there aren’t enough professional sprayers in the world to go around correcting all the shite you read on guitar forum painting threads ;) 

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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    There’s a few good facts in this thread, there’s a few incorrect statements too. But there aren’t enough professional sprayers in the world to go around correcting all the shite you read on guitar forum painting threads ;) 
    LOL I always take an open minded but sceptical approach to stuff I read on forums.

    This forum is actually great for having a select few that can be trusted as pretty much fact and also has a generally very high standard of poster anyway.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 57977
    thegummy said:

    A question for anyone, not just you (although you're one of the most likely people to know the answer): when thinner finishes are better and are pretty much preferred by everyone, why do most standard price range guitars have such a thick finish? I would have thought, if anything, they'd want to have as thin a finish as possible to save money on the paint, no?
    The material cost is small compared to the labour cost. A thick finish covers everything that's under it and can be polished quickly and easily without the risk of going through it. A thin finish requires much more care in surface preparation and polishing because it will reveal any defects, so it's cheaper to slap it on thick.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    ICBM said:
    thegummy said:

    A question for anyone, not just you (although you're one of the most likely people to know the answer): when thinner finishes are better and are pretty much preferred by everyone, why do most standard price range guitars have such a thick finish? I would have thought, if anything, they'd want to have as thin a finish as possible to save money on the paint, no?
    The material cost is small compared to the labour cost. A thick finish covers everything that's under it and can be polished quickly and easily without the risk of going through it. A thin finish requires much more care in surface preparation and polishing because it will reveal any defects, so it's cheaper to slap it on thick.
    Makes a lot of sense.

    Do you know if standard Mexican Fenders are more likely to have a thicker finish than standard American Fenders; or if solid colour finishes are more likely to have a thicker finish than translucent/burst finishes?

    I have a Mexican solid coloured body and an American burst body and the latter's finish seems to be quite a lot thinner but it could be for either of those reasons or just luck.
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  • GoldenEraGuitarsGoldenEraGuitars Frets: 7056
    tFB Trader
    thegummy said:
    ICBM said:
    thegummy said:

    A question for anyone, not just you (although you're one of the most likely people to know the answer): when thinner finishes are better and are pretty much preferred by everyone, why do most standard price range guitars have such a thick finish? I would have thought, if anything, they'd want to have as thin a finish as possible to save money on the paint, no?
    The material cost is small compared to the labour cost. A thick finish covers everything that's under it and can be polished quickly and easily without the risk of going through it. A thin finish requires much more care in surface preparation and polishing because it will reveal any defects, so it's cheaper to slap it on thick.
    Makes a lot of sense.

    Do you know if standard Mexican Fenders are more likely to have a thicker finish than standard American Fenders; or if solid colour finishes are more likely to have a thicker finish than translucent/burst finishes?

    I have a Mexican solid coloured body and an American burst body and the latter's finish seems to be quite a lot thinner but it could be for either of those reasons or just luck.
    Something that every single painting thread omits - the painter themselves.

    The thickness of a finish not only comes down to the material being sprayed but the painter too. Once a coloured base coat goes onto a 4 piece body it’s all hidden. But a heavy handed sprayer can make all the difference between a “normal” thickness of finish and a very thick finish. 

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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 4216
    Something that every single painting thread omits - the painter themselves.

    The thickness of a finish not only comes down to the material being sprayed but the painter too. Once a coloured base coat goes onto a 4 piece body it’s all hidden. But a heavy handed sprayer can make all the difference between a “normal” thickness of finish and a very thick finish. 
    One of my favourite instagram things is a painter from the Fender Custom Shop. It's a joy to watch, such skill.

    Makes it look so effortless but it's clear that if I tried it it would be incredibly difficult, take days and end up only worthy of the bin.
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  • GoldenEraGuitarsGoldenEraGuitars Frets: 7056
    tFB Trader
    thegummy said:
    Something that every single painting thread omits - the painter themselves.

    The thickness of a finish not only comes down to the material being sprayed but the painter too. Once a coloured base coat goes onto a 4 piece body it’s all hidden. But a heavy handed sprayer can make all the difference between a “normal” thickness of finish and a very thick finish. 
    One of my favourite instagram things is a painter from the Fender Custom Shop. It's a joy to watch, such skill.

    Makes it look so effortless but it's clear that if I tried it it would be incredibly difficult, take days and end up only worthy of the bin.
    I couldn’t do Jays job. He’s bound to have a daily target to hit, for me that would suck the enjoyment out of the job. It’s good to watch someone else do it, it’s very fun to do and I think you could do it no problem. Once you have the gun in your hand it mainly comes down to feel. 

    And if you can spray a guitar body you could learn how to spray anything else quite easily.

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  • francerfrancer Frets: 297
    thegummy said:
    Why do people always assume that anyone with a nitro finished relic guitar is either posing or trying to pass it off as a vintage guitar?  It's an aesthetic choice the buyer makes at the time of purchase. I've never known anyone playing a relic down at the Dog & Dart claim their Strat is a genuine 1954 model.
    Cause the "it's just an aesthetic choice" thing is just something they come up with to justify it to themselves and other guitar players.

    In reality they know anyone who isn't a guitarist, so 99% of people who will ever see their guitar, will assume it's vintage and they like that.
    99% of people who aren’t guitarists looking at a guitar probably couldn’t be less interested and if you’re lucky they might just remember what colour the guitar was 5mins later.

    I prefer vintage spec’d nitro guitars for all the usual irrational reasons, and yes I like the idea that my guitar appears vintage, however I’ve no interest in trying to fool other people. If I'm honest the only person I’m really trying to kid is myself, but the pleasure I get from owning and playing them is absolutely real, sorry you don’t seem to approve of that.
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