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Classic Series Nitro vs American Vintage Nitro (flash coat)

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by logans_tele, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. logans_tele

    logans_tele TDPRI Member

    21
    Oct 12, 2015
    Tulsa, OK
    I was about to pull the trigger on a new 52 reissue, but I stumbled upon more and more threads talking about the extremely fragile finishes on these that seem to just chip away like an eggshell. As much as I want to buy American, that's steering me over to the Classic series. Does anyone have any comparison between the 50's lacquer/nitro tele vs the American Vintage nitro? I'm strictly talking about the nitro finish and, in particular, its durability.

    I'm really hoping the 50's nitro is more durable.
     
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  2. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    If you treat your guitars with some care, the nitro finish on AVRIs is fine. If you drop the guitar on the ground, bang it against your stand, throw it to your roadie and he drops it it will ding like any other guitar. Nitro will age and darken over time. So will poly, as the pic of my MIM Thinline shows.

    There are two different sorts of American Vintage Tele finishes (and Strat, Jazzmaster etc). The standard which is a nitro coat shot over a fairly thick poly undercoat. Or the 'thinskin' which is nitro shot over pore-filler. Note that, the pore filler is a film that soaks into the pores and is on every guitar.

    The really 'thinskin' finishes will mar and show wood more easily (steady!) but hardly come off in your hand. They are selling on that premise, they will 'relic up' and show signs of age plus the 'wood will breathe'. Which is silly, given every guitar has this gloopy filler (which is cheap) so they can flash coat one shot of nitro (which is expensive).

    Buy a Standard finish if longterm appearance worries you and it'll be Jake. It will look fine with a modicum of care. There's plenty of old AVs on eBay and reverb that are 'mint' with normal wear that affects all guitars.

    69_reissue_aged_finish.jpg

    That's about ten years ago /\

    Now it's even darker!
    IMG_20170808_213442.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
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  3. Slim Chance

    Slim Chance Tele-Holic

    542
    Mar 1, 2011
    Beltway, USA
    I've had my '64 AV for a couple of years and it only has one small chip, which probably came from the metal lip of the Fender HS case. If you plan on gigging it or taking it out frequently to jams there will e a much greater chance of a chip than with a poly finish. I can't say I blame Fender as I knew the finish was thin going in. FYI, you also need to be careful of resting the guitar on rubber and similar materials found on some stands as it can melt a nitro finish.

    One has to decide if they are going to baby it or let it relic naturally. Tough call.
     
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  4. BradL

    BradL Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

    Feb 9, 2009
    Sussex, UK
    I haven't owned the USA built Tele to compare but at one point I ended up with 3 mexi classic lacquer series guitars (Strat, Tele and Jazzmaster). My experience of the lacquer finishes was not one of durability though I thought that was kind of the whole idea. Indeed I'd suggest buying the non lacquered versions for that trait. To the hand they felt somewhat soft, sticky and were prone to marking. For example my Tele showed scuff damage, just from the rubber guitar stand touching the body front and back, within a week or so of purchase.
     
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  5. logans_tele

    logans_tele TDPRI Member

    21
    Oct 12, 2015
    Tulsa, OK
    That's interesting feedback. I never really thought Fender would do these nitro finishes with the intent that they'd wear quickly. I always associated Nitro with just a higher-end finish. For example, I have a 1998 Les Paul I bought new with a nitro finish and it hasn't lost any chips out of it. It's worn fairly lightly actually. I've even had a luthier do "touch ups" to fix just a spot here and there over the years. But again, I'm just picky about the finish and even if I'd never had it touched up I'm pretty sure it would look very nice today, 20 years later.

    I've also played several Gretsches over the years which I believe have nitro finishes (pro line) and those guitars are 10+ years old and the finish looks absolutely fantastic. So is this just a "Fender thing" where they're doing nitro for the sake of quick relicing? It doesn't seem to me that Gretsch and Gibson are doing their nitro that way.

    I've also played a 2009 52 AVRI that is a shared church guitar that I'm sure has seen some heavy use and its not all dinged up - its gone one tiny chip on one of the edges and looks fantastic otherwise. Compare that to - the new american vintage 52 that I test drove the other day at GC. Even though it was way high up on the wall behind a locked hangar, when I was able to play it, I was amazed that it had 3 or 4 very noticeable and somewhat large sized chips right off the finish down to the wood. I thought maybe that's just GC being GC, but some googling led me to stories of guys getting the new American Vintage's (post 2012) with flakes coming off literally in the case.

    I love the basic feel and look of nitro, but I'd be kicking myself if I bought a guitar that flakes off in the case.

