Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

Acrylic Lacquer vs. Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by hackworth1, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. hackworth1

    hackworth1 Friend of Leo's Vendor Member

    Acrylic lacquer vs. nitrocellulose lacquer. I know Ron Kirn and others love nitrocellulose lacquer. My dad used to paint cars with acrylic lacquer. Dad was a hack car painter, but he swore by lacquer. He made beautiful finishes with both types of lacquer paint. When all he could find was Acrylic lacquer he began using it. He didn't search high and low for the nitrocellulose lacquer. (Ron Kirn says Sherwin Williams has it now.) The beauty of lacquer is that it goes on thin in many coats with wet sanding in between. Enamels - once its on and you made a run or a fish eye or orange peel, there is no practical way to wet sand it out and respray without losing all your work.

    My question:

    Does Acrylic lacquer cure (and dry) faster than nitrocellulose lacquer? Wouldn't Acrylic lacquer be a good choice for guitar finishes? Easier to work with, faster curing with the benefit of being able to wet sand between coats for high gloss sheen. Where am I wrong?
     

  2. KevinB

    KevinB Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 4, 2007
    New Jersey
    Yes, acrylic does dry faster than nitrocellulose and I think it would be a good choice for a guitar finish. It also doesn't yellow - a plus or a minus depending on your view of relics - and produces a less brittle, more flexible finish. It is more expensive than nitro though.

    Or, you could go all the way to catalized lacquers, which is what many companies use nowadays as they dry very quickly. But, it's more complex to mix and use.

    Oh, and typically you don't wetsand between coats, only after all the topcoats have been applied. Lacquers have the ability for one coat to literally melt into the coat underneath it to build up an even finish.
     

  3. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    We're in a strange situation right now where "old fashioned" Nitro lacquer is getting all the attention and "almost as old fashioned" acrylic is getting all messed up. Companies tell you "oh, it is acrylic" and what they mean is, it is an acrylic emulsion or some other worthless cheap Jane Doe consumer product.

    I, like your Dad, dabbled a lot in acrylic, just a little nitro. I did a fair number of cars myself and assisted/helped (got gulled into helping with the masking a lot). I loved how fast the Dupont Acrylic would dry, so we could wet sand it. This rattle can stuff I use now stinks. I know it. But my equipment got ruined in the flood and I can't get myself to replace it (I just last week threw out my ruined compressor; kept that rusted thing 4 years!).

    I do find that the "nitro" stuff I use expands and contracts and the acrylics sometimes don't and they crack in big ugly slabs.
     

  4. Rob52

    Rob52 Tele-Holic

    Leo Fender had no problem using acrylic. Fender metalic colors were all acrylics. Apparently Leo's favorite color was Candy Apple Red. All those 1960's Fender metalic colors are acrylic car paint colors. I can't see why modern acrylic car paints wouldn't be OK for guitars.
     

  5. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    Nitro gets brittle with age.... and Acrylics up that several points...but as for a paint, it's fine.... and as LuvN mentioned, in the golden Era, fender used acrylics, Dupont Lucite, as color coats, the clear coats were Dupont Duco, a Nitrocellulose lacquer... and that was squirted on top of Fullerplast, a catalyst activated primer/sealer.. the precursor to polyurethanes.. So it don't hardly matter much does it? ;)

    Ron Kirn
     

  6. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    There is something that I NEED to point out; however, I know I will start a flame here. Let's go:

    THE SOUND. I have been finishing guitars for 17 years now. I had the chance to strip paint off and replace with lots and lots of finishes. Poli to sanding sealer, poli to nitro lacquer, poli to nothing, poli to oil, poli to poli...

    My conclusion? Polyester and urethane finishes affect A LOT the sound of the final result. Unfortunately, I cannot say how is the sound of an acrylic lacquer in a guitar, since I've done only two guitars in acrylic and they were of different shapes and different woods. So I cannot tell how much and towards which direction the finish affected the tone.
    Indeed, nitro is excellent for some situations.
    Poly, for most, regarding SOUND, it sucks.
     

  7. bossaholic

    bossaholic Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    53
    Aug 4, 2008
    Maui
    I too can tell the difference in sound from Poly to Lacquer.

