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Durability Of Finish

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I'm currently refinishing my old Squier Strat and have a question.

I've read Melvyn Hiscock's excellent Make Your Own Electrict Guitar, and in it it says that when finishing in a solid color (ie. non-metallic) it is possible to buff and polish the paint to a shine instead of putting lacquer on.

My question is how durable is the paint compared to a lacquered finish? I'm using automotive rattle cans (Ford Riviera Blue)

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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Hiscock is an expert and I'm sure he knows what he's talking about, but I don't agree. I think you can get a polished finish without a clear coat, but I'm not sure how durable it will be. I was looking at a guitar that I'm repainting today and it's a traditional poly underneath, paint and then lacquer and there is a ding by the jack. Don't know how it got there. In my opinion, your toughest clear is going to be polyurethane. However, that's not what a lot of people like. I'm guessing it deadens the sound. Lacquer in multiple thin coats is preferred. Poly can be put on and is almost instantly gloss, but could be polished more. Heck just about anything can be polished to a mirror finish. It's the polishing that causes the shine or sheen of a finish. I'm amazed at how well 3M Machine polish works and all that is a paste with ultra fine particles. With a chuckle I wonder how well toothpaste might work as a polish. It's the same principal, a medium to hold an abrasive.

The poly or lacquer is there to protect the paint from minor bumps and also to give it a shine. It's like a football helmet. Sure you can play without one, but the skull isn't as tough as the helmet.


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HA! I've tried toothpaste - the kind with baking soda in it. Seems to do great on buffing out metal pieces with a dremel!

I've buffed out just paint before and it's beautiful to look at, but doesn't seem to stand up as well as clear - which should be obvious. Also - doesn't give the same depth to the finish. Sure anything can be polished to a mirror finish, but IMHO, the depth of the finish is just as important.

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  • 2 weeks later...

(nitro)lacquer is lacquer.....colored or clear it reacts the same way to polishing/finishing. most opaques don't use a clear you just layer up the color and do your sand and polish accordingly. any type if pearl or flake does need a clear for obvious reasons and like mentioned above, solids do look deeper with clear and the flexibility of repairing a clear coat ding is much easier imo. automotive poly paints are another story in that they HAVE to be cleared, they are much more durable, less shrinkage, more colors, ect to choose from but alot of people here wouldn't use this on a musical instrument. The debate on tonal damping effects is prevalent, obviously a large majority of the top manuf. use these type of paints and make good to great sounding guitars. I just aquired an older USA Washburn, and the factory poly finish is impressively thin and this guitar sounds and sustains as good as any high end boutique guitar I've played. I believe thickness to be more important than finish type in how it might affect tone imo.

Edited by Traveler
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