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Finishing My Guitars


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I usually have someone do a lacquer finish on my guitars but it's expensive didn't come out good on my last guitar and I'm going on waiting 3 weeks for a guitar that took me 2 weeks to build and the body hasn't been touched yet. I am building or trying to build cut;om guitars for people nothing set in stone yet probably have 5 people I'm talking to about it now. It's what I'd like to do with my life (probably not happening). So I want to be able to finish my own guitars but have it come out good and not crappy. I'm thinking of doing clear coated guitars with tru oil but a lot of people want solid color guitars and I don't know what to do for that. Could I just get regular paint from home depot or somewhere and paint it and do some clear coat over it? I really have no clue so any help would be appreciated.

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For solid colors, probably your best option would be to use tinted nitro. If you plan on doing guitars for a living, you will need a spray booth and good HVLP system. Then you could just mix the tint with your nitro and spray a couple coats. Then spray clear. If you want more info on how to spray nitro, LMI has a good tutorial on their website.

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For solid colors, probably your best option would be to use tinted nitro. If you plan on doing guitars for a living, you will need a spray booth and good HVLP system. Then you could just mix the tint with your nitro and spray a couple coats. Then spray clear. If you want more info on how to spray nitro, LMI has a good tutorial on their website.

I'm planning on it but for now I'm just trying to do a few and get a reputation built up, I can't really afford a spray booth. I guess I'll add that to the list of things I'll eventually need.

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I usually have someone do a lacquer finish on my guitars but it's expensive didn't come out good on my last guitar and I'm going on waiting 3 weeks for a guitar that took me 2 weeks to build and the body hasn't been touched yet.

If you've got lot's of interest in your guitars and your seriously thinking of going into it fulltime then you're quite right to look at doing your own finishing work - that way you can do the finishes you want to do AND keep the quality level where you want it.

There are a couple of issues that really should be pointed out here though as I read similar comments to those quoted above on an all to regular basis.

The reason that finishing guitars is expensive is because it is a specialist job (done properly). It is not the same as lacquering 2 pack paint on a car or motorbike, guitar finish needs to be flawless and near enough perfect - that takes time, is very labour intensive and hence is expensive. Also as has been already indicated here, there is a lot of capital outlay involved in kitting up for professional level spray painting and finishing - it's not a case of simply buying a few rattle cans and spraying up in your garage, or on a nice day outside. I should point out here that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using rattle cans, spraying in your garage or outside (I started myself this way), but when you're talking about providing a professional finish for paying customers, it quite soon becomes a different ballgame. :D

B) Look into setting up a spray booth, buy your compressor, your guns, your paint and go for it........it's the only way you'll appreciate what's involved and maybe then your views will change slightly. Don't take this as a side-swipe at you personally, but I've read and heard comments like these so many times before. Simple fact of the matter is that the finishing on a guitar is usually the most time consuming part of the build - not to mention often the key element in how the finished guitar will look and feel.

But all that said, the best of luck with your venture. :D

Jim

Edited by Foggy
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I usually have someone do a lacquer finish on my guitars but it's expensive didn't come out good on my last guitar and I'm going on waiting 3 weeks for a guitar that took me 2 weeks to build and the body hasn't been touched yet.

If you've got lot's of interest in your guitars and your seriously thinking of going into it fulltime then you're quite right to look at doing your own finishing work - that way you can do the finishes you want to do AND keep the quality level where you want it.

There are a couple of issues that really should be pointed out here though as I read similar comments to those quoted above on an all to regular basis.

The reason that finishing guitars is expensive is because it is a specialist job (done properly). It is not the same as lacquering 2 pack paint on a car or motorbike, guitar finish needs to be flawless and near enough perfect - that takes time, is very labour intensive and hence is expensive. Also as has been already indicated here, there is a lot of capital outlay involved in kitting up for professional level spray painting and finishing - it's not a case of simply buying a few rattle cans and spraying up in your garage, or on a nice day outside. I should point out here that there is absolutely nothing wrong with using rattle cans, spraying in your garage or outside (I started myself this way), but when you're talking about providing a professional finish for paying customers, it quite soon becomes a different ballgame. :D

B) Look into setting up a spray booth, buy your compressor, your guns, your paint and go for it........it's the only way you'll appreciate what's involved and maybe then your views will change slightly. Don't take this as a side-swipe at you personally, but I've read and heard comments like these so many times before. Simple fact of the matter is that the finishing on a guitar is usually the most time consuming part of the build - not to mention often the key element in how the finished guitar will look and feel.

But all that said, the best of luck with your venture. :D

Jim

Thanks, I'm pretty sure I'll end up not finishing ones I make for people, at least for now I would like to get a spray setup and probably will sometime. How well does tru oil come out on a clear finish though I've seen it on some guitars and it's looked great but those were just pictures?