    Poly to me is muddled. The plastics seem to muffle the sound out whereas Lacquer, especially nitro is like covering an instrument in a thin layer of glass, that helps an instrument resonate.
     
    Twang5000 likes this.

  8. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL

  9. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    Love your job, always did, but my experience goes against this:

    "And yes Poly and/or Nitro will indeed alter the “voice” or resonant acoustic characteristics of an instrument, but I submit, those variances are so slight that in a blind test, with similar guitars, virtually no one would be able to tell."

    I think a lot of people here will do it. Sometimes, and you're right, the change wasn't huge. I stripped a Les Paul Studio, 97, for a customer and there was not a huge difference. I "nitroed" it back to a cherry and the sound was pretty much the same. I have a few other examples too.

    But regarding poly, OMG, most of the times nitro "opens" the sound. I would like to know what about acrylic lacquer...
     

  10. Rob52

    Rob52 Tele-Holic

    Sooner or later the old poly/nitro thing comes up when there's any post about finishes. There will never be a conclusive result to the debate, in the end it's just a matter of go with what you like personaly. After 30 + years in this game I've come to the conclusion that the differences are at best minimal, especialy at amplified volumes. PRS and Ibanez along with many other makers use poly, Fender used nitro over Fullerplast and so it goes on. Many current nitro formulas contain up to 25% "plasticisers" anyway, so it's quite possible that if you buy a new nitro finished guitar it's finish will not be the same, nor transmit sound the same, as an original nitro finish from the 40's or 50's.
    Personaly I've used nitro, poly, acrylic, shellac and oil type finishes over the years, but always as thin as I can possibly get away with. I think finish thickness can be an important, but often overlooked factor. As long as the customer, or myself is satisfied with the look, feel and sound of a finished instrument, then I'm happy. Whether the effect a certain finish has is real or placebo, doesn't matter if it makes a difference to the instruments owner and I'm not going to try and convince anyone that they don't hear what they believe they hear, whether that's some difference or no difference.
     

  11. bossaholic

    bossaholic Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    53
    Aug 4, 2008
    Maui
    Ron, You are one person I would really want to be an apprentice under.
     

  12. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    Consider. . .

    If you buy a guitar and it comes finished in Nitro or Poly, you hear the sound, you may like it, you may not….many will blame or laude the paint. But a completed guitar is a composite of so many things coming together, that I submit, anyone assigning any sonic attribute, or lack thereof, to any one of the many factors comprising the composite, is simply displaying their lack of knowledge regarding the dynamics of constructing/assembling a guitar.

    Soooooo you buy a guitar, it’s painted with Rust-o-goo, you refinish in ReRanch’s finest… and it sounds great…. It was the nitro right? . . . be careful… not so fast…..

    Just taking a guitar apart and reassembling it will alter it’s tone….that alone is probably good enough to chunk a wrench into the nitro vs poly discussion.. but… let’s take it to the next facet.

    To refinish the guitar you took it apart, I hope….. when you put it back together, you put the old strings on, set the pups at exactly the same height, right??? Yeah I bet…..

    SO in reality, you put new strings on it, didn’t ya? What’s the results of putting new strings on any guitar….? C’mon, you can say it… we all know….. a major difference in tone, right???

    And You DO know that pickups have a “Sweet Spot” dontcha??? So if ya get lucky and hit that sweet spot, you will hear an “improvement”.

    Buttttttt . . it doesn’t end there….. there is the psychology behind what you are doing and the results you expect to hear…. You think it’s gonna be better, you spend mucho bux on paint and sh** … then work your tail off for a few weeks…. Very few of homo sapiens would step up and say, “Well, I screwed the pooch on that one…” Nope… we all say, “Hey. Lookit what I did, don’t it sound Sweeeeeeeet?”

    I was talking with Bill Lawrence about this very thing yesterday… Most that know me, know my “mantra” is, if your fingers aren’t hurtin’ you ain’t practicing enough. Those without the sore fingers are usually looking for something to blame the lack of “pazazzzz” in their playing on some paint, amp, or other gizmo, when it’s really the thing found between the ears that’s the problem.

