What spray paint + finish combo is easiest to get a factory finish with?

give me the toan

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I'm using a - frankly, ugly - poplar blank for my next build, and want to paint over it. My past builds with spray paint haven't had the best results, probably because I'm inexperienced and impatient, but maybe there's paint and clear coat out there that smooths out easier than Duplicolor or Rustoleum enamel paint and Minwax Poly (wipe and spray). For those of you who've had great results painting, what did you use, both in materials and process?
 

Timbresmith1

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Imo, you’ve used the worst stuff already.
You can prime with kilz white primer (aerosol).

Paint with thin coats of color (many autopaint stores can mix whatever u want into an aerosol can) light, even passes.

Mohawk or Behlen’s gloss lacquer. Gloss because it dries hard.

Thin light coats are key.
 

nickmsmith

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It’s more about the work done in the sanding process that makes it nice and uniform. I think most products can get you a nice even shine, if you are wet sanding and buffing afterward, and if you apply evenly.
 

Freeman Keller

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I'm confused by your terms " to get a factory finish..." in the heading. Of all the finishes used by guitar manufacturers nitrocellulose lacquer remains the easiest - you and I are never going to be able to do the modern catalyzed finishes and frankly, French polish, which is used on a few high end classicals, has a big learning curve.

I think it is important to look at all the finishes that manufacturers do not use and ask why - gun stock oil, all kinds of wipe on finishes, enamels and all the other stuff - there must be a reason.

If you mean what finish can I use at home and approach what a factory finish will look like, I still say nitro but it takes a fair amount of work to achieve that level. It is possible to get a good finish with rattle cans of nitro, a compressor and good gun make it a little easier. Prep is everything, practice whatever finish you want to use on scraps of the same wood until you get it procedure dialed and don't make your expectations too high.
 

gb Custom Shop

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There isn't a simple answer to your question. Finishing is very comprehensive and there's lots of little details. It takes a lot of time, practice, research, and calibration to get "great results" from spraying. Finishing is an investment in itself, regardless if using spray cans, or something like an HVLP setup. I do imagine you are talking about spraying here (and not brush/wipe on finishes)...

When spraying, my advice always starts with primary consideration for your spray environment and PPE you have access to. For example, 2K finishes, or Nitro finishes, can be amazing for multiple reasons, but they are very hazardous products!! It's not something you want to spray inside your house, and not something you should spray without a proper respirator, and exhaust if spraying indoors.
Your secondary considerations can include type of finish you want to achieve, time, money, etc.
I use waterborne polyurethane (1K) for my clear coats for these primary considerations. I live in Canada so I can't spray outside in the winter time. But this type of finish takes at least a full month at minimum, and usually longer for me (mostly comprised of cure time). It also took me several dozen spray coats to get great and consistent results, and I'm still learning.

Regardless of the product you use, prep work is very important - sanding the bare wood, grain filling if needed, cleaning your work piece & spray environment

And then spraying - time in between coats, thickness of your coats, cure time, level sanding, spray gun callibration, thinning your material if required, temperature and humidity, avoiding dust & debris, dealing with runs/sags, masking if required, scraping binding if required, etc etc...

And then there's buffing, which is a whole other topic in itself, if going for high gloss.

These are all important considerations when going for a "great" finish. Unfortunately there ain't no simple answer. For me, I had to dive in, and as much research as I did, my best learning was from doing and learning from my mistakes - IMO that's what you gotta do to get "great" finishes
 

bgmacaw

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I've done these 6, plus several cigar box style guitars. I wouldn't call any of them "factory finish" since I don't have a factory paint room, just a small section of my garage. But, they look good enough for me. The paints and stains used are those you can buy from Home Depot or Lowes.

I agree with the tips @gb Custom Shop shop mentioned, especially practicing. That's what got me into cigar box type guitars because it gave me a fun way to practice.

paintedguitars.png
 

nickmsmith

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I'm confused by your terms " to get a factory finish..." in the heading. Of all the finishes used by guitar manufacturers nitrocellulose lacquer remains the easiest - you and I are never going to be able to do the modern catalyzed finishes and frankly, French polish, which is used on a few high end classicals, has a big learning curve.

I think it is important to look at all the finishes that manufacturers do not use and ask why - gun stock oil, all kinds of wipe on finishes, enamels and all the other stuff - there must be a reason.

If you mean what finish can I use at home and approach what a factory finish will look like, I still say nitro but it takes a fair amount of work to achieve that level. It is possible to get a good finish with rattle cans of nitro, a compressor and good gun make it a little easier. Prep is everything, practice whatever finish you want to use on scraps of the same wood until you get it procedure dialed and don't make your expectations too high.
The big makers probably don’t use the oils because it’s too time consuming. But I’m not 100 percent sure. Lots of these makers are pumping them out by the hundreds and don’t have time for delicately wiping on oil/poly, etc. in tons of layers.

