Factory nitro finish times at Fender, Gibson etc. ?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by yanni, Mar 2, 2019.

  1. yanni

    yanni Tele-Meister

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    When reading finishing guides from luthier shops which sell nitro lacquer you will see something like "1-3 coats • 2-3 coats per day • 1-2 hours apart". You do the whole thing for around 12 coats over 3 days.

    If you had a professional paint booth (that is used for cars) and could use additional heating between coats (around 120 Fahrenheit or 50 degrees celsius) could you speed up this process and do the complete finish within 1 day for example.

    I can not imagine that Fender or Gibson can afford those kind of breaks between coats. Does anybody know how the finish process works when doing a professional "factory" level finish? How long does it take them to complete a body? And what would actually happen if you skip the pause between coats or make it ways smaller? Something like 10 minutes?

    Also the sanding between coats is something that I can imagine is really difficult at a pro level when every minute counts.

    Of course the curing time will still be around 14 days.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2019
  2. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Well, you are talking mostly different products these days. I would guess Gib and Fender are using catalyzed "lacquer" that set quickly, if any sort of lacquer at all. What your luthier shop is talking about is nitro that dries by evaporation of the solvent, which is what I personally use.

    A couple of things, yes you can work with it faster by doing thinner more frequent coats. While a warm area within reason and air flow helps dissapate the solvent you don't ever want to try to dry nitro by directing heat at it or having too much heat. To do so will harden over the outer layer prematurely and trap solvent under it with undesired consequences.

    I am guessing Silverface might chime in with his experience. In a nutshell, by doing light dry coats you do not have as much solvent to dissipate so the time between coats can be reduced significantly. In that case you can put on quite a few in a day and go to buff much quicker. Then get your gloss smooth finish with heavy coats for the last 2 or so. Be aware though, that if your finish texture results in having to do much wet sanding you don't have as much material to avoid sand thru. You can go to buff quicker if you don't have to sand.

    Sanding between coats for adhesion is not needed with nitro. It is also generally not recommended to avoid contamination.

    Factories aren't waiting 14 days to dry. Probably next day.

    Eric


    Eric
     
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  3. yanni

    yanni Tele-Meister

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    I am referring to the Fender Relic, Historic series which uses nitro lacquer.

    Ok. I am talking about raising the temperature inside the spray booth not actually heating the body or anything like that. I read some of silverface posts. In one post I read you really could finish within one day. So I think something like prep on day1, spray on day2 and buff on day3 could be possible (if you know how to do it and work under professional conditions of course. no spray cans). I think in this case you would spray something like 10-20 bodies at the same time (if you had a big spray booth). So once you spray the body #20 body #1 already had a break of around 10-20 minutes anyway.
     
  4. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    You are on the right path but don't think the nitro used is necessarily anything like the original formulas. They may put nothing more than a dusting of nitro just for marketing. It would guess it is catalyzed, which I but could be wrong, that is fully cured in an hour or UV cured. A cabinet shop owner friend buys his commerical finish by the drum. It is labeled as lacquer and catalyzed meaning chemically cured rather than drying by evaporation of solvent.

    Eric
     
  5. yanni

    yanni Tele-Meister

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    Well at least the finish "cracks". I am not sure if you can do it with just a dust coat. On my CS strat it also feels and looks very thin.
     
  6. warrent

    warrent Friend of Leo's

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  7. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Cracking is not only a nitro attribute. Consider that they are instigating the cracking on the relic jobs rather than accidental. They have a specific step they have tested to make a finish crack.

    The finish is very thin with many of the factory guitars. Taylor for in stance uses a polyester of a sort and it unreal thin.

    I spray un catalyzed plain nitro exclusively anymore because I just like it. But, over the 30+ years of spraying every type of finish under the sun the current nitro I spray is not the same stuff I sprayed 30 years ago. Restrictions have seen to that.

    Eric
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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  8. SacDAve

    SacDAve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    My first guitar build 81 I took it to a friends body shop He sprayed it with clear Lacquer for me (automotive Lac.) cleaned his gun gave it a quick buff done. Yeah not the same stuff these days.
     
  9. wadeeinkauf

    wadeeinkauf Tele-Holic

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    According to Simtec both Fender and Taylor use Simtec 2K urethane topcoat and the Simtec polyester filler/sealer.
     
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  10. Larkins

    Larkins Tele-Meister

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    Taylor is using 59x1 and 37x6 from simtec, both full UV cure

    I was told from a vendor that fender uses UV cured fillers to get the base coat flat fast, then do a nitro lacquer on top. The tenders that I have stripped appear that way.

    I’ve been out to the acoustic Gibson plant where they have a chain driven conveyor that takes the instruments for a 5 day trip around the top of the warehouse after spraying before they get buffed out. They hung a net about 20 feet up so when they accidentally fall, they don’t kill someone.
     
  11. yanni

    yanni Tele-Meister

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    I guess the smaller "boutique" builders as LSL or Danocaster are using a complete nitro finishing process though ?
     
  12. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Ron Kirn and many others do. For some nitro is "expected" by the vintage idea of the crowd. Heritage Guitars in the old Gibson plant in Kalamazoo used to use nitro last I knew because I used to get mine from the same source at CCI Finish Works.

    Most just work on others while one dries for a bit. If someone orders knowing the delivery time is 2-3 months they are wiling to wait. It doesn't take me near that amount of time to build one but you gotta figure there is usually something ahead of it to finish.

