Step-by-step guide to thin nitro finish on a maple neck?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by domfio1111, Aug 31, 2021.

  1. domfio1111

    domfio1111 TDPRI Member

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    Hello,

    I am very new to finishing and guitar building in general. However, despite my many hours of research, I can't seem to find a clear and formulaic way that I would go about applying a thin-skin nitrocellulose finish onto a maple neck. My goal is to have a warn-in feeling maple neck with an amber tint.

    Any clear advice or step-by-step procedure on how to do so would be greatly appreciated (preferably with specific products, too. Total newbie here.)

    Thanks all.
     
  2. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's

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    Pretty basic on maple. Nitro itself is q very thin finish unless you pile on coat after coat.
    Some dependable on if you are spraying or having to try something like wiping it on. Spray is by far the best results & a neck is quite small. So here goes for spraying, assuming rattle cans.

    • Sand neck to 320 and no visible flaws are present. hold up to the sun and look to make sure.
    • Spray a coat of sealer such as Belhms vinyl or other nitro compatible. Sand sealer with 320 until fully smooth. Use a block to sand the flat surfaces.
    • In the event you sand thru the sealer in places apply another light coat to avoid color variation.
    • Spray on amber nitro in light coats until the desire tint is reached.
    • Spray light coats if clear nitro. If you are looking to wetsand and buff to high gloss you will need enough thickness to do so. If going for a matte finish use semi or flat clear with few coats required. If gloss I do 6 coats of 3 light passes each 30-45 minutes apart. Follow by a couple heavier gloss 2 pass coats a little further apart. If you spread them out it won't hurt anything.
    • Let is set until it passes the fingernail test in an inconspicuous place of medium pressure. It leaving a mark.
    • Sand with 800-1500 grit and buff. If doing flat or matte you dont wetsand and buff.
    Post pics.
    Eric
     
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Exactly as Eric has posted, but I'll add something. You didn't say whether you had a maple fretboard or not and if so, how to handle that. If you have something like a rosewood or ebony board carefully mask the surface right to the edge, push the tape down at the frets so lacquer doesn't get under it. When you are finished with his last step pull the tape and scrape any lacquer that might have gotten on the edge.

    If you have maple fretboard you will want to finish it also. Don't mask. Make sure your frets are in good shape. Follow Eric's instructions spraying the fretboard also. When you are done let it dry for a week, then mask between frets and scrape the lacquer off of the very crowns. Pull the tape and bingo!

    There are a number of sources of materials but in my opinion you won't go wrong with StewMac Colortone. If you have a compressor buy it in cans, if you don't buy an aerosol can each of sealer, amber and clear.

    The last part of the equation is the worn-in look, it gets that way from a lot of playing.
     
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  4. domfio1111

    domfio1111 TDPRI Member

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    Super helpful- this is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much. I have a few questions-
    1. What is the purpose of a sealer coat? I've heard that in the case of an unsatisfactory finish, it acts as a "safety net" in a way, is this true? Would using a sealer coat slow down the "wearing down" of the neck?
    2. I'm looking at specific products now, and I'm wondering about this. Would this product, as it is slightly tinted, eliminate the need for a tint coat? If I do a tint coat, should I steer away from a tinted clear coat?
     
  5. old wrench

    old wrench Friend of Leo's

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    The reason to use a sealer - like lacquer sanding sealer, for instance - is because it's formulated with more solids and and an additive to make it sand easier.

    "Vinyl sealer" has an additional additive that blocks out moisture more effectively.

    With a sealer, it's easier to build up a good base for the finish coats

    Lacquer tends to "sink in" to the wood over "time" - by "time", I mean a long time - like years - especially if you don't use a sealer.

    Yesterday, I looked at and played a guitar that I "thin finished" a few years ago with lacquer - the finish was dead flat (wet-sanded and buffed) back then - today, it's still flat and shiny, but the grain shows through slightly where the lacquer continues to "sink in".

    Some folks like that look and some don't - they prefer a traditional-looking lacquer finish




    There is only so much you can do with a finish to make it look "old" before it starts to look phony :)

    Real, honest-to-goodness play wear has a real and honest look to it ;)

    .
     
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  6. natec

    natec Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Amber nitro in an aerosol can from Stewmac, or Aged nitro in an aerosol can also from Stewmac are both good (they look very different from each other).

    The more coats of either that you apply the more the color changes.

    Get some scratch maple. Test it first to make sure you are ok with the color.

    Last and not least - nitro is nasty stuff - spray in a WELL ventilated area or (my preference) outdoors if the weather allows. Pay attention to humidity and temp as both affect the application.
     
  7. Beebe

    Beebe Tele-Meister

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    I hope I'm not hijacking the post and that my 2 cents and additional questions below help the OP in their quest.

    I'm curious as to where rolling the fretboard edges fit into this process for ya'll on maple fretboards that already have frets installed on unfinished wood?

    I've had issues in the past with metal fret dust blemishing the wood when sanding them. So I like to get some clear coats down first. Now I can tape off the wood, roll, level, dress, and polish the frets while keeping the fret dust off the wood. Then remove the tape and roll the fret board with a file and sand paper. Then sand the clear coats level, then more clear coats before any amber/tinted coats. This way you are not taking the tint off of the edges when rolling.

    And is there anyone else who takes the lacquer off just the crowns?
    There's a vid on YouTube (I think it was Crimson guitars) where they run a knife/razor along the base of each fret to peel the lacquer off like a snake skin. Opinions on which method gets you closer to Fender?

    And how exactly are ya'll level sanding the finish between the frets on that maple fretboard? I'm thinking a skinny block matching the radius might work best, but I haven't tried this yet.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2021
  8. eallen

    eallen Friend of Leo's

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    I roll always before finish as doing after finish can crack or chip the finish.

    On maple boards I always tape the board off between frets when doing fret work to avoid metal dust issues. It can get in a finish as well.

    I dont sand between frets anymore. I either lay down a nice smooth final coat on the board and buff, OR, more recently I add a little flattening agent to the final coat on the fretboard & it is done, no sanding or buffing.

    Eric
     
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