    I'd really love to hear further comments or experiences with the newer American Vintage teles compared to other brands of nitro guitars or the MIM nitro guitars. Thanks!
     
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  6. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

    Jan 10, 2013
    CT
    Any standard nitro finish is less durable than poly. I have a 50's classic nitro, and just use it at home, and it has some very small chips, nothing major. It definitely will chip from hits my poly guitars shrug off. It chips differently than poly also. Instead of large flakey chips, it just gets tiny little chips where the impact was, it doesn't spread.
     

  7. John C

    John C Tele-Afflicted

    Sep 20, 2005
    Kansas City
    I've always heard the story that Fender used very thin nitro finishes back in Leo's era because he was cheap - he thinned it out to the maximum level recommended from the manufacturer, thereby getting the maximum number of finished pieces out of each gallon of nitro lacquer. Could be an urban legend, but Leo was notorious for using things up - his college degree was in accounting, and he worked as a cost accountant for either Orange County or the City of Fullerton before WWII. The Fender thinskin and flashcoat finishes (and probably the nitro they used in the CS) are designed to mimic the original finishes.

    Of course for the AVRI series they used a poly undercoat and thicker/plasticized modern nitro that took longer to wear than the vintage Leo-era and early CBS era.
     
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  8. Mike Stone

    Mike Stone TDPRI Member

    Age:
    27
    56
    May 26, 2016
    Gothenburg
    I can't give you a comparison but the finish on my '54 AV Strat is veeery thin and fragile. I don't mind but if you're not into the worn look of look for something else. If you want vintage specs, maybe a partscaster? I've got a wonderful partscaster with a Hosco body, it's got a reallly thin poly finish that's beautifully applied.

    I had a 52 av tele (the one in my avatar) and if you can live with nitro I'd really recommend the model. They're wonderful guitars. I really regret selling mine (hence the partscaster build to make up for the loss).
     

  9. Serenity23

    Serenity23 Tele-Holic

    Never really seen the point in buying a nitro finished guitar if you don't want it to wear. That being said, both the AV and Classic Series are great guitars.
     

  10. logans_tele

    logans_tele TDPRI Member

    21
    Oct 12, 2015
    Tulsa, OK
    I’m not so much stuck on getting a nitro finish but I do want an American vintage style Tele that’s an actual fender. I’ve played plenty of les Paul’s and Gretsches that had nitro finishes and never had the impression they were particularly fragile they way I’m hearing these “flash coat” American vintages are.

    Are the pre-2012 finishes thicker or more durable? More along the lines of what I’m accustomed to on gretsches and les Paul’s?
     

  11. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    The 'thinskin' finishes are exactly that. A very thin finish which is designed to let the guitar wood 'breathe'. It's a Custom Shop type thing made available as an option - not standard, it tends to appear on specific models or FSR runs. Why? Because people will pay for it

    Gretsches are poly or at least non-nitro, have been for forty years since Baldwin days. Maybe their 'custom shop' special order are nitro but the standard run Pro series made at Terada in Japan are not. I have a 97 Setzer Hotrod, it's poly.

    Gibson and PRS use a modern nitro formulation that is not necessarily like the lacqeurs of days gone by - it's a good deal thicker and harder if my 335 was anything to go by. It did 'bloom' like the old ones with sweat and contact wear. They too use sealers on the wood underneath to ensure consistency of finish. Sealer = hard, cheap, thicker, dries fast with less 'sink' or orange peel for a smoother surface with less expensive topcoat used.

    These thinskin finishes are an 'upsell'. They are not standard on American Vintage instruments. I think it first appeared on the 52 Hotrod of nearly ten years ago with a corresponding 57 Strat. If you buy a AVRI like my 65 Strat the finish is well-capable of moderate care longevity. This is a 2012 guitar I've been gigging four years.

    IMG_20170715_202801~2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017

  12. ladave

    ladave Tele-Meister

    Age:
    53
    104
    Sep 25, 2017
    Los Angeles
    When I bought my 52 thin skin they said they couldn’t ship it that day because it was too cold and it might get finish checking.

    I almost said, “great ship it”!
     

  13. neutronrobot

    neutronrobot TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

    95
    Jan 27, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I have a 2013 Johnny Marr Jaguar with an Olympic White nitro finish. I've treated the guitar pretty carefully, but there's a big spot of exposed wood on the back of the guitar where normally you'd have a little "belt buckle rash." Not that I've ever worn a belt with a exposed buckle while playing it.
    There are also a few small chips on the front that aren't too noticeable.

