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Nitro Question

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by joejmo, Aug 13, 2013.

  1. joejmo

    joejmo TDPRI Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Hi Everyone,

    This may have been covered elsewhere, but I can't seem to find any posts.

    I have been reading a lot lately about newly shipped Gibson/Fender guitars having the traditional scent of nitro lacquer.

    Is this indicating these companies are finish sanding/shipping prior to the finish fully curing? If so, do they run that same risk always discussed of losing sheen when the finish finally cures?

    Thanks Everyone,
  2. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 7, 2011
    Washington, USA
    My 59 ES 225 still smells like Gibson Lacquer when I open the case. Every guitar that I have built has sat for at least 30 days after spraying and prior to polishing. Every one of them has the distinctive smell of Sherwin Williams LOVOC lacquer (and I'm not fond of the smell) after more than a year of playing and sitting in the case. I don't think that the smell has anything to do with when they were polished. For example, I just wet sanded and buffed a Strat last week that I sprayed with SW lacquer about 6 months ago. I got busy and couldn't find time to get back to it. It smells just like all my other guitars which have been sprayed with the same product. Most, if not all, big builders have equipment which speeds up curing and allows much faster finishing and polishing.

    Nitro Lacquer is an evaporative finish. The carrying solvents evaporate leaving the solids behind which form the film. I have read that Nitro never stops evaporating. After a month or so, the rate of evaporation gets really slow, but it still continues to "off gas". That is one of the reasons that vintage guitars have such a "thin skin". They weren't sprayed that way. That's my take, for what it's worth.;)
  3. joejmo

    joejmo TDPRI Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Thanks for the reply, I guess you bring up another good question. I have been going off of the rule that you wet sand after you can't smell the lacquer anymore, but on this most recent project of mine I haven't hit that point. The smell is faint and the lacquer has been sitting for a while.

    I guess the underlying question was whether the "smell test" was a good representation of when to finish sand.
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  5. Crafty Fox

    Crafty Fox Tele-Holic

    Nov 25, 2011
    Perth Australia
    I have a very limited sense of smell but I wait 4 weeks after final lacquer coat before wet sanding. On the other hand my wife has an incredible sense of smell; she'll tell me that I was playing my Tele while she was out. She can smell that it's been out of the case, and that's a 25 year old Vintage Reissue!
  6. Flakey

    Flakey Friend of Leo's

    What you are smelling are the solvents. Having said that your question is specifically about Gibson and Fender. They ship as soon as the guitar can be handled. In some instances, Gibson for example, will mask the scent of the lacquer by putting a vanilla scent in either the lacquer itself or polishing compound. That scent will remain depending on how the guitar is stored. If its kept in a case when not being played then the gasses from the solvents escape at a lower rate vs. one that is store in the open air

    When I sand the guitar I check first to see if its still gassing off, first by smell. If its light (say you could stand in a room and its not offensive or irritating). Then I press my finger nail against the finish. If it leaves a mark its too soft and not ready to sand. If it doesn't then I stat sanding.

    Sanding will always release and gasses from the solvent. If I can smell the lacquer from a foot away I stop sanding and leave the body to cure longer (from a day to another week depending if I can leave it outside or not)
  7. LeroyBlues

    LeroyBlues Tele-Holic

    Apr 23, 2008
    I'd rather smell the vanilla than the lacquer, since I have to handle them all day long.
  8. Barncaster

    Barncaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 3, 2010
    Santa Rosa, CA
    My wife has a bionic nose too. She can smell if a fly farts out in the back yard.
  9. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 7, 2011
    Washington, USA
    Different brands of Nitro Lacquer differ in the amount of solids suspended and they also differ in solvent types and ratio of solvents and/or retarders. It should be no mystery, therefore, that different brands harden at different rates. I have sprayed only the Sherwin Williams LOVOC, Deft (both in the rattle can and from the can) and Behlin instrument lacquer. I've also sprayed Duplicolor clear acrylic but that is a different animal.

    Of the three types of Lacquers that I have sprayed, I have found that the SW LOVOC dries and hardens the fastest. The Behlin lacquer hardens pretty quickly also, and the Deft takes a LOOOOONG time to harden. I have wet sanded the SW lacquer after only 4 days with no shrinking and sanding scratches. I have sanded the Behlin lacquer after 14 days. As described above the easiest way to check for readiness is to test a section in the neck cavity or tremolo cavity or pickup cavity with your thumb nail. If you can push your nail into the lacquer and it makes a mark, you need to wait. If you can't dent the lacquer with your nail, then you can likely sand without worrying about the lacquer shrinking and revealing sanding scratches later.

    My observations tell me that the 30 day rule for sanding and polishing is very, very, conservative if you are using a quality lacquer. I know that it is repetatively recommended on this forum, and I have followed it myself on a number of guitars. As I have progressed in my spraying ability, I have found that there are a number of strongly held and oft propagated "rules" for building and finishing that are at best myths, and some which are just simply wrong. YMMV so experiment and perfect your own method.:D

    I have found that there is a narrow window of opportunity in the lacquer drying process where it is hard enough to polish, but still soft enough to do so very easily. If you wait 30 days to polish, you will have to work A LOT harder than if you had polished at 10 or 14 days (assuming it is hard enough at 10 days).
  10. tiskit86

    tiskit86 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 6, 2011

    Hmm. I sense a pattern, cause mine's the same way too. Not sure if it's a blessing or a curse.
  11. CapnCrunch

    CapnCrunch Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 7, 2011
    Washington, USA
    I don't know if it's a curse, but it is a major bummer when the wife can smell that you stopped off at the local pub for a cold beer before you even open the door to the house. It just ain't right.;)
  12. joejmo

    joejmo TDPRI Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Thanks everyone for the fantastic advice and great commentary.
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