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lacquers OR polys ???

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Hi All,

here's what I want to know...

1. which do you prefer?? lacquers or polys ?? and why you like it

2. the pros and cons of each one

what I'm looking for is the best quality fininsh for my situation as I don't have access to a compressor. I've got 4 guitars I'm looking to refinish 2 with a clear/tinted finish and 2 solid finish. I've also looked around on this site at all the different things and just seemed to get more confused.. thanx in advance for all your help, BTW this site is AWSOME!!!!!!!!!! B)

May Jesus bless you all




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Hey Bill,

Great question. My personal preferance is for Lacquer, but poly's have a good argument. Here is some info about both.

Lacquer actually melts the previous layer, thus giving you a very uniform finish. Poly's sit on top of each other. This is fine, but can create problems when finish sanding. If you sand through layers of Poly, it's visible.

Lacquer requires a lot of wet sanding to get the mirror finish (given you don't have a buffing arbor). Poly seems to go on a bit smoother.

Lacquer will, over time, yellow. I actually like that vintage look (old strats that look yellow were once white - also look at the binding on vintage LP's). Poly's will remain clear for years.

I've recently started using "EF POLY" on some furniture I'm building...it's waterbased, which historically had been inferior to the traditional poly's... but this stuff is really impresssing me. A lot quicker cure time...ready to sand in 45 minutes! I've been using their sanding sealer and satin top coat.. they do make a gloss. Thinking about trying it on the next guitar.

Lacquer can be obtained in spray cans (stew mac, reranch). I think people use auto poly in spray cans as well. But many brush it on with reasonably good outcomes. I'd suggest getting a little of both and seeing which you prefer. Keep us posted!


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From a tutorial/info post I made in the tutorial section

Component Poly Urethanes:

Pro's: Exceptional flow and levelling,

Very consistent spraying

Very deep finish look when polished

Easy to sand and polish

Full cure in 12 to 24 hours and rock hard


very good pot life

Con's: Expensive (approximately $100 to $200 a gallon depending on brand)

Toxic, you need better than good ventilation and a very good


somewhat time consuming to spray as you wait about 25 minute

between coats (not an issue when doing 6 or so bodies though as by

the time you are done the last, the first is ready to spray again)

Nitro Based Laquer:

Pro's: Inexpensive

Can be sprayed with inexpensive guns or aerosol cans

Very easy to sand and polish

Very deep look when polished

Allows the best movement in wood for acoustic instruments (this also

comes along with a con though)

Con's: VERY long cure time, about 3 weeks before polishing

Continues to shrink almost indefinitely

Requires very good ventilation and mask

Cracks over time (mostly due to wood movement and continued


Not the most durable

Pro's: Inexpensive

Reasonably non toxic

Water clean up

Easy to polish

Can be sprayed with inexpensive equipment or aerosol

Con's: Does not have the depth of Nitro or Poly's

Not as durable

Takes FOREVER to cure hard (I know this from a neck where brian

refinished a headstock, shipped to me to straighten the neck, and a

good 12 weeks from when he painted it it was still soft enough for

the bubble wrap to leave impressions)

Always seemed to look cloudy to me, never totally clear.

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sorry I forgot about 2 part polys... I meant straight poly like you buy at home depot or lowes vs nitro from the same stores.... brands like minwax , behr, etc etc. sorry I should've made myself more "clear" pardon the pun I couldn't resist LOL!!!!! :D BTW thanx everybody for all the input

May Jesus bless you all



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That links brings up an error...


that looks just like the one that Stew Mac sells, how hard does it dry? Since you have used it, How thick is it to spray, tI don't have a compressor and the only thing I haved used is the Peval system to spray laquers, also I got a recondition Wagner electric that can be used to shoot water based stains and the alike... can I use this to shoot that or stews given the case. Have any pics of projects tht have used this product on, I can't afford a compressor yet, and won't have a paint booth until I buy my own house! So anything thta will help me attain a better finish, and that I don't have to wait a month or more for it to dry will be of great help.

Link for Stew Macs water base laquer.

Sorry to hi-jack bibleboy3 but Ithink it's on the same line you are asking, :D

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It does look similiar. This is my first expirement with h20 based finish, so I haven't spent the time to really look at the differances between different brands... but it does look similar.

I use a compressor. Those preval units aren't even fit for your grandmothers worst perfume... I've used them before, and threw them out shortly thereafter.. You're better off brushing. If you have a wagner, which I believe would be considered a HVLP gun, test it out. The turbine guns tend to heat the finish, which can have adverse affects. As always... T.O.A.S.!!

From the sm site: For turbine spraying, reduce waterbase topcoat by 5% with ColorTone Waterbase Retarder. For brushing, reduce by 20%.

They also sell the sanding sealer.. Give it a shot and let us know!

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