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California Friendly Nitrocellulose

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So I've been working on my first guitar for some time now. The fretboard is being glued as we speak. We're actually getting close to the hard part...the finish. SO my friend and I have been doing a bit of reasearch on the topic of finishes. I kept insisting to him (he's the big wood worker, I'm the guitar afficionado) that all of the big names in guitar say "Use Nitro-cellulose!"

With me, being a newbie woodworker, he wouldn't listen and he kept insisting that he'd prefer to do a oil/polyurethane hand rub rather than go through the trouble of setting up a spray booth and buying a spray gun. So he said, "I have this episode of David Marks taped, lets go watch it, it will only take 10 minutes." Ten minutes later, David Marks says "While everyone knows by now that I prefer Tung Oil/Polyurethane as a finish, Nitorcellulose is the Cadillac of finishes." Marks goes on to show two guitars made by a friend of his that are Nitrocellulose finished....next thing you know my friend is looking for a spot to set up the paint booth :-)

Anyway...My friend brought up the complication that we live in California and it might be hard to get Nitro in CA. Well I looked through a few websites and I found this one:


Anyone ever use stuff like this? Any suggestions or warnings?

Also I ran across a link while looking for aniline dyes, It turns out this artist makes the beautifully ornate easter eggs and sells aniline dyes that dissolve in water & vinegar (although I think the vinegar is more for the easter egg application) for .95 cents a color. I figure you cant go wrong at that price, almost everyone else sells a can of powder for between $10 & $15 (usually a 4oz can) I have no ides how much you get for .95 cents.


I sure hope they work on wood, not just egg shells, otherwise I'll end up with egg on my face :-)

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Fender, G&L, Ibanez use mainly polyurethane finish. PRS a special polyurethane by DuPont. Tom Anderson a blend of UV cured Polyester and urethane finish. Music Man uses polyester finish. Big names use only nitro is simple not correct.

The only model I know by Fender using nitro is the Eric Johnson signature model. But maybe the NOS and custom shop models too.

However you can use a polyurethane finish (DuPont, PPG, etc) or a water base lacquer. By many member's experiences it seems water base finish looks a bit cloudy. You could be able to find spray cans with those finishes.

No experience with aniline dye yet. Sorry.

Check the LGM's guitars to see how poly works or in "work in progress" there are two teles by xrl8. He used poly and they look great. I think you need a spray gun. Poly is bi component and the poly you find in spray can is mono. Not true poly.

You can find water base in sparay cans but I reapeat it seems to be cloudy and never deep looknig like poly or nitro.

i remember in an old post many guys spoke about these aniline dyes. This link is from past posts.

But can we know what kind of finish you want to achieve? Maybe people here can help you better.


Edited by gun
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Anyway...My friend brought up the complication that we live in California and it might be hard to get  Nitro in CA. 

Have you tried LMI: McFaddens spray lacquer

This is the nitro I use and they sell it in California (and quite a few people I know use it there). LMI also sells aniline dye.

You should have no problem getting what you want but the California friendly finish may be worth looking into anyway. It never hurts to go cleaner if you can. Once again LMI also sells a waterbased lacquer finish. It is getting excellent reviews from those that are using it and it does not require the setup that spraying nitro does. The lack of combustable (and nerve damaging) fumes makes it a great alternative to traditional (50s era) finishes.

Hope this helps.


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I used to have a biker friend who had a saying, went like this:

'If you have a ten dollar head, then buy yourself a ten dollar helmet".

Would you REALLY spend all this time and effort to build a nice guitar, then use a one dollar dye on it?

Doesn't make much sense to me. Buy the regular alcohol or water based anilyne dyes from a guitar supply house. :D

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Yeah I forgot but there are a lot of positive reviews on Mcfaddens waterbase lacquer!!!

Actually McFaddens makes the nitrocellulose. KTM is the one that makes the water-based lacquer. :D But, yes they both get good reviews from a lot of good luthiers. Good stuff!

Edited by Myka Guitars
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Ooohh, be sure to keep us all in the loop on how your tests go David, I know there are a lot of people out there who are interested in the KTM-9 lacquer, and it would be great to get an opinion on it from someone such as yourself after your familiar with it.

- Dan

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Getting lacquer in CA is not a problem. I just moved from Orange County and bought it at two different woodworking stores. The brand was Behlen (also called Master) and it came in rattle cans as well as regular cans.

The places I got it were Rocklers (which is a nationwide chain) and Austin Hardwoods in Santa Ana.

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The KTM-9 finish needs to be applied by someone who has read ALL of the directions. When used correctly and with NO shortcuts, it is quite good but a little slow, process-wise. As for all you IDIOTS who say nitro kills brain-cells, you can,....ughhh, oh yeh, you can just uhmm..., what is it we were talking about, again? Ozzie keeps handing me beers and I caN'T tHInK , UH...THUD

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