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perfect finish... why whats the obsession?


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I have a question on finishing... why do most people need to have a perfect finish on a guitar? I mean you play it once or gig it you run the risk of having it beat up somewhat...

is it an image thing? or what?

To be honest from a tone perspective all that lacquer covers the tone of the wood. So why is lacquer the standard?

thoughts on the history of lacquer and guitars...

I know about the stability and protecting from water and all that, but there are some oils that are just as close.

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Nearly everything you buy AND use gets decreases in it's looks over time, BUT it is very nice to start with something perfect in the beginning. Would you buy a new car for $30.000 if it has runs in the finish and dings, etc.? The finish will get scratches sooner or later anway, but if you buy something new you want it to be new. It's the same with guitars....And a HI-Gloss finish for guitars is simply impossible with oils, etc. only a perfect finish with PU or something like that gives you this look. Even if it gets scratches over time it still looks very different to a oil finished guitar....

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I'm not sure what you mean. I think most people look for a finish that will protect the wood from moisture (to a certain extent), provide some protection against denting, and some protection against UV fade and dirt/grime buildup. Another big factor is ease of use - not many people have the equipment or facility to spray the two-part automotive clear so many choose what their budget allows.

I have not seen that lacquer is the standard - actually I thought that polyurethane was the standard for most of the big manufacturers. Maybe for hobby builders lacquer is used more often due to it's ease of use and ability to repair?

Whatever works for you is my opinion. After spending many hours working on something that you want to last a long time, I wouldn't blame someone for wanting an excellent finish. I've seen some decent guitars look real bad due to a poor finishing job - that's a real shame.

Is that what you were talking about?

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I'm not a master finisher but a good finish sure makes you feel better about the final product than a "it'll do" one, and if you plan on selling instruments i'm pretty sure it has a massive affect on how much you can charge someone and still be able to sleep at night!

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In fine woodworking, Lacquer is often referred to as the "rolls royce" of finishes. It's what professional refinishers use when the job needs to be A+ such as in finishing a grand piano. It's depth and clarity is difficult to match with any other finish.

It's use in the luthier world is due to a few reasons. First would be that when guitars and violins were being made 150 years ago, there wasn't nearly as much choice in finishes...poly's hadn't been invented yet. Secondly, Lacquer, unlike many of finishes, allows you to repair the instrument w/o the need to refinish the entire instrument.

Lastly, I think that the appearnce of a glass-like guitar is appealing to many. Individual preferences will vary, but most guitars have a shiney finish for a reason - people like it.

While I'll agree that a thick coat of ANYTHING will dampen the accoustic qualities of tonewoods, It's much less of an issue with an electric guitar. With an acoustic it can make a noticible differance. Still, not a reason to put a thick finish on..and most skilled finishers will keep the lacquer as thin as possible.

As an individual builder, if take great pride in a wonderful finish, and spend a lot of time insuring that I obtain one. Of course it will bet beat up if played hard - But if you wipe down an 1960 nitro finished les paul...it still looks awesome.

I guess my view is...anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

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anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Could be written by me....why build a guitar which is a huge investment in time and money if it is not even better then stock guitars in the next store? You will not be able to compete with them in term of price, so you should at least build instruments that top them in quality....

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Personally, I wouldn't be happy with a guitar that I made or bought that had a sub-par finish. The finish gives an idea of the quality of the entire instrument. If a builder has been meticulous enough to have a nice finish then the chances that a high standard was maintained throughout the build is higher.

It is only one of many factors in a well built guitar but it's the most obvious one.

When it comes to food, you can have the best tasting dish in front of a person but if the presentation is crappy then it can actually affect how the person 'thinks' it tastes, crappy.

I think it's similar with guitars. Especially, with a new player. You can give the illusion of a high quality guitar by having a good finish. This deffinately doesn't prove the whole thing was built well but it would still probably sell more and instill a sense of pride in a guitar for most buyers, players or builders.

