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Poly vs. Nitro

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hello all

i have read the tutorials made be LCG about Polyurethane and Nitrocellulose finishing, but could anyone advance that pros and cons about both the finishes?

from all the paint shops i have come across, i have found Polyurethane, Polyester, Latex, Acrylic and Enamal finishes that you can buy in cans ready to be sprayed. but i have not seen Nitrocellulose laquer in a can, as yet. what kinds of shops sell Nitrocellulose laquer?

and another question, tonally, which sounds better, Polyurethane finish or Nitrocellulose finish? Cheerz!

i am thinking Nitro finish for my axe for the moment, from what people have told me; apparently it sound better than Poly - and the fact that it takes aeons to cure and cracks with age doesn't really bother me.


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Try your larger hardware stores for lacquer in cans or a furniture supply store in Aus. As you've heard lacquer is not as durable as poly but is easier to achieve a fast good finish as it dries very fast.

As far as sound i think lacquer might be better on acoustics (or a much lighter amount of poly) and poly on electrics but the debate goes on....

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I think the Urethane and Polyester finishes LGM was speaking of are the 2 part variety, meaning they consist of a resin and a catalyst that get mixed together like epoxy. This allows for an extremely hard and durable finish. IMO the clears you get in spray canslooks good for a while but never fully hardens. I did a guitar a year ago and can still put a fingernail in it

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hey dudes

when i said can, i meant like a paint can, not a spray can. my grandfather has a painting booth and all the gear so spraying a guitar body is no problem. thanx for all your helps. i should read on the topic more thoroughly.


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Hi Page,

The biggest problems with Nitro is drying time and the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds.) There are also health issues associated with Nitro. :D So the big builders don't use it. If you check out Taylor Guitars they talk about how they cure the poly that they use. And being able to get a guitar out the door in days instead of weeks is a big deal for a company. The only major acoustic builder that I know of who uses is nitro is Gibson Acoustic.

Many people are of the opinion that for solid body guitars, poly is fine, that nitro is kind of gilding the lilly. And that this is more important in acoustics than solid bodies. From what my luthier tells me, the big difference is when the guitar ages and checking sets in. Then nitro really shines.

That said, I build solid body guitars and all I use is nitro, and I spray in my garage. I just prefer to do it "right", even if it is at the margin.

I hope that this is of some help. B)

Guitar Ed

Advice worth what you paid for it. Nothing.

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cheerz mate!

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If you check out Taylor Guitars they talk about how they cure the poly that they use

could you give me a more specific link? I searched the entire web site, but couldn't find anything.

Here it is Coen. My acrobat is f*cked so I'm not totally sure. But "The finish line/What UV means to you" sounds like the right thing. (About 1/2 way down the second list)

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I still haven't seen any scientific calculations on the frequency response of the two different kinds of paints and how they end up sounding differently. If anyone has this please send us a link or something, because I for one can't tell any difference at all in sound quality. If you ask people who sell the Nitro, sure they are gonna tell you it's better, heck they are trying to make money. Below are some things the dealer will say to you, followed by what should be the closer truth.

Dealer: " ...the big difference is when the guitar ages and checking sets in. Then nitro really shines."

Closer Truth: It will likely be chipping, flaking, more dent prone, but has a nice yellow look. lol You wouldn't except this if we was talking about your teeth now would you.

Dealer: " .. nitro just sounds better because it goes on in thin coats and doesn't stop the resonating as bad as poly"

Closer Truth: If you can tell the difference between the sound of using the different paints, your selling either nitro or poly yourself.. :D Yes, nitro does go down in thin coats, that's why it is so easy to dent, and chip the paint off.

Now for some pros and cons for either one:


pros- 1. Flash time between coats are smaller.

2. Dries quicker than poly.

3. Can be bought cheaper.

4. Usually easier to find.

5. Sands and polishes out easier.

6. Turns yellow with age.

cons- 1. Takes nearly a month before it will cure out good.

2. It chips off and dents way more easily.

3. Turns yellow with age

4. Respirator must be used!!

5. You have to spray more coats to get a good finish.


pros- 1. Makes for a very hard, and durable finish that will hold up great.

(they use poly to paint wrecking balls for god sakes.. lol)

2. Will cure out usually in one day, depends on what brand used.

3. Hardly ever will chip or dent if applied right.

4. Will give you the mirror glass look.

5. Can be found pretty easy at a local automotive store that sells paint.

6. Doesn't turn yellow and looks the same as when you first painted it.

cons- 1. Flash times between coats are longer.

2. Must wear a respirator and body suit!!!

3. Can cost alot more than nitro.

4. Not as easy to touch up as nitro

We'll the above is just my 2 cents worth.

Oh yeah, and forget the poly you buy at Lowes and such, it's not the same as what I'm talking about. Check out Dupont, PGP, Sherwin Williams to find the type that guitar manufactures use. And on a side note, Polyester might be better than either one, I just haven't had the chance to try it out yet. No matter which one you use, you can end up with a great finish....

Matt V

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