    Now, I’m sure I just ticked a bunch of people off… and of course the natural tendency will be to attack… so when ya call me names, just don’t call me old, fat and bald…redundancy is a waste of time… ;)

    What I’d love for y’all to do is prove me wrong…prove that a guitar is not a composite of many things coming together, all of which effect the sound.

    Prove that the vast majority of those taking guitars completely apart do not put new strings on ‘em when they put the booger back together. That alone will make a considerable difference.

    Prove that when dong the above, if the pickups aren’t in exactly the same position, the sound will be altered…

    Etc, etc, etc….

    Ron Kirn
     

  13. Groovey Records

    Groovey Records Banned

    Apr 5, 2008
    Desolation Row
    Everyday Ron writes the book
     

  14. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    Yeah, that's it. But I insist, original focus here was the dude asking about acrylic. Have you tested it consistently?

    I agree ONE THOUSAND, ONE MILLION percent! That's what this business is all about, right?

    My point about it is very simple: finish DOES make a difference. IMO, a huge one. SO WHAT? :D:D
     

  15. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    Again I totally agree! Since WE manufactures, luthiers, repairmen out there.... Sometimes we have the chance to work on a very good project. I mean, we have access to a superb body blank, to a nice maple for the neck, to a Brazilian (since I'm Brazilian:rolleyes:) rosewood that sounds and looks beautifully... Then, the customer our ourselves are willing to pay for reliable and good hardware. And the same goes to the electronics. Only the best...
    Sometimes it happens and, judging by your website and reputation, I would say you always try to work with the best possible available.

    My point is: If sometimes we can "care a lot" about the wood and hardware, choosing and suggesting the best to that specific case, WHY DON'T we do the same with finish?? As I said, I agree it's part of the process. Exactly for this reason, we should choose the best possible in order to corroborate the other factors!!
    So, if the guitar is the sum of all these circustamces, it means each one is important and, at the same time, it also means a "minor" compromise will not ruin the guitar. Building by hand, step-by-step: this is the beauty of this business, everu guitar will be slightly different. That makes these techniques, efforts, knowledge and craftsmanship so unique.

    About the guitar disassembling you mentioned, prior to refinish:
    - I took (I learnt things from Dan Erlewine's books on the early 90's - and he's a maniac about measuring stuff, I guess I became obsessed about it too...) measurements of EVERY detail. About EVERY structure. But this is not my point. I agree, again, about the effects of new strings and pickup placements (BTW, I don't need to agree, it's physics! ;)).
    And I am aware of our minds fouling us (the correct term is "psychoacoustics"). And I also agree, even if you are aware of that, you will never be totally impartial.
    But I'm telling you: I've done this severall times. The SG you see in my signature is the most recent example. This one, I used a combination of oil and wax. ONLY. I liked so much that I refinished a Les Paul like with this (it was lacquer, nitro). Man, I swear, sound is so different!

    And I am one of these "losers" you said: "you work fo weeks and few people will admit that all that elbow grease was useless". I DO!!:oops:
    When I spend hours, days, weeks, doing something just because I'm stuborn, I confess it!!! When I lose my time, I try to post my frustration, in order to le some people avoid the same useless road.
    I think it's good "guvung back" to the foruns, which helped me a lot AND it helps me to think that my effort wasn't in vain: at least, others cna learn with my mistakes.

    BOTTOMLINE: since finish is part of the process, it should be as important as, let's say, the type of wood used to do the fretboard.

    LOVED the post, the link and the pictures. As you can see, flame's on, but I agree to eveybody.

    Peace and cheers from Brazil!
     

  16. DAVE76

    DAVE76 TDPRI Member

    7
    Nov 10, 2009
    Clinton, NY
    arcylic=durablity nitro=tradition. As for sound differences there is almost no way to tell as it is impossible to create a controll group as all pieces of wood are different. Almost all of us have refinished a guitar and had it sound better because it looked great and was "correct". Noone likes the sound of a spray painted guitar. That being said, the player's preception of the instrument is the second bigest contributor to the sound; the first being the pickups. Nitro continues to be the finish that it is because of the ease of application.
     

