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Shrinking A Finish


cole
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use nitro. nitro lacquer is very thin, which is why we like it (and it looks and feels great). Poly is thick, ugly,a nd, well, plastic.

I'm sorry, but this is complete and utter NONSENSE. Utterly false. Bogus. Mystical mojo blathering of the highest order.

Nitro is not 'very thin' in and of itself. It's just a finish. An intrinsically unstable finish that will, over time, yellow and crack. You may want that vintage-y vibe and all, and that's fine. Modern Poly's (polyester, in most cases) are harder, clearer, can go on just as thin (it's about technique, not intrinsic finish properties). It can look just as gorgeous (look at a proper high-gloss polyester finish on any number of hand-built acoustics, and an even larger number of factory guitars, including Taylor, Larrivee, probably a whole bunch of others). The 'problem' with it is that it CAN go on thick quite easily, and many import guitars come in with a ludicrously thick finish, but that's the factory's fault for laying it on like that.

Nitro was the best available finish 50 years ago. It no longer is. The whole 'its plastic' thing is, again, a specious argument. Oh, and high gloss nitro? Feels lousy on necks. But that's just a personal preference thing.

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Yup. The dry film thickness of a coat of nitro is .003". The dry film thickness of poly is .030"- ten times thicker.

And sure, you might use more than one coat- with nitro people use at least 9 coats but as much as 30 coats... but that's still the equivalent of only 3 coats of poly. If you want a thin finish, nitro is definitely the way to go. It's also the reason you have to use grain filler with open grain wood and nitro, because it has so little capacity to fill.

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Hmm, ok, maybe not quite 'just as thin', but thin nonetheless. Dry film for a single coat's .003"? So what about the normal number of coats on an guitar? Likely more like 6-7 thou or so, minimum. And that's nice and thin, in my book.

There are plenty of polyester finished guitars with finishes around .008 thick (cf. Rick Turner's stuff), using McFadden Polyester. Plenty thin, and he shares the info freely (that's 3-6 coats of polyester, then usual levelling and buffing).

Personally, on electrics, I don't think the differenc between the various 'thin' finishes is going to make any audible (in blind test situations; what the placebo effect does to your ears is another issue) difference, and I simply don't buy the 'nicer look' or 'poly looks like plastic' arguments, since the modern stuff is often clearer than nitro. Not all modern finishes are created equal, but some poly's can and do go on plenty thin.

Other thought: if you really want a thin finish, French polish it. Not too trad for electric instruments, but the techique (and the nature of shellac) allows really, really thin finishes.

Edited by mattia
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I cant really argue about nitro vs poly since i work only with a nitro but the trick i use is in the airbrush.

You can have more control over thickenes with it and 'course sanding between clearcoats.

To achive vintage yellowish look you just add little bit of color, again with a airbrush.

As for a heatgun i have tried to dry one guitar with a heatgun and it will give it vintage look BUT YOU MUST BE EXTREMLY CAREFULL and do it from a DISTANCE not close range.

P.S. With heatgun you have only one chance to do it right. I faild!!

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  • 1 month later...

A famous guitar build once said....its not how much you put on but how much you leave on.

use nitro. nitro lacquer is very thin, which is why we like it (and it looks and feels great). Poly is thick, ugly,a nd, well, plastic.

True. Urethane typically goes on thicker but it takes half the coats of a typical lacquer finish. There is a trick to making it look like a lacquer finish as well. We finish in urethane and make it look like the rich finish of lacquer but it has extreme durability unlike lacquer.

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