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Thread: Differences between finishes?

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Corbic's Avatar
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    Default Differences between finishes?

    What are the tonal differences between Polyurethane finishes and Nitrocellulose lacquer? Is it a huge difference if there is any?

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    Ultimate Tone Member mnbaseball91's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Poly dries rock hard and is stiff, much like plastic. It goes on very thick and only takes a couple coats to build up, although it's highly toxic. It's quick to apply and very durable, but because it's so hard it doesn't resonate very well.

    Nitro lacquer is thinner and takes more coats to build up. Whereas poly cures pretty much completely within a week, nitro continues to flash off and thin for 40 or 50 years, although it's usually at least 90% hardened within a month. Because it's thinner and more flexible, it resonates better and has a more woody tone.

    Acrylic lacquer is similar to nitro lacquer, but it's water based so it's better for the enviornment. It's also thinner, so some acoustic luthiers prefer it over nitro for it's sonic qualities. You won't really notice a tonal difference in a solid body.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat
    Believe it or not, I started on drums. Then I decided to become a musician.

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    Tone Member briand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    That is a loaded question that will get a lot of poly bashing for some reason. IMO, nitro on acoustic instruments is a must but on an electric guitar there is no tone difference in the two IF POLY IS SPRAYED THIN. Not coated on like a lot of people/guitar companies do.

    I personally have no complaints about ether.
    Brian

  4. #4
    theodie
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    People need to remember, its not how much is sprayed on, its how much is left on!!! I would personally take a thin finish of Poly over ANYTHING!!!!!

    The bad rap that poly gets is becasue guitar companies just cake that Sh1t on there!!!! Take a look at a poly finish from Roxy (the company that finishes USACG parts), now thats a nice finish!

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    Ultimate Tone Member mnbaseball91's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    ^Deffinatly true. Poly always looks plasticy to me, but that doesn't mean you can't still make it look good.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat
    Believe it or not, I started on drums. Then I decided to become a musician.

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    Banned big_black's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    There are theories out there that a thicker poly actually helps the tone in some woods by killing the highs in ash and alder. I don't know, sounds plausible.

    For myself, it really depends. On a Fender type guitar, I tend to prefer poly. They can take more abuse, so they usually end up getting more abuse. Poly finishes protect really well. A nitro finish will dull from leaving your arm on it too long...it needs a lot of care to look good. I have not done an A/B test on the tones of the two.
    Last edited by big_black; 10-28-2005 at 11:15 PM.

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    GuitarArtologist kmcguitars's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    The debate rage's on! Forget about the theory's and urban ledgends and I go right the facts and pro's and con's.
    Poly- wears better
    Nitro- easier to spot repair
    poly-easier to apply
    Nitro- time consuming to apply
    poly- difficult to strip
    Nitro- come's off with paint striper

    Now My opinion's , I like Nitro better. A good Nitro finish adds a bit of class and elengance to a Instrumment. In much the same way figured tops and exotic woods do. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you can hear a Sonic difference from a 1/64" of poly to 1/64" Nitro? You got some sharp Ear's.
    I Love the smell of Nitro in the morning. It smells like A......... Napalm Raid

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    Moe's Bluesman Curly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by theodie
    Take a look at a poly finish from Roxy (the company that finishes USACG parts), now thats a nice finish!
    I agree ... my blonde Roxy ash strat finish is thin and resonant

    there are lots of knowledgeable folks who prefer nitro, but yeah, the main thing is probably to keep the finish thin
    "music heals"
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    Tommyologist
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    I never know what to think of the different finnishes.... i had a guy that sprayed pianos spray my warmoth strat in Nitro.... did a great job!!! Only charged me $90 Canadian to spray the neck!!!! I love that sound of my Warmoth which has a thin coat on it... I also love the sound of my 88 Fender American standard Strat that has an inch of finnish on it...

    WhoFan

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    Ultimate Tone Member mnbaseball91's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by kmcguitars
    The debate rage's on! Forget about the theory's and urban ledgends and I go right the facts and pro's and con's.
    Poly- wears better
    Nitro- easier to spot repair
    poly-easier to apply
    Nitro- time consuming to apply
    poly- difficult to strip
    Nitro- come's off with paint striper

    Now My opinion's , I like Nitro better. A good Nitro finish adds a bit of class and elengance to a Instrumment. In much the same way figured tops and exotic woods do. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you can hear a Sonic difference from a 1/64" of poly to 1/64" Nitro? You got some sharp Ear's.
    I Love the smell of Nitro in the morning. It smells like A......... Napalm Raid
    It's a little deceiving to say that poly is easier to apply. With poly, you need a spray booth, respirator, compressor, and spray gun. With nitro, you can get a factory finish (or even better) with rattle cans and a charcoal mask.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat
    Believe it or not, I started on drums. Then I decided to become a musician.

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    dreamonologist
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corbic
    What are the tonal differences between Polyurethane finishes and Nitrocellulose lacquer? Is it a huge difference if there is any?


    Accoustic guitars with a thin nitro finish are more more resonant and lively than ones with thick poly finishes. A guitar with a thick poly finish will still be bright.... but the treble frequencies are a lot harsher, it's hard to describe -- less filled out. Muddier. I've had three electric guitars where I sanded or stripped down the finish on the neck. The guitar gained more upper mids, more clarity, and more sustain.