  17. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    Not really. I swear to god all the guitars that I had (mine not customers) which original finish was poly, converted to WHATEVER (oil, nitro, nothing, sanding sealer, varnish....) sounded (sound, actually) WAY BETTER thatn poly.

    Is Acrylic easier to polish and wet sand than nitro?
     

  18. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    I personally found that it was, but it may have been the individual types/formulas of each I was using. I really had the acrylic thing figured out there for a while. But that was decades ago. These newer rattle can "nitros" are soooooo full of "stuff" to keep it from ambering and checking, you can hardly even call them that. The "stuff" prevents drips and it keeps the finish from hardening enough to sand for quite a while sometimes.
     

  19. stucliff

    stucliff TDPRI Member

    11
    Oct 11, 2009
    Madrid, Spain
    Let's see, this kind of argument arise every once in a while in every forum, and it seems to be an eternal dilemma...

    IMHO finish DOES HAVE an influence on the final sound of a guitar. It's really important on an Acoustic/Jazz guitars and, again IMHO, sort of secondary in a solid body, but is still there...

    What most people do not think about the different finishes is that its chemical nature (Nitro, Oil, Poli, Acrylic, or whatever you can find) I really far less important that it's thickness. Many repairmen (and I think you're one of them) do an excellent job laying a really thin finish on a guitar. Stripping a thick finish and refinish with a thin one can improve the way the wood vibrates, and this is (I think) the really important part of it...

    Did you ever measured the thickness of the original finish on a guitar and after, the one you've made? Try to do it and I think you'll be surprised by the results.
    With Nitro is very easy to achieve a thin finish, as long as each layer you put creates a very little build. With others (catalyzed poly is one of them) this is more difficult to achieve and you have to be very aware of it when you're finishing a guitar... That's one of the reasons of the "Nitro Myth", the others are (I think) pure confusion created by very smart guitar salesmen.

    Most people that refinish a guitar with Nitro do think that Nitro has to do with the tone, and not the job that they've done. But believe me with a couple of exceptions (PRS, Rickenbacker...) most manufacturers do made a thick finish on most of their instruments, mostly for productivity's sake. (They run a business). That's why refinish improves tone...

    But, to my knowledge, wood it's not "aware" of what it has over it. It just moves more "freely" with a thin "jacket" than with a thick one. It's the same principle that makes a walk in a nice summer day more enjoyable than in the winter... It doesn't matter what your clothes are made of, T-shirts are a lot more comfortable...(Ok, it has to do with the cold as well, but I think that it makes my point clear...)

    But. How much does a finish affects an overall tone? I think that in a solid body guitar it's very little, and most of the times a refinish also includes a mayor change in other aspects of the guitar. But this is more a personal opinion and I think that not everybody could agree...

    So, finish? Yeah! Chemistry magic? No way!

    Regards
     

  20. Schizotronic

    Schizotronic Tele-Meister

    Age:
    42
    137
    Jan 9, 2009
    Brazil
    :!: Good point. Obvious, but well noted and I guess I can't say anything against it. You're totally right.

    In fact, telling you that I learnt a lot of stuff by reading American books on the nineties, yes, I indeed measured the original finishes (Dan Erlewine transformed me into a maniac!!). By measuring the "flakes" while removing some parts and by measuring overall thickness before and after the original finish was removed. Later on, I also measured it with my new finish apllied. And you're right, usually the new finish is half the thickness. I apply 11-13 full coats (since my spray equipment is not THAT good, I guess we can say it is 8-9 coats compared to better apparatus). Even with all these coats, after 30 days of drying and sanding, the final result is half the thickness, as I said.
    Maybe you're right. At least I knew this info, had used it in favour of my techniques but never thought that, perhaps, thin layers of whatever is more important than the chemicals.
    Maybe this is why my cellos sound better with plain shellac than nitro. And, again, when I refinished cellos and violas, the thick original coats were gonne, giving place to a thinner coat.

    Again, how do you guys aplly acrylic? I'm very interested, specially if it doesn't require weeks to dry...:mad:
     

IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.