I’ve seen some beautiful wipe on poly/oil finishes on wood. But I can’t see it being very fast or efficient compared to spraying quickly.
 

trev333

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Hey! 19.... those were the days...:)

a few of my surfing buddies were apprentice spray painters/panel beaters... we were always working on our cars , patching rust/dents, changing colors,etc.. if we weren't surfing... I got used to paint preparation and putting it on around your age...

you'll get there after a few paint jobs with auto shop spray cans, that's all I use for guitars... acrylics or poly also shellac and oils...

we've all had to sand back jobs we weren't happy with and start over.... it's PIA, but it's the best way to get a good finish..

painting is very Zen.. slow down and use the shwartz, young guitarwalker... ;)
 

give me the toan

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I've done these 6, plus several cigar box style guitars. I wouldn't call any of them "factory finish" since I don't have a factory paint room, just a small section of my garage. But, they look good enough for me. The paints and stains used are those you can buy from Home Depot or Lowes.

I agree with the tips @gb Custom Shop shop mentioned, especially practicing. That's what got me into cigar box type guitars because it gave me a fun way to practice.

View attachment 994390
that mint Strat looks real nice, same for the Tele! I'm guessing you used an oil of sorts for that one?
 

Freeman Keller

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For what it is worth, I built my first guitar 16 years ago and finished it with nitrocellulose lacquer. It came out very nice and has aged well. Since then I have built a total of 30 instruments, many finished in nitro but I have tried a couple of water born lacquers, a couple of TruOil finishes and one French polish. The FP was the right finish for that particular guitar, I would never do it to an electric or something that wasn't going to be babied.

Short story, I keep coming back to nitro. The various water born lacquers are really appealing on paper but just didn't pan out on the guitars - they have witness lines and don't blend like nitro does. The TruOil guitars were disappointing - they just don't have the beauty of the lacquer (and were almost more work than FP).

Yes lacquer is toxic, explosive and a hassle, but it is pretty easy to apply, is very forgiving, buffs to a very high gloss. It can be tinted or colored with pigments, it can be faded to create bursts, and it takes on a wonderful warm glow as it ages. It can be put on thin on an acoustic and can look dipped in plastic if thats what you want. It works fine with rattle cans and very good with a small home compressor and detail gun.

I'm not an experienced finisher but my goal is to look as close to a factory finish as I can, even if that factory is in the orient and the guitar sells for 300 bucks. I've tried the others but I come back to nitro.

These are all nitro, not factory quality but I'm working on it

(ps - I haven't done a solid opaque finish because I always work with beautiful wood and want to show it off. Lacquer does take pigments well, however, and I would not hesitate to do a solid finish with clear coat if the guitar called for it)
 

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Last edited:

Maguchi

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I'm using a - frankly, ugly - poplar blank for my next build, and want to paint over it. My past builds with spray paint haven't had the best results, probably because I'm inexperienced and impatient, but maybe there's paint and clear coat out there that smooths out easier than Duplicolor or Rustoleum enamel paint and Minwax Poly (wipe and spray). For those of you who've had great results painting, what did you use, both in materials and process?
White spray paint, light coat that just barely covers wood and grain is still visible. Wait 24 hours and repeat with another very light coat. Sand lightly with very fine grit sandpaper. Keep repeating until you get the desired finish (3 or 4 times should be fine). Then do the same process with 2 or 3 clear coats.
 

give me the toan

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For what it is worth, I built my first guitar 16 years ago and finished it with nitrocellulose lacquer. It came out very nice and has aged well. Since then I have built a total of 30 instruments, many finished in nitro but I have tried a couple of water born lacquers, a couple of TruOil finishes and one French polish. The FP was the right finish for that particular guitar, I would never do it to an electric or something that wasn't going to be babied.

Short story, I keep coming back to nitro. The various water born lacquers are really appealing on paper but just didn't pan out on the guitars - they have witness lines and don't blend like nitro does. The TruOil guitars were disappointing - they just don't have the beauty of the lacquer (and were almost more work than FP).

Yes lacquer is toxic, explosive and a hassle, but it is pretty easy to apply, is very forgiving, buffs to a very high gloss. It can be tinted or colored with pigments, it can be faded to create bursts, and it takes on a wonderful warm glow as it ages. It can be put on thin on an acoustic and can look dipped in plastic if thats what you want. It works fine with rattle cans and very good with a small home compressor and detail gun.

I'm not an experienced finisher but my goal is to look as close to a factory finish as I can, even if that factory is in the orient and the guitar sells for 300 bucks. I've tried the others but I come back to nitro.

These are all nitro, not factory quality but I'm working on it

(ps - I haven't done a solid opaque finish because I always work with beautiful wood and want to show it off. Lacquer does take pigments well, however, and I would not hesitate to do a solid finish with clear coat if the guitar called for it)
Damn, those look a lot like what I'm aiming for!
 

bgmacaw

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that mint Strat looks real nice, same for the Tele! I'm guessing you used an oil of sorts for that one?

The Strat-oid has the closest match to surf green from Rust-Oleum and did a light Watco nitro spray over that. The body was a GFS closeout that had a badly applied factory surf green and poly finish I stripped off.