    I have some pretty old guitars and none have worn as quickly as this "new" Fender nitro. It actually looks pretty cool, but I would rather it had just checked instead of completely flaking off. I have heard that people have more problems with flaking with the white nitro finishes for some reason.
     
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  14. ladave

    ladave Tele-Meister

    Age:
    53
    104
    Sep 25, 2017
    Los Angeles
    I played a 64 AVRI at GC and was pretty surprised at how many large chips it had. And that was on a locked hook in a locked room. The salesman tried to tell me it was reliced from the factory.

    Didn’t keep me from buying one though. If I was a working musician and was wanting to maintain a new looking guitar, I wouldn’t get one of these.
     

  15. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Age:
    60
    Jul 18, 2010
    Western Connecticut
    Don't overthink it. If you like a vintage style lacquer finish, the AVs after 2012 are the best Fender makes. Great stuff.

    If you are concerned with fragility of lacquer in general, then you might prefer to stay with a poly finish, which will never age.

    I have a AV58 blonde which did get one chip the size of a dime. Smaller. Elves did it. I have no idea. But that's all. I bought it new in 2013. I've put a couple more dings on it myself. Most of those wouldn't show with poly, but they would on any nitro finish.

    I also have an AV64 Candy Apple Red, bought new in 2014. No dings, mysterious or otherwise.

    Fantastic guitars in every way. Barely distinguishable from Custom Shop.
     

  16. logans_tele

    logans_tele TDPRI Member

    21
    Oct 12, 2015
    Tulsa, OK
    So is the consensus that the pre 2012 lacquer was thicker and more durable? That’s what I’m understanding.

    Maybe my best compromise would just be to buy one of those.
     

  17. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    No, not really. The difference is the undercoat.

    If you buy a garden 'AV' guitar it will likely have a thicker finish. If you buy a 'thinskin' or some of the FSR models it may not have as much undercoat, and the finish may mar a little easier. If a guitar is going to have a special finish they will advertise it (charge more).

    Nitro = in general softer than poly. There's nitro and nitro and poly and poly. Not all are equal.

    I wouldn't over obsess. If you treat your guitar nicely and wipe with a soft cloth the finish will outlive you.
     

  18. logans_tele

    logans_tele TDPRI Member

    21
    Oct 12, 2015
    Tulsa, OK
    But aren't all the post-2012 garden AV models thin skin or flash coat whatever you want to call it? It's not just limited to FSRs right? I know there's the wildwood 'thin skins' which may be slightly different but the point is that they're all less durable than the pre 2012 models.
     
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  19. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    Godzone
    I don't think so. The 'flash coat' is the same as ever. I found an old answer on the Fender forum re: the new finish in 2012. It's a poly sealer coat, 'lacquer sealer coat' which I take to be acrylic, with a final mist 'appearance' coat.

    So it's probably thinner in the undercoats than the older finishes, and there's a plain thin coat (either white or dark undercoat depending on final finish) with a bare minimum colour coat. That's how it's always been.

    This has as much to do with cost as anything. Topcoat is expensive (metallics need clear over the top, too).

    I don't think it makes them more or less likely than previous to mar. The plasticisers in the undercoat help the top coat adhere and also lessen impact damage. So things like the Wildwood 'Thinskins' minus the middle sealer are more prone to finish damage.

    It's probably cheaper to do a natural finish BUT you need nicer body wood in fewer pieces......

    If I were you and hated boo-boos I'd buy poly finished guitars. Any nitro-finish guitar is going to age more and faster.

    I love it, but if Leo were starting afresh today everything would be water-based poly.
     

  20. gobi_grey

    gobi_grey Tele-Meister

    303
    Jun 7, 2011
    clinton, ia
    I own a pre and post 2012. The pre 2012 has a very thick poly coat topped with a thin nitro coat. The nitro coat will wear through and chip here and there over time exposing the clearish under coat. It seems slightly more durable than the "flash coats" and I'm guessing that's because the nitro coat is sitting on a hard poly coat making it stronger where as on the newer flash coat models, the nitro is more or less just sitting on the wood which is softer than a hard poly and theredore making it chip easier. The whole idea of the "flash coat" "thin skin", is to be more true to the originals. Look at pictures of those actual early 50's guitars after just a few years of play. Some are already showing wear. So if you want something more accurate to the original. The flash coat is just that. If you want something ever so slightly more durable. Go with an older reissue or the classic series. It's still gonna be way more prone to wear than a poly finish but dude, it's an instrument. Not an indestructible plastic toy. Gotta just treat it with some care like you would a good violin or something.
     

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