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I am only buying used cars now, its not worth the price of new and who really cares? get an extended warrenty and good to go. with guitars I have the same feeling. buy a quality instrument and go from there. I mean I have seen custom shop lp's that have moved from bad wood and what not. Or even PRS that play like ****. most of my customers have said they would rather have a good playing guitar than one that looks like a piece of art... Is it supposed to sit on the wall or play it? I mean if I had a lamborghini, f'n a I would drive it hard. :D

In terms of depth your right lacquer is the only substance that gives off the depth look.

what I find crazy is the fender and gibson shop selling guitars that are aged like the real ones, aka srv guitar, and jimi page lp. give me a break, paying more to have the same streaks, and color run out.

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Ok, a few comments...

Most guitars never get gigged, they sit in a corner, and hardly get played. If they are lucky, they get regular usage by an "at home" player. If they are REAL luck, they get gigged.

Why do you think guitars SHOULDNT be nice and shiny?? Would you buy a new or near new car that was dented and rusty?? Still drives nice, still does the job...

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I just want mine to look nice and shiny when I enter it for GOTM... er... one of these years when it's finished.

After that, I don't mind some dings and scratches, though I'll polish it up a bit every now and then.

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Personally, I wouldn't be happy with a guitar that I made or bought that had a sub-par finish. The finish gives an idea of the quality of the entire instrument. If a builder has been meticulous enough to have a nice finish then the chances that a high standard was maintained throughout the build is higher.

It is only one of many factors in a well built guitar but it's the most obvious one.

When it comes to food, you can have the best tasting dish in front of a person but if the presentation is crappy then it can actually affect how the person 'thinks' it tastes, crappy.

I think it's similar with guitars. Especially, with a new player. You can give the illusion of a high quality guitar by having a good finish. This deffinately doesn't prove the whole thing was built well but it would still probably sell more and instill a sense of pride in a guitar for most buyers, players or builders.

I think you hit it: it's that added element of professionalism.

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My experience has been that chicks only dig guitars about once a month.. maybe once every two, when they ask you to play a song for them. Other than that, they'd rather you played with THEM, and can't figure out why you find the guitar more exciting. :D

If anything, they'd be jealous of the guitar's elegant curves which are only ACCENTUATED by the lustrous finish.

Therefore, a less shiny guitar enables you to keep a girlfriend more easily.

B)

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I have a question on finishing... why do most people need to have a perfect finish on a guitar?  I mean you play it once or gig it you run the risk of having it beat up somewhat...

is it an image thing?  or what?

To be honest from a tone perspective all that lacquer covers the tone of the wood.  So why is lacquer the standard?

thoughts on the history of lacquer and guitars...

I know about the stability and protecting from water and all that, but there are some oils that are just as close.

same reason you make anything look good really...because that is how it is done

and there are no oils that protect from moisture and water vapor as well as a hard finish

and before you say tru oil...that is a hard finish

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They sound better with no finish. Guitars are about SOUND, not looks. If I want to see stuff all polished and shiny, I'll go to the car show, then go home, give my eyes a rest while I LISTEN to the sound coming out of my amp speaker, while playing my lightly oil-finished strat, which sounds better than my Lacquered

guitars. I think when I build a pine tele, I won't even put oil on it :D

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Let me ask you this. When your go to purchase a new vehicle, would you accept a paint job that is chipping off, scratches all over it, visible runs, etc. Why is that? Because if your getting a new vehicle you want it to look as good as it can possible look, but does it really help the vehicle run any better? Nooo.. So the next time you buy a vehicle, buy the one with the worst paint job and looks like crap, and I'll buy the one with the fancy paint job that everyone think looks great. :D Basically everyone here knows that buying a guitar with a bad finish isn't gonna make a difference on playability, but I can guarantee you that If you buying one tomorrow and you had your choice between two guitars that played great, but one of the guitars finish job was terrible, you'd go with the better looking finish. That is unless you want to pay for a Relic.. so it will make you look even cooler..and make people think you have traveled 12 countries with it on tour.. lmao

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So many people think a car and a guitar are almost the same thing. But then again I'd rather have my guitar look and sound more like an old beat-up growling pickup truck that knows how to get the job done, instead of some girly-boy high-gloss low-rider that can't even handle going over speed bumps and gravel roads.