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How well does tru oil come out on a clear finish

As well as you make it. A good tru oil finish starts with good finish-sanding (having a perfect surface for the finish to build on). Level between coats with 0000 wool or 1200 or 2000 grit paper as you go along.

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I have a build finished in tru-oil hanging in my closet curing right now. It looks absolutely beautiful on the walnut and flame maple. It is not as hard or durable as nitro, though a lot of production guitars put enough clear on to withstand a nuclear blast. It does look great, but it darkens the wood a fair amount if the wood is not sealed. It is easy to put on, though you still have to develop a routine that works for you to make sure your finishes come out perfect. There is a lot more prep work than with nitro, but there is a lot less work done on the finish itself. You can use aniline dyes to color the wood underneath, but I would stay away from tru-oil over paint. I have never done it, but unless the tru-oil sealer works well over paint, I am not so sure on what the adhesion of tru-oil to paint would be. Of course, you can try that for yourself, like I said, I've never done it (I prefer transparent finishes). Here is a picture after the last coat was applied.

DSCN0116.JPG

Hope this helps.

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I have a build finished in tru-oil hanging in my closet curing right now. It looks absolutely beautiful on the walnut and flame maple. It is not as hard or durable as nitro, though a lot of production guitars put enough clear on to withstand a nuclear blast. It does look great, but it darkens the wood a fair amount if the wood is not sealed. It is easy to put on, though you still have to develop a routine that works for you to make sure your finishes come out perfect. There is a lot more prep work than with nitro, but there is a lot less work done on the finish itself. You can use aniline dyes to color the wood underneath, but I would stay away from tru-oil over paint. I have never done it, but unless the tru-oil sealer works well over paint, I am not so sure on what the adhesion of tru-oil to paint would be. Of course, you can try that for yourself, like I said, I've never done it (I prefer transparent finishes). Here is a picture after the last coat was applied.

DSCN0116.JPG

Hope this helps.

That looks great my next guitar with a clear finish will be tru oil. Eventually I'll get a spray system set up.

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There are many kinds of oil and long oil varnish recipes that have been around for centuries. A good place to start researching is violin family instruments. The varnishes used on violins have many similarities to those used on fine oil paintings, which is another source of info. Oils come in three basic kinds, essential, drying and non drying. Essential oils are like turpentine and evaporate. Drying oils don't actually dry but absorb oxygen and polymerize into entirely different chemical substances, hence the reason for the mysteries surrounding Stradivarius' varnishes. I'm very skeptical about modern finishes comparing to those old finishes in any way except ease of application. Serious luthiers should be looking at these finishes, not messing with laquers and urethanes.

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Serious luthiers should be looking at these finishes, not messing with laquers and urethanes.

Much of what you say is quite right and indicates a certain amount of knowledge on the subject, so generally I have no problem with most of it. However, I don't agree with everything you've said by any stretch.

There is indeed nothing at all wrong with oiled finishes or put another way, the older traditional techniques of finishing instruments. Some instruments are far better suited to this type of finishing and to finish them with modern lacquers and urethanes would take away from the feel and often the tone of the instrument - particularly acoustic instruments.

I would suggest however, that many, if not most 'serious' luthiers do already use, or have at some stage used oils for finishing their instruments. That said and a point I do take issue with, is the arguement that modern finishes are only used due to the ease of application, that is complete rubbish.

The fact of the matter is, that some solid bodied instruments are far better suited to and ideed benefit from modern lacquered and urethane finishes, both from a durability standpoint and the finish requirements of the instruments owner.

There is undoubtedly a place for all the different finishes both traditional and comparatively modern, depending on personal preference and the particular instruments involved, but to start making blanket statements about what 'serious' luthiers should or shouldn't be doing is, in my opinion, more than a little patronising.

Jim

Edited by Foggy
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Well, I wasn't going to jump into this one, but since Foggy broke out the can opener I'll let a few more worms out.

There are times and places that oil finishes fit very well, even on solid body builds. I love the feel of a oiled neck over a poly'd one, but oil finishes are not the end all be all. There is no oil finish that is going to adhere over a painted guitar. Many guitarist like painted bodies, especially the graphic paint jobs. How many people would pay good money to have the paint job scratched off in less than a year because the oil finish failed and rub off in the first month. I highly doubt the oil paints used buy artists are going to stand up too well to a 25 year old bouncing around on stage for an hour, sweating all over his guitar.

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Well, I wasn't going to jump into this one, but since Foggy broke out the can opener I'll let a few more worms out.

There are times and places that oil finishes fit very well, even on solid body builds. I love the feel of a oiled neck over a poly'd one, but oil finishes are not the end all be all. There is no oil finish that is going to adhere over a painted guitar. Many guitarist like painted bodies, especially the graphic paint jobs. How many people would pay good money to have the paint job scratched off in less than a year because the oil finish failed and rub off in the first month. I highly doubt the oil paints used buy artists are going to stand up too well to a 25 year old bouncing around on stage for an hour, sweating all over his guitar.

I figured it out myself :D

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