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

Acrylic Lacquer vs. Nitrocellulose Lacquer

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

  1. Elias Graves

    Elias Graves Friend of Leo's

    Apr 27, 2010
    I've used plain old acrylic lacquer quite a bit. Avoid the Rustoluem brand. It never gets hard.
    Minwax acrylic, however, dries fast and HARD. It's good stuff.
    Once polished out, it's lacquer. Hard and glossy. I can't think of a downside.

    I'll still take shellac, though. Nothing beats it.


  2. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Just for fun I topcoated a Shoreline Gold Tele with about 15 coats of Rust-Oleum acrylic Lacquer - dried hard, sanded to a glass-like sheen and has lasted for years.

    Rustoleum, BTW, is part of the RPM group - as are Mohawk and Behlens. RPM doesn't like to duplicate purchasing efforts in raw materials or use extra labor in manufacturing; it's already well known that Mohawk and Behlens are the same thing, and I would not be at all surprised (having worked for RPM) if the Rustoleum lacquers are the same thing as well.

    The primary reason is the hazard of manufacturing. Lacquer blending fires are all too common, and it would make no sense to have multiple hazardous manufacturing facilities (at the lacquer hazard level).

  3. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Telefied Ad Free Member

    I guess I could be mistaken, but I seem to recall Mr. Kirn saying just this on many different occasions. Sure, it is a question of degree but I've done it and gotten different results so I am strongly inclined to agree.

    I am a lucky sonabich. I've stripped poly finishes and refinned in a nice thin coat of various things (lacquers, oils) and I think it is enough that the guitar feels great in my hands - it no longer feels encased in a heavy jacket. I get a lot of positive feedback from that and I don't NEED the guitar to have improved in terms of the way it sounds. If it has, that would be lagniappe.

  4. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    Why not? I'd be just as correct as insisting that it is. The reality being that acrylic lacquer is not a descriptive enough term to actually identify the finish type, unless we've already agreed on the vehicle and pigment type, and any other number of ingredients that would make it "lacquer." It's unfortunate that marketing has evolved to where the resin type is probably the biggest word on the label, leaving off so many other important identifiers. Don't get me started on the "enamel" label.

    Incidentally, it's no secret here that I'm a proponent of water borne coatings, and currently I've been using products that contain either polyester, polyurethane, polycarbonate, alkyd resin, or acrylic resins. And I wouldn't really tout any of them based on the name of their resin. After you've determined whether you need a UV resistant exterior finish, or one that's non-yellowing, or one that does develop a straw or amber color over time, or one that's got a high-build property, or maybe infinite burn-in for subsequent repairs, and a nice slip/glide feel to the hand on a musical instrument, easy buffability or repairability without witness lines, the ability to be tinted easily with predictable results, or maybe one that's thickened with silica as a grain filler, well it turns out that the type of resin in the product is really the last thing to worry about. Oh, yeah, and there's the dirty word plasticizers which are sort of necessary for coating anything that expands and contracts (unless you want weather checking, a whole other story of course) but this ingredient can be a bugaboo with shelving since books and papers will stick to the finish after awhile, and guitar necks can be sticky when heated by the hand until they cure or at least dry a little more.

    But okay, nevermind, the guys who were shooting hot rods and switched from "nitro" to "acrylic" know what they're talking about and they're referring to very specific finish types. It's just that wood finishes have become far more widely available and complicated. No joke, the guy who did a fantastic job refinishing our dining room set honestly told me that he had no idea what kind of lacquer it was. Another idiot doing a built in entertainment center for my folks tried to tell me that he couldn't explain what kind of finish he used because I wouldn't be familiar with it. So he didn't know either. My guess is it's some type of pre-catalyzed CAB modified lacquer but we'll let that stay a secret.

  5. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Not in the context of do-it-yourself guitar finishing. What you use (and what I specify on other types of finishing projects) are long lists of products NOT normally used by the garage finisher.

    So no, you are NOT correct. If you'd like to discuss it take it off-line - it's irrelevant here. I'd guess those who are familiar with the products you mention aren't impressed, and those who are not familiar with them don't care.

