Testing durability of different brush on finishes - suggestions welcome

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by FretBuzzAldrin, Sep 21, 2021.

  1. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    I'm about to finish my second fabric finish guitar and would like to keep doing more, possibly to sell. But so far I haven't been completely satisfied with the durability of the results. I don't have a good place to spray so I'm limited to wiping or brushing on finishes.

    So far what I've used is gluing down the fabric with Mod Podge, applying a few coats of shellac on top of the fabric, and then layering on Minwax polyurethane. And Minwax has been a mixed bag - one project will dry hard as a rock, other times it never quite passes the fingernail test, leaving a slight scratch behind if you scuff it. I'm ok getting a *pretty good* result on my own guitars but would like something I can trust more if I'm going to sell my work. Also, if I can find something waterborne that I like, I much prefer that to dealing with containers of mineral spirits getting all gunked up with poly goo.

    So I begin my test pieces with the following lineup:
    General Finishes top coat
    Bona Mega floor finish
    Target Coatings urethane
    Crystalac
    And Minwax just to give it another shot

    I'm just a few days in, so I'll have to give everything proper cure times. My main criteria are, can this be rubbed out to a nice looking finish - gloss or satin - and does it pass the fingernail test? Past that I'm pretty flexible. If anyone has more suggestions I'm open, though I have to resist opening my wallet too many more times for now. Thanks.
     
  2. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,033
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2014
    Location:
    Florida
    Subbed. I'll be watching this with interest. I've done several guitars and necks with Tru-Oil and have been pretty happy with the finish results, but not the durability...especially on softer woods like pine (I like it fine for maple necks).
     
  3. fleezinator

    fleezinator Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    353
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2020
    Location:
    Texas
    I did the Strat in my avatar and my partscaster Tele with Crystalac Brite Tone. I did my Jazzmaster with water-based Varathane Ultimate. I used an HVLP on all of them and while both finishes are really glossy, neither really hold up to the fingernail test as well as my factory guitars. They are pretty scratch resistant however.
     
  4. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    5,904
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    Scottsdale, AZ USA
    I finished this Tele Thinline with Minwax Wipe-On Poly.

    [​IMG]

    Wipe-on is essentially the same as the brush-on product, but has been thinned down. Being much thinner, it takes a lot more coats to build up, but each one hardens up quite readily and fast. Many more coats are required, but still may not quite achieve the deep thickness of the brush-on poly. Seems plenty durable, but I baby my guitars anyway, so I may not be the best example for determining durability.

    You can thin down the brush-on poly product with mineral spirits. That will speed up and help the curing/hardenning process of each coat.
     
    old wrench and Old Deaf Roadie like this.
  5. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    2,627
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA - Doylestown PA
    Waterborne are best sprayed as they dry pretty quickly and you will end up with a surface that will required less leveling. Oil based varnishes like the Minwax or Varathane polyurethanes do brush out nicely...they may need slight thinning "out of the can". They are excellent as wipe-on finishes, too.
     
  6. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    59
    Posts:
    2,927
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I think that the Mod-Podge may be the problem here. It's thick and mushy and may not be flattening enough under the fabric. The fact that it's water-based is good, since it's unlikely to react to most finishes applied on top of it, but you might have better results with Elmer's white glue and a rubber roller. You could wet the fabric first, and even spray more water on the surface as you roll it flat.
     
  7. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hmmm, so the reason I used mod podge was that I was sticking the fabric to an existing factory finish, and stripping off the finish was just not gonna happen. I've found mod podge is pretty good at binding to a roughed up finish but I haven't directly compared it to something like Elmer's. Maybe that will be the next test.
     
  8. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    16,827
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    I guess Formby's Tung Oil is gone now. But reports are that the Minwax Tung Oil product is the same stuff. I have both and they seem exactly the same. Great stuff, wipe or thin brush on. Levels out superbly.
    Tru Oil should be on the list. Very similar to the above.

    I have two necks done by hand brushing with Formby's and so far they are holding up superbly. Only 2-3 coats.

    This is 2 coats of the Minwax Tung Oil/poly on Alder: (This Ader was pretty red!)
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Jim_in_PA

    Jim_in_PA Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    2,627
    Joined:
    May 31, 2019
    Location:
    SE PA - Doylestown PA
    Yea, the Formby's and the Minwax branded products are very similar wiping varnishes. (Don't be fooled by the "Tung Oil" in the name... ;) )
     
  10. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thoughts so far...

    Target Coatings Urethane: Not a big fan so far. I applied a coat two days ago, lightly sanded with 400 today and brushed on a second coat. Immediately the finish started forming fisheyes. My brush was clean and so was my surface, so I'm not sure what went wrong there.

    Bona Mega: I have a test piece that has 6 total coats and has been sitting for 5 days. Bona says cure time is 7 days but I'll give it longer to really see. The stuff brushes on very easily and levels out nice. I even tested a couple coats on a vertical piece of wooden door frame just to see if I got drips, and none as long as I wasn't heavy handed. I can still scratch it with a fingernail but not easily. If this hardens up more I'd feel good putting it on a guitar. If not... mmmm not sure.
     