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Since you are going to do the job...finishing that is...why not do it good? I mean you always should try for your best when doing something especially a guitar. I think is a pity to work your ass off in the making of it and just finish it carelessly just to get the job done.

I dont think in electric guitars there is a difference in the sound of the guitar which is finished and unfinished. There are so many factors affecting that I would grade the finishing in the negligible category (of course there is no mathimatical formula proving anything so I could be wrong).

Also guitar is a piece of wood with metal that excides the sences. I think that the magic of the damn thing. Why not excide the vision as well?

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Since you are going to do the job...finishing that is...why not do it good? I mean you always should try for your best when doing something especially a guitar. I think is a pity to work your ass off in the making of it and just finish it carelessly just to get the job done.

I dont think in electric guitars there is a difference in the sound of the guitar which is finished and unfinished. There are so many factors affecting that I would grade the finishing in the negligible category (of course there is no mathimatical formula proving anything so I could be wrong).

Also guitar is a piece of wood with metal that excides the sences. I think that the magic of the damn thing. Why not excide the vision as well?

you summed it up very well

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Personally, my opinion is that, yes it is important to do a good finishing job, however I don't want my guitar to look like a piece of art, I want it to look functional. Those ultra-figured quilt top that look like you can bath in them look good in picture, but not the look I'm going for when I'm on stage.

That's why my main guitar is a LP Standard with just a clear satin finish. It's very well done, but it looks like a functional guitar, not a piece of art, the finish is pretty much there just to seal the wood, and let you appreciate the natural beauty of maple and mahogany. My two projects (cloning a Yamaha RGX and building an ash-bodied Strat/Tele frankencaster) will be finished in a similar fashion.

Plus, a finish that is too thick dampens the vibration, and yes I can definitely hear the difference when playing my LP next to a "regular" one (even though they are finished in nitro-cellulose).

I'd rather risk getting a few dents than risk losing resonance.

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I guess i like to take pride in my work, and i would never release something that wasnt 100%. The fact that it MIGHT get beat up is of no concern, the only concern i have is that I NEED to be happy enough to put MY name on the headstock, and nothing less than perfect is good enough.

For me, a guitar is about sound AND image, same as a sports car is about performance AND looks. I wouldnt buy a new sportscar that looked like a people mover, and i wouldnt buy a guitar that looks like ****.

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So many people think a car and a guitar are almost the same thing. But then again I'd rather have my guitar look and sound more like an old beat-up growling pickup truck that knows how to get the job done, instead of some girly-boy high-gloss low-rider that can't even handle going over speed bumps and gravel roads.

I'd rather have a high gloss pickup truck that knows how to get the job done.

Then I would know how each and every scratch was made and what I was doing at the time to get the scratch.

I love my main guitar more now than when I first got it 12 years ago because I have put every scratch on it while learning and growing as a guitar player.

The more fretboard wear and scratches on the body I get on this guitar the harder it is for me to think that relicing is cool. Why not just play the thing until it's worn? :D

Anyways, I want my project to look and sound good. Then I will be sassified B) that the job was done to the best of my abilities with attention to all the details. :D

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i just like a good looking,protective finish that will insure that the guitar will last for years to come

it's kind of like asking "what is the point of making the body shape look perfect when it doesn't affect the way the guitar sounds?"

but i think when you learn how to make a perfect finish,you will appreciate them alot more.i suspect that it has more to do with frustration in the application than a true preference for a non finished guitar

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it's kind of like asking "what is the point of making the body shape look perfect when it doesn't affect the way the guitar sounds?"

Good point. I challenge anyone here to start trying to sell guitars with no finish, no sanding (except neck), rough cut bodies, no cavity covers, no inlays, etc etc etc, for the price of a PRS. Lets see how good the idea that sound is more important than image is.

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