  6. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    Silverface, your post was pointless and rude. Why the taunting with "not impressed"? Why are you trying to get the last word by saying its "irrelevant" and any responses should be off line? Your attitude and your post offers no information, no advice, no help, and no useful purpose for a forum where people are supposed to be sharing information. I'm offended and you owe everyone an apology.

  7. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

    Feb 4, 2009
    Phx, AZ
    God I love these discussions. Where's my popcorn? :D

  8. Rhomco

    Rhomco Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Oct 8, 2004
    DFW, Texas
    Meeee too!

    This forum has not been the same since May 4th, 2011, 12:04 AM ;) I just get smarter most every day since then.

  9. Rufus

    Rufus Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 13, 2004
    NW Atlanta

    EVERY nitro thread posted since Al Gore invented the Internet (including this one) degenerates into a discussion of whether or not tone is improved with nitro.

    I prefer nitro simply for the FEEL... no more, no less.
    It has NOTHING to do with tone...NADA, ZIP, BUPKIS

    I don't think the OP will ever get his question answered.
    Continue with your bickering. :twisted:

    P.S. Full disclosure - For neck finishes, I prefer Tru Oil. :D

  10. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Vizcaster -

    I'm sorry - that you can't recognize your "correction" of my post was irrelevant in the context of the thread. Try reading the first post in the thread - I was posting specifically on that topic. Your opening line was an insult.

    You posted specifically because you didn't like what I said.

    I'll wait for YOUR apology, pal. Or why don't you jut drop it. You were out of line and I called you on it. You did make a good point about the fact that everyone apparently should be aware of products you use - I did not realize the thread was about *you*.


  11. Greg M

    Greg M Tele-Holic

    Sep 4, 2003
    I sprayed one coat of Target Coatings EM7000HBL the other day. It dried quicker than nitro, didn't smell like nitro does, and from what I have read on other forums, it will build and polish just as well as nitro. Looking forward to finishing the guitar up. If it's everything I think it will be, there will be no more nitro in my future.

  12. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    Greg, glad to hear about your experiences with EM7000, particularly since there's a hesitation to use anything that they didn't have in the fifties. Take a look at the luthiery section of the Targetcoatings web site. Apparently you can get quart and gallon sizes of this particular product from Stew Mac, and five gallon pails from Target directly (other products ship from them in smaller sizes).

    Oh and, tee-hee, the 6000 and 7000 series finishes are predominantly acrylic resin.

  13. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Since the discussion now has branched into acrylic resin coatings, I've had good results with a water-based industrial enamel made by Vanex Corp called "Breakthrough" It's available in several gloss levels, normally found in white, black and clear. I found the clear to be far superior in hardness to conventional clear acrylics (I've been specifying this stuff on industrial projects - water tank exteriors including steel stairs, for example), the white is easily tintable with artist's acrylics (the tubes from Aaron Brothers) and best of all (for my purposes, anyway) it can be topcoated with lacquer and can be used on relics (it settles nicely into grain if you want it to look 50 years older and seems to flex in a way that "forced checking" of the lacquer follows the grain lines in a natural manner.

  14. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Tele-Holic

    Oct 13, 2009
    Johnson City, TN
    Only you didn't 'buy' my argument, you flat out ignored it, then proceded to construct a straw man substitute with no bearing on the original.

    Any chance you put a fresh set of strings on your newly re-finished guitar? Did you also happen to put an identical fresh set on just prior to refinishing in order to establish you baseline for comparison? Did you carefully micro measure every aspect of the set-up to ensure that it was identical?

    And, unless you took actual recorded measurements of the noted variables before and after refinishing, then the notion that you, or any single human, has the abiity to detect the differences you describe with any degree of reliability or repeatablity has been refuted eight ways to Sunday.

    You may think you heard what you heard, but that's why the field in question is called 'psychoacoustics.'

    But otherwise, carry on.

  15. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    Thank God.... some one is on the "band wagon" with me.....

    when you change something... something happens... something changes.:rolleyes: if it is Good or Bad is solely in the purview of whoever changed the stuff, assuming he owns whatever the change was made to.

    When someone says "I changed/painted.. whatever, and in made the greatest improvement" woo (blanking) hoo.....what is your point of reference....