  11. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    I want to add that all of this is simply my personal experience and this is not a perfectly scientific study. I've encountered too many UTS errors - (user too stupid) - to consider any of this dogma.
     
  12. Skydog1010

    Skydog1010 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Age:
    68
    Posts:
    2,325
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2019
    Location:
    Carolina's (pick one - that's where I'll be) USA
    Z-Poxy
    Adhesive and top coat
    Can spray pretty much any clear top coat over the Z-Poxy and buff as necessary. Insanely simple.
     
    FretBuzzAldrin likes this.
  13. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    I don't have a good way to spray but could brush or wipe something on top. Do you think it would work as the topcoat itself?
     
    Skydog1010 likes this.
  14. Skydog1010

    Skydog1010 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Age:
    68
    Posts:
    2,325
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2019
    Location:
    Carolina's (pick one - that's where I'll be) USA
    PXL_20210923_212127194.jpg
    yes

    There are diy videos on YouTube just for what you explained.

    Box looks like this.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
    FretBuzzAldrin likes this.
  15. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    Just ordered some. Thanks for the suggestion.
     
  16. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    I tried the Z Poxy on a test piece. Let it sit two days. At first I thought I must have screwed something up - just touching the surface would leave prints and it felt greasy and smudgy. But I just wiped it down with a wet cloth and what was left was a shiny hard surface. Huh, weird. I was pretty careful to mix equal parts of the two liquids, so I'm not sure if it's just like that or if I need to hone my technique.

    Well so far I'm not completely sold on waterborne finish as a topcoat. The best scratch resistance I've had so far with brush on finishes has been oil based stuff, to be honest. But maybe I'll figure the manufacturer's cure times are optimistic and let things sit a full month before judging too harshly. Bona says it's cured in 7 days, and my fingernail says otherwise. Even on pieces that have 8 or 9 total coats.
     
  17. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    Some more results:

    I did an adhesion test on the back of a guitar body. Glue fabric down to a roughed up factory finish using: Z Poxy, Titebond, Mod Podge. Tear off the fabric 24 hours later and see how difficult it is to lift. Titebond lost, Mod Podge did ok, and Z Poxy... holy crap. I'm gonna be taking a scraper and chisel to that little area of the body to get the remnants off for some time. Absolute clear winner for that purpose.

    Out of the waterborne clear coats on my test pieces, Crystalac seems to be hardening up the best out of any of them. It's not quite as hard as a typical factory finish but I'd be happy with it on a guitar. Luckily the different waterborne finishes seem to play ok together, so I might be able to build up coats with the others and finish up with Crystalac for its scratch resistance. I do have a dang gallon of this Bona stuff and I'm gonna use it. Always more testing to do.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
  18. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    3,790
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2017
    Location:
    Goonieville, OR
    I just have to say that I find this specimen stunningly beautiful. Thanx for sharing.
     
    DHart likes this.
  19. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    5,904
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    Scottsdale, AZ USA
    ODR... thank you. It was a labor of love and the result is well worth it. It's actually quickly become one of my most prized guitars, among quite a few other very nice ones. Sometimes a good plan turns our far better than even hoped for. I had to think about what to do with this raw, bare body for almost two years before I finally made up my mind how to approach it.
     
    Old Deaf Roadie likes this.
  20. FretBuzzAldrin

    FretBuzzAldrin TDPRI Member

    Age:
    35
    Posts:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2021
    Location:
    Michigan
    More takeaways:

    Oil based polyurethane: Eventually it cures to a decently hard finish. What is a total pain is that sanding between coats is hard to do without leaving scratches at lower grit or clogging up your sandpaper with finer grit. It gets gummy even after it's had a while to sit.

    Z Poxy - Very effective for gluing down fabric (in my case), IF you get everything perfectly leveled out. Any small imperfection simply won't adhere. The epoxy doesn't really hold things together while it's wet, at least not as much as other glues. As a clear coat on top, not bad. It levels out nicely and isn't too hard to sand. Other products like to stick to it too. As far as applying: A bristle brush seemed impossible to clean afterward and a foam brush was just too soft and dragged too much. A combination of spreading it by fingertip with nitrile gloves or using a plastic scraper seemed to work best.

    Top coat: I just picked up some Solarez: I can't believe it's not lacquer. Dang, I wish I knew about this stuff earlier. I used this as a top coat on a few test pieces and used the Solarez UV flashlight to cure it. You have to sand it down and buff it to the sheen you want for it to feel complete. Before that step it feels kind of waxy and like it's not fully done, but it will sand totally dry and not clog up the sandpaper. It's not quite as rock hard as a factory urethane or polyester finish, but it's definitely guitar worthy in my book.

    The Solarez polyester comes soon and I'll compare that to the other. So far I'm really digging the Solarez "lacquer" and Crystalac.
     
    El Tele Lobo likes this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.