    Eric
     
  13. Finck

    Finck Tele-Afflicted

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    We have to take into consideration that not all lacquer formulas are the same. I don't know what can be found in US or other countries, but here we can find automotive nitrocellulose lacquer that can be applied at the first day and polished one or two days later. But we can also find lacquers intended for furniture usage by amateurs that stay soft by 2 weeks.
    So, maybe it's just a question of use the right stuff.
     
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  14. wadeeinkauf

    wadeeinkauf Tele-Holic

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    Yanni,

    Since your topic has moved a bit to include 2K alternatives I would like to share my experiences. When I started building guitars about 4 years ago I went with nitro due to a general perception that nitro would be the “preferred” finish… In my case my goal was to build guitars that would meet “retail” quality. I went through the learning curve, tried many nitro brands, found one I could get repeatable results and used it for 5 or 6 builds. The bottom line FOR ME. Nitro is great if you want to reproduce a nitro finish. If you want the characteristics of aging nitro with its cracks, checks and wear. If you want a finish like the current production Fenders that will resist dents, chips and will hold their clear finish then you want to use the current product they use…or one like it. The idea that nitro has anything to do with tone on a vintage Fender electric guitar makes no since to me because in 1963 Fender started using Fullerblast (before that a similar product) described in several places as a polyester sealer/filler much like current day 2K polyester Simtec coatings (and others). It is a “hard” epoxy like coating. Nitro on top for color and shine. That putting thin nitro on top of epoxy…I can’t see how it would could have a beneficial effect except for looks. For me for my purposes the modern 2K products provide fast reproducible results.

    These are two of my builds. Which one is nitro…which one is Simtec?

    20190306_075933.jpg 20190306_080002.jpg 20190306_080009.jpg 20190306_080013.jpg 20190306_080017.jpg

    The multi scale is nitro the other is Simtec
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2019
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  15. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

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    It's changed over the years, but in general:

    Professional finishers I know - and when I was doing it - would do prep/seal/fill and color coats in one day, and depending on conditions sometimes a few toner and/or clear coats.

    Clear coats are completed the next day, *if* there are any small runs they are sanded out/ - then it's buffed using 3 different cotton wheels and 3 different stick-type buffing compounds. Buffing is usually done after a couple of hours dry time, but generally the nest day because of other work to be done.

    After buffing the customer can pick it up the same day if they want. It's a misconception I have only read on this forum, the Stew Mac site (it may be that Colortone lacquers are an unusual formula, as are Deft lacquers) and a couple of other guitar forums - not finishing forums - that lacquer needs to "cure".

    Traditional, common nitrocellulose and acrylic lacquers dry ONLY by evaporation - they do not undergo any chemical curing process. If a lacquer is soft after the system is complete there's a problem - usually solvent entrapment because one or more coats was applied too thickly. It may *never* dry properly - it could blister, build gas bubbles, crack or and/or peel.

    Whether an aerosol from Behlens, Rust-Oleum, Mohawk,U-Pol or ReRanch, or bulk lacquer from Sherwin Williams, Valspar, Behlans, Mohawk, Watco (just examples that come to mind) they dry in 30 minutes or so when properly applied UNLESS they are formulated with unusual additives - Deft being the one example I'm sure about. They apparently use flow agents (plasticizers) that take a very long time to evaporate.

    But traditional nitrocellulose, acrylic and blended lacquers dry in about 30 minutes.
     
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  16. noah330

    noah330 Friend of Leo's

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    In the old days Gibson would heat up lacquer on hot plates to get it to dry quicker. With today's regulations they could never get away with that.

    I don't know about Fender but Gibson Custom/Historic doesn't use a buffing wheel and instead sprays everything thin and wet sands (by hand). In the old days (at Gibson anyways) there were no buffing wheels.
     
  17. TigerG

    TigerG Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Given all this, is the "3-hour wait between coats" part of the oft-touted "rule of threes" overkill?
     
  18. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Platinum Supporter

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    For conventional lacquer - absolutely. In fact 3 hours is TOO long and increases the chance that dust and other contaminants can get on the coated surface.

    3 very light passes per coat; coat's should be light (a single opaque oat should NPOT cover completely - it should be fairly transparent) except for the last one or two clear coats, which are "flood" coats that level the system.

    30 minutes between coats is normal. Pros might go 15 minutes in warm weather.
     
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  19. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

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    Gibson used the same setup that furniture makers used. A heating element went into a pressurized barrel of finish. A hose went from the barrel to the spray gun. This allowed the finish to use less solvent, dry faster, and get a fast build. Don't ask me how many coats they used (on top of wiped on stain then sealer) but I am tempted to guess just one.

    I worked in a warranty repair shop with a fellow who had done finishes for years at Kalamazoo Gibson. He could do everything with finishes amazingly fast. He masked fingerboards but little else. He could do lightening fast repairs with lacquer sticks, scrapers and a buffing wheel. He was also very casual about throwing guitars away. Gibson ( and the furniture factories) had continuous experience and the support of the finish and spray gun companies to get the job done in the shortest time possible.
     
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  20. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ironically enough car paint manufacturers offer different reducers to account for ambient temperature, whereas you're trying to speed up the process by intentionally heating the spray booth. But if there's any issue with humidity, the faster flash-off might risk trapping moisture and causing blush.
     
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