    If I had one wish for this and and any other forum it would be that we all understood scientific experimentation and how to report the results.... also that I would win the lotto.... I have a better chance of the latter.... :rolleyes:

    Ron Kirn

  16. slapshot

    slapshot Tele-Meister

    Sep 21, 2010
    I'd like to see this poly vs nitro done on myth busters.
    But .. nitro feels better
    as for science I did some garageband recordings on a 1980's poly greco LP before 7 after the refinish using exactly the same cable,interface & presets for this very purpose.
    End result in short?It was lighter,felt better and had more 'sparkle' and when you hit it hard you could feel it vibrate something you couldn't get with the poly.
    Yes action,pup height strings ect was all the same

    I could have used an acrylic lacquer for it.I felt the key to this whole thing was removing the sealer coat.If i redid it in poly to the same thickness I'd wager I would have seen the same results.
    Conclusion:lose the undercoat.YMMV

  17. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Well, actually - That subject has been discussed at length on other forums and I seem to recall some threads here on the old (archived) forum on the subject.

    Some techs (and some players) believe that dismantling a bolt-together instrument and reassembling it while paying very close attention to tolerances and torque balances can make a different in the tone. It can certainly make a difference in playability, and if you leave a neck or bridge bolt loose it will make a difference in many cases - but results vary.

    Differences in sound between lacquer and poly aren't clear cut in the self-finishing realm either, but not because of the materials themselves - it's because of the inability to accurately measure the thickness of coatings plus lack of data access/understanding regarding differences in elongation (the ability of a coating to stretch), "perm" ratings (the ability of the film to "breather", or let vapors and/or humidity in or out of the underlying material) and dry film thickness (measured in mils or microns).

    These all influence tone to some degree where there are extreme differences, and in more subtle ways depending on the structure, assembly, design and other instrument variables.

    Polyurethanes and polyesters got a bad rep because it appeared they were applied more thickly than lacquers. But they also transmit light differently and some polymer resins reflect and absorb parts of the light spectrum differently than lacquers (there's very little difference, OTOH, between pure nitrocellulose and acrylic/nitro blends as far as light absorption/reflectance goes).

    As far as do it yourself finishing goes (and most small shop finishers) I'd wager 99%+ have no idea how much coating they are actually applying to a surface, nor can they control the thickness within a tolerance of +/- 50% (which is a huge variation in the coatings world).

    Experienced painters can get a feel for thickness by using wet mil thickness gages during application on test stock and tracking the results roughly a couple hundred times. Even that may not get them closer than +/- 2mils wet by eye...and 4 mils wet is a VERY thick lacquer film.

    The other issue is that wet mils do not equal dry film thickness. That figure can be calculated by factoring the total solids by volume of the coating (as applied, which means "as thinned" if thinner is used) and knowing the wet thickness. Different materials have significantly different solids content, so applying one material at 4 mils wet may get you a 3 mil dry film while another applied at the same 4 mils wet get you a 1 mil dry film.

    And the rub is if the surface has been prepared to a reasonably smooth finish prior to coating you simply can't tell the difference between a 1 and 3 mil film by eye, even with identical materials. The only ways to accurately measure dry film thickness is 1) destructive testing, either by cutting samples from the surface and measuring them with a micrometer (not really accurate as the cut has to be flawless) or using a device called Tooke gage (around ($800) that puts an angled cut in the film that's measured through a calibrated viewer, or 2) through an electronic dry film thickness gage (reliable ones run about $2,000).

    Fender and other large manufacturers apply coatings with calibrated spray equipment and very specific timing (Taylor, for example, uses a robotic spray system and a UV-cure system...the entire coating/drying process takes about 45 seconds).

    Independent guitar finishers and do it yourself painters just don't have the resources to even guess at the results of all these variables - so while testing has shown differences in resonance levels and frequencies affected between some lacquers and some polyurethanes on identical wood substrates, the argument is pretty much moot unless you have the lab equipment to level the playing field.