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    Tone Member briand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by mnbaseball91
    It's a little deceiving to say that poly is easier to apply. With poly, you need a spray booth, respirator, compressor, and spray gun. With nitro, you can get a factory finish (or even better) with rattle cans and a charcoal mask.
    Hmmm, I spray poly and nitro with a paint gun and my respirator has charcoal cartridges. So I am assuming you are talking about the same thing with the mask thing.

    I did not think what kmcguitars said was deceiving. It was strait forward with out a fifty word answer plus I know what he is talking about. I also assume since he did not talk about rattle cans that he uses a paint gun setup too.

    It is deceiving to say it is easier and could be better then factory to use rattle cans.

    Not to be a butt. IMO. If you showed me a guitar and I asked how you finished it and you said with a rattle can. I would go, hmmm! Now if you said with a paint gun. I would say WOW that is nice, because I know how much work and equipment that goes into a paint gun finish.

    If I was in a guitar store and they where selling guitars with a rattle can finish and a paint gun finish at the same price, I would go right on down the road but that’s just me.

    IMO! Comparing rattle can against paint gun finishes is like saying a shade tree mechanic is the same as a certified mechanic.
    Brian

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    Ultimate Tone Member mnbaseball91's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't saying there was anything wrong with what he said, just that there's more involved than just how many coats it takes and how well it blends with the previous coats. As far as the mask thing, I use just a regular charcaol painting mask when I spray nitro, not an actual respirator. If that's all you use and you spray poly regularly, it will build up in your lungs much like tar from cigarretts.

    As far as the difference between aerosol and spray gun finishing, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Poly is typically too thick to be sprayed effectively from an aerosol can.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat
    Believe it or not, I started on drums. Then I decided to become a musician.

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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by briand
    Hmmm, I spray poly and nitro with a paint gun and my respirator has charcoal cartridges. So I am assuming you are talking about the same thing with the mask thing.
    Hmmm..

    Taking a big risk there. UK Health and Safety regulations won't allow you to spray this stuff without a compressor fed mask to create a positive air gradient.

    I prefer to work with nitro but there is an alternative. RPC lacquer (it stands for Rustin's Plastic Coating, which makes it sound a bit cheesy but it isn't) has a fast build and is very tough. It has a high solids content and polishes well, unlike poly and acrylic which need a lot of work and never buff up adequately IMHO.

    For necks I favour either RPC or gunstock oil.
    Last edited by octavedoctor; 10-29-2005 at 03:45 PM.
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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    [QUOTE=briandNot to be a butt. IMO. If you showed me a guitar and I asked how you finished it and you said with a rattle can. I would go, hmmm! Now if you said with a paint gun. I would say WOW that is nice, because I know how much work and equipment that goes into a paint gun finish.[/QUOTE]

    It doesn't really matter what you apply the stuff with though, it's how much work you are prepared to put into the rubbing down and polishing. A rattle can won't produce as neat a finish as a spray gun and booth but that can be overcome with skilled polishing so you can't really judge it.
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    Tone Member briand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by mnbaseball91
    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't saying there was anything wrong with what he said, just that there's more involved than just how many coats it takes and how well it blends with the previous coats. As far as the mask thing, I use just a regular charcaol painting mask when I spray nitro, not an actual respirator. If that's all you use and you spray poly regularly, it will build up in your lungs much like tar from cigarretts.

    As far as the difference between aerosol and spray gun finishing, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. Poly is typically too thick to be sprayed effectively from an aerosol can.
    Ok, that was a better description on the mask and as I stated before I use a respirator with 95% filtration efficiency.

    As for nitro and poly I like both of them.

    As for the difference between rattle can and spray gun finishes. IMO, spray gun finish is a craft that takes a lot of time in the booth to master plus the time to learn about the paint and additives and how they relate to each other. Rattle cans not very hard to figure out. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum of finishing.

    I do not think a rattle can finished guitar is any ware near, worth as much as a spray gun finish. That’s all I am saying.

    No rattle cans for me.

    Sorry, for the misunderstanding.
    Brian

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    Tone Member briand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by octavedoctor
    It doesn't really matter what you apply the stuff with though, it's how much work you are prepared to put into the rubbing down and polishing. A rattle can won't produce as neat a finish as a spray gun and booth but that can be overcome with skilled polishing so you can't really judge it.
    So what you’re saying is you would pay $1500.00 + for a rattle can finished guitar?
    Brian

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    Krankitupologist krankguitarist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Quote Originally Posted by briand
    So what you’re saying is you would pay $1500.00 + for a rattle can finished guitar?
    Ya know...If it looked, sounded, and played like a 1500.00+ guitar...I wouldn't care what methods they used to finish it. Seems to me that the end result is whats important.

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    Ultimate Tone Member mnbaseball91's Avatar
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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    These were finished with rattle cans:






    Duplicolor car paint to be exact.
    Quote Originally Posted by LesStrat
    Believe it or not, I started on drums. Then I decided to become a musician.

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    Default Re: Differences between finishes?

    Baseball, thanks for posting pics of my work.

    Now let me clear a few things up:
    Poly isnt easier to spray. There's a learning curve to it. It's TOTALLY diff than lacquer. Builds real thick and cures fast. It does NOT wear fast. Nitro totally wears faster than poly. Nitro is probaly the easiest to work with. It sprays on easy, sands easy and buffs out easy. Poly goes on like glass, sands out hard and is harder to buff. Plus it's easier to get witness lines with poly rather than nitro, cause well, nitro doesnt GET witness lines. They blend in with each(each coats). Solid body instruments really don't suffer to much tone lose from poly, but an acoustic, don't even think about it. I'll type something more in depth later as I have to run, like right now.

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