Thick Plastic Finishes on Guitars is a Buzzkill

trev333

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mmmm, Fullerton poly.... keeps that tone in the wood, they didn't want any to escape....;)

83 Tele ding small.jpg
 

TokyoPortrait

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Hi.

It's the thick vs thin finish issue.

Well, it was framed that way. I think some missed that point, maybe. But also, the issue might not be that, as others have mentioned - mis-framed perhaps?

But still, I might be more inclined towards the idea that thickness is more significant than nitro vs poly, as a factor about 'some' aspects.

Which leads to the fact that I guess I'm with @Sea Devil on this, I think there are a whole of bunch of factors, and depending on the aspect in question, in any one guitar certain factors may become more or less important than in another guitar. Maybe the thickness (or type) of finish matters or influences specific, individual guitar X strongly on aspect Q, but on specific, individual guitar Y the bridge is what counts toward the same result with Q, or something? There's just too much going on.

Thick finish is used because it's easier to buff without burning through the coat right? So you don't need someone with a ton of experience or super precision automated sanders.

My first thought (in relation to poly thickness) was this is probably almost solely to do with cost. Or more precisely, cost in relation to achieving the result they want, which may not be the result we would guess at. Like, lower end guitars need to be cheap, look 'shiny' and be damage resistant.

My second though was, I bet it is easier and way cheaper to essentially dip and drip dry like cars or something (?) than apply in other ways. I now have this image of dozens of bodies hanging off large racks under a conveyor belt being run down through a paint bath or something and then up again to drip and dry as they move into a tunnel-like curing booth. But, I have no idea if that is possible or a probability. Anyone with actual knowledge on this particular guitar manufacturing process?

I have a nitro finished CS Strat that doesn't feel very lively strummed acoustically but sounds great plugged in.

Yeah, I have a very hard time accepting the self-evident truth that a physically resonant, lively electric guitar by necessity translates into a nice sounding electrified result. That plus too many anecdotal anti arguments / examples like yours.

Having said all that, I greatly prefer thinner finishes on 'poly' guitars. Purely for the way they look. My black, officially "Polyester" MIJ Tele has what I feel is quite a thin finish. You can see the grain though it in places (although, that may also be something to do with the wood defaulted to opaque finishes). But yeah, I think it looks great for a poly finish. Seems realitivly soft too, incidentally - dings pretty easily, which I presume is a consequence from being so thin.

Pax/
Dean
 

jfgesquire

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I picked up a Fender Player Series Telecaster hoping it would rival my very modest partscaster Telecaster I built over the 2020 lockdown. This flagship Fender guitar should destroy my homemade creation but it sadly it does not.
By flagship do you mean entry level?

Is there a MIM Fender that is priced lower?
 

Ebidis

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It's all in your head. You said every guitar you tried sounded dull and thuddy. How do you know it was because of the finish? There are a lot of other factors, strings being one of them.

Attributing the resonance, or lack thereof, of a guitar you just picked up off the wall to one specific factor is ludicrous. Unless you're psychic.
 

DougM

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PSA to all you instant internet experts- what an electric guitar sounds like unplugged means nothing! I've had guitars that were very resonant unplugged and sounded like s**t plugged in, and guitars that were as dead as a doornail unplugged and sounded glorious amplified. Caring about what an electric guitar sounds like without an amp is illogical, to put it in the mildest of terms, and just plain dumb in the harshest of terms. That's like saying "I don't like the way my car steers sitting in my driveway/garage with the engine off"
 

dreamingtele

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PSA to all you instant internet experts- what an electric guitar sounds like unplugged means nothing! I've had guitars that were very resonant unplugged and sounded like s**t plugged in, and guitars that were as dead as a doornail unplugged and sounded glorious amplified. Caring about what an electric guitar sounds like without an amp is illogical, to put it in the mildest of terms, and just plain dumb in the harshest of terms. That's like saying "I don't like the way my car steers sitting in my driveway/garage with the engine off"

This made my day. Hahahaha. This is gold. All facts.
 

Junior59

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More affordable guitars with ploy finishes are my preference for shows. More durable, shine up real easy, and easier on the wallet to replace if one gets stolen. My Epi’s, Squier, MIJ’s and Mexican Classics are great guitars in that role.

My Gibson VOS, Fender AO, and Kalamazoo and Fullerton guitars go to the studio only. I take them to shows on occasion, if I feel like showing them off. Having to constantly keep an eye on a bunch of expensive gear at a bar, is a buzzkill for me, tho.

I really dig the shine on those new Epiphone 335’s. That’s some bling right there, yessir.
 

NoTeleBob

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1) In general, shiny things sell
2) Nitrocellulose is more expensive in time and materials for a manufacturer and has environmental control issues

That's the answer to questions about "why poly" finishes.
 

NoTeleBob

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Y'all know that telling us how you like the feeling of the guitar vibrating, tells us you're playing quietly so your wife or mom doesn't yell at you to turn that s#!t down, right?

Play with some damn volume and you'll feel the speakers vibrating your ribs fer gods sake!

Remember: ELECTRIC guitar, not an acoustic.


I find that playing unplugged for much of my practice time teaches me about the subtleties of strings and notes and bands. In that way I do appreciate a guitar that resonates more.