  18. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    Silverface reenforces the point I have been trying to make for all these years, i.e. The large manufacturers use very exotic, sophisticated equipment and formulations to paint their products.... BUT! before you guys run out and drive the guys at the music shops crazy asking about "film thickness"... note that the reason the large manufacturers invest so much $$ in painting systems.... it's done to control costs... it has nothing to do with consistency in tone... such consistency is a moving target simple because the body is wood, and inherently inconsistent.

    modern coatings are very expensive, and the $$ dropped to the bottom line become significant if ya charge the paint and the product with electrostatic energy so that every droplet is attracted to the product and does not wind up on the floor.

    That way... cost analysis knows exactly (more or less) how much paint it's going to take to paint whatever product is getting sprayed, That's significant $$$ if you're shooting a few hundred thousand guitars a year...

    But remember... the guitars we would all die for, were sprayed by hand.... and the production model was, squirt enough of the crap until it looks as though the finish will survive wet sanding and polishing.... and if it doesn't.... shoot a few more coats and try again.... and if the polishers screw there pooch... bring it back and just spray some more.... Finishing today is "rocket science" back then it was not...

    While the "rumor mils propagate the information that Leo used Dupont Duco (nitro) and Dupont Lucite (acrylic) lacquers.... (he did) they were just one of many suppliers he sourced.... Sherwin Williams, Behlens, Ditzler, etc, etc... were all sources he tried/used at one time or another.... this is why some guitars "age to an Amber a different shade than others.... Not all nitro ages to the same shade Amber... and if tone were a factor... the different "paints" would all yield a different tone.... it just was NOT a factor...

    Paint was to protect the wood and make the guitar attractive... it's impact on the sound was no more important than the color shoes the guy spraying it was wearing back then... it just was not an intentional component in the calculus that gave us those great guitars.

    Today,,, If you have access to an acoustic lab, and an engineer to operate it... you CAN graph the differences paint makes in a musical instrument....but the data is always polluted by all the other variables... the most notable is, no two pieces of wood display the same acoustic signature.... or if you do use the same piece of wood... what does the refinishing, and reassembly do to that audio figuring out what exactly makes what precise change becomes impossible. Anyone telling' ya different are either completely ignorant of the physics involved, or have created a business model counting on YOUR ignorance as they spew "marketing hype" using unproven info to generate interest in their product... Or... They could just be full of cack and not know it...

    Ron Kirn

  19. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Ron filled in all the blanks.

    In the late 70's I worked for a SoCal paint manufacturer. We were trying to get Fender's business and the sales rep calling on them got several 5-gallon buckets full of Strat, Tele and P-Bass necks and cardboard boxes full of bodies (including some of the weird chopped-up versions of the 12-string body). They were mostly marked "2" for "second" - minor flaws, actually, and better than a lot of the new stuff sold by parts companies today.

    We coated bodies and necks with our lacquers (several types but all basically acrylic/nitro), polyurethanes, polyesters, industrial-type acrylic-modified alkyds (a kind of hard, quick-drying enamel) and a few exotic types I don't recall.

    We had very loose "specifications" to work off of: 1) a verbal instruction to make sure the stuff on both bodies and necks wasn't so thick they'd have trouble with assembly, 2) they wanted both cost per 55 gallon drum, 5 gallon container and a calculated cost-per-unit (i.e. per neck and per body) using the recommended application procedures and loss factor, and 3) aesthetics (no orange peel or other flaws - and they wanted some coated in black, which shows flaws more than any other color).

    Note that the ONLY thickness-related criteria was fit related.

    We sprayed with conventional and airless units (HVLP didn't exist then, and air quality regulations were very loose - we had just stopped making interior oil-based flat paint for drywall!) and a couple of systems used a dip tank. Primers were all dipped, and were all polyesters because that's what they mostly used.

    And the whole deal boiled down to cost. Film thickness was a factor, but not as important as loss (which was over 50% with any method except dipping.).

    Nothing was mentioned about tone in the specification or any of the meetings. They wanted the cheapest thing they could get that looked good.

    Surprisingly there no mention of abrasion or impact resistance testing, which IS an important factor nowadays.

    We didn't get the contract. They split it among a few industrial coatings manufacturers (names only people in the industry would know) and one or two national paint companies.

    Footnote: We only used a small percentage of the pieces supplied. The rep asked them when he should bring the rest back and they told him "just toss them in the trash".

    So I volunteered to "get rid of them". Which I did over a period of about 10 years.


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