It's also a bit like running with leg weights: when you plug-in it's like taking off the weights. But, you hold onto those subtleties you learned and when reflected out through an amplifier they add that special something to your playing. More with cleaner tones versus distorted tones, but the education makes you a better player.
 

Sea Devil

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I still like it when a guitar feels "lively" in my hands, regardless of how that factors into its behavior when amplified. I think a lot of players do.
 

wilson_smyth

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I love these discussions and the zealots they bring out. If it's not the finish, it's the type of glue or the type of binding or some other insignificant factor that supposedly has a huge affect on tone.

I think it on these very forums that @Ronkirn said( and I'm paraphrasing)

With regard to tone, if it were measured in a year, the amp would get you to march, the pickups to July, your technique to 31st December at 6pm and the finish, glue, wood and everything else will get you to midnight.

I have found that to be very true.

Just like this video about differences in tone from various woods, I actually laughed at how little difference there is. Perhaps I'm deaf to it but with the eyes closed, it all sounds 99% the same to me. And this is with no drums, bass, crowd in an echoing venue.



Play what feels nice to play, doesn't put you into financial trouble and looks pretty!
 

Telekarster

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I should be able to string it up in the white and take both some sound clips and some frequency spectrums (I have software that lets me do this). Once its finished I'll duplicate that. I've been doing a build thread on that guitar and have been posting frequency spectrums as I go along, I'll post the before and after finish ones.

Excellent idea Freeman! Looking forward to this analysis for sure. FWIW when I built my 51 Nocaster, solid ash body @ 6 lbs, thin nitro finish. One of the first things I noticed strait away, from the very first moment I strummed an E chord, was how it resonated! I mean just like an acoustic I can literally feel the vibrations in my chest when I play it, and it sustains for years! Maybe I did something right on it that was merely accidental, but I'm sure that if I had put a thick finish on it I wouldn't get those resonate qualities that she has today. I don't know if poly vs. nitro would've mattered per say, but I have to believe that it does IMO. Looking forward to your sound tests on that L5 ;)
 

archetype

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I love these discussions and the zealots they bring out. If it's not the finish, it's the type of glue or the type of binding or some other insignificant factor that supposedly has a huge affect on tone.

I think it on these very forums that @Ronkirn said( and I'm paraphrasing)

With regard to tone, if it were measured in a year, the amp would get you to march, the pickups to July, your technique to 31st December at 6pm and the finish, glue, wood and everything else will get you to midnight.

I have found that to be very true.

Just like this video about differences in tone from various woods, I actually laughed at how little difference there is. Perhaps I'm deaf to it but with the eyes closed, it all sounds 99% the same to me. And this is with no drums, bass, crowd in an echoing venue.



Play what feels nice to play, doesn't put you into financial trouble and looks pretty!


On one of the sister sites I've got someone telling me that the 16 thousandths of ash veneer front and back of my multi-piece poplar body is why my guitar sounds so good to me. This is in his own 'all poplar bodies are cheap, soft, and sound like crud' thread.
 

deytookerjaabs

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That's probably mostly true but also some players want a more durable finish where we have the option of thin skin finishes too which wear and age faster.
With all the thin skin guitar shopping options though, how are players upset that there are also thicker finishes on the rest of the million guitars for sale?

If you want cheap guitars then you choose from those products.
Thin skin finishes are more labor intensive so more expensive and generally not Chinese cheap.
Lots of US made Fenders run well over $1000 for the basic models, then much higher for specialty thin skin models.
So maybe the complaint is about the cost of labor in the US?
Plenty of us are fine with non specialty finishes, which to keep costs down are the thicker catalyzed modern finishes.


I was fortunate when I was a young lad taking lessons. I studied in a little room that had a collection of turn of century antique instruments made by luthier Joseph Bohmann. The stuff was just beautiful to look at, super ornate one-offs and bowlback mandos up to a double bass and everything in between.

When you stared at the instruments long enough you got an idea for the craftsmanship put into them.

My first "fancy" guitar I purchased I did so over a 6 month payment plan. It was a '73 Gibson L5-S. I loved it because every detail from the inlay material to the ebony to the hefty hardware to the style of binding was just top shelf. It just looked like someone put tons of effort into it and I appreciate that. Sure, I played and owned super cheap guitars too but they didn't warrant the "awe" I got just holding the L5-S. I feel the same way about vintage archtops in general.

Modern guitar building is all about precision guided tooling building easy to build instruments...it's silly. Whatever happened to just appreciating the finest materials going into a high effort hand worked build? It's a dead/dying art.
 

Ronkirn

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yep.. the tone thing is a completely laughable study in useless guitar acedemics ..

years ago I made this point... the differences in the tone produced by the wood... translated by the pickup into an electronic signal.. which doesn't actually become a useable sound until the speaker cone moves... is like comparing good old Morton's Iodized table salt with some exotic Himalayan mountain salt sprinkled on your "Fries".. is there a difference.. sure.. and it would be obvious as heck if bombarded with x-rays on a chemical analyzer and eyeballed the readout... but could ya taste it? Hell no, specially not through the taste of the Ketchup...

Similarly there is soooo much other stuff contributing to the tone., it's like identifying who farted during the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl... there might be juuuust a little other sound being generated that would mask that indiscrete moment of relief...
 

Si G X

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I can barely hear the difference between a Tele and Les Paul. So I'm pretty sure I can't hear any difference between finishes.
 




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