On the okoume kit Tele I did a coat of whitewash, then a coat of sunbleached, then antiquing glaze and, finally, a thin coat of polyurethane.
 

snarf_nyc

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1k clear looks amazing after wet sanding and polishing. I would use 1k clearcoat if I wasn't so obsessed with replicating ye olde days of guitar finishing with lacquer.
 

castersquire

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I'm using a - frankly, ugly - poplar blank for my next build, and want to paint over it. My past builds with spray paint haven't had the best results, probably because I'm inexperienced and impatient, but maybe there's paint and clear coat out there that smooths out easier than Duplicolor or Rustoleum enamel paint and Minwax Poly (wipe and spray). For those of you who've had great results painting, what did you use, both in materials and process?
Practice makes perfect. No one becomes great at anything without practice and learning from one’s mistakes.

Yes, there are better products available etc. to work with than what you have been using.
Start with lacquers and follow the TDS information. (technical data sheet)
If you have a Woodcraft store nearby, they usually have what you need to get started. Just remember to read the TDS and practice on scraps when necessary.

If you keep at it, you will eventually attain a higher skill level thru your experience.
Good Luck
 

Freeman Keller

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Damn, those look a lot like what I'm aiming for!
One of the really nice things about lacquer is that you can do almost any kind of finish you want. Glossy or satin clear, high chatoyance if the wood permits, trans color, solid color, fades and 'bursts. Once you learn your gun and setup it really doesn't matter. Its even easy to deal with screw ups - you can sand back runs and dust, repair problems.

Other finishes can do some of this, I don't know any that can do it all.
 

gb Custom Shop

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we've all had to sand back jobs we weren't happy with and start over.... it's PIA, but it's the best way to get a good finish..
Yup, this is very true.

The various water born lacquers are really appealing on paper but just didn't pan out on the guitars - they have witness lines and don't blend like nitro does
To the OP, i wouldn't want you to read this and be totally discouraged from trying waterborne lacquer, in case you feel that they may be the most suitable product for you to use. Yes, witness lines are a risk, as they are with most polyurethane's in general. However, the more experience you get, the better you learn how to deal with it so it appears near, or completely, invisible, as well as avoiding this altogether. Although for repairs / drop fills, that's a lot trickier to hide witness lines.

At time of writing this, I only know of EMTECH that has a waterborne clear with burn-in capabilities. Not to say this characteristic makes for the best WB clear available, it is just a feature to consider.

The truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages to ALL available finishes, as well as unique considerations when using ANY product.

Here are examples of what I've been able to achieve with Crystalac, which is a WB polyurethane (1K). They're not 100% perfect, but each new guitar I do the quality gets better, and most importantly, I'm happy with them
IMG-20210927-WA0004~2.jpg
IMG-20220308-WA0009.jpg
20211205_161024.jpg
 

Freeman Keller

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Yup, this is very true.


To the OP, i wouldn't want you to read this and be totally discouraged from trying waterborne lacquer, in case you feel that they may be the most suitable product for you to use. Yes, witness lines are a risk, as they are with most polyurethane's in general. However, the more experience you get, the better you learn how to deal with it so it appears near, or completely, invisible, as well as avoiding this altogether. Although for repairs / drop fills, that's a lot trickier to hide witness lines.

At time of writing this, I only know of EMTECH that has a waterborne clear with burn-in capabilities. Not to say this characteristic makes for the best WB clear available, it is just a feature to consider.

The truth is, there are advantages and disadvantages to ALL available finishes, as well as unique considerations when using ANY product.

Here are examples of what I've been able to achieve with Crystalac, which is a WB polyurethane (1K). They're not 100% perfect, but each new guitar I do the quality gets better, and most importantly, I'm happy with them


I won't disagree with any of this. My experience was 15 or so years ago, I wanted to avoid some of the hazards of nitro if I could and water born finishes were the hot topic at the time. I tried whatever it was that SM was selling under their brand name, felt that the color tend towards the blue too much for my taste. A lot of people were using KTM-7 or 9 or something (I forget) so I shot a couple of guitars with it. I liked the color better but did end up with witness lines.

I know I should try the Target finish but frankly I've been burned several times and I know exactly what the results will be with nitro. I would have to go thru the entire learning curve all over again, why risk it.

I also see very nice finishes done with the wipe on polys, but once again, can I tint it and fade it and touch it up? I build vintage inspired guitars, I use vintage finishes and that is all I can speak to.
 

gb Custom Shop

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I won't disagree with any of this. My experience was 15 or so years ago, I wanted to avoid some of the hazards of nitro if I could and water born finishes were the hot topic at the time. I tried whatever it was that SM was selling under their brand name, felt that the color tend towards the blue too much for my taste. A lot of people were using KTM-7 or 9 or something (I forget) so I shot a couple of guitars with it. I liked the color better but did end up with witness lines.

I know I should try the Target finish but frankly I've been burned several times and I know exactly what the results will be with nitro. I would have to go thru the entire learning curve all over again, why risk it.

I also see very nice finishes done with the wipe on polys, but once again, can I tint it and fade it and touch it up? I build vintage inspired guitars, I use vintage finishes and that is all I can speak to.
From what I understand, a lot of the pioneering WB clears had a blue-ish cast/hue. Even the big names in WB clears have had a few renditions over the past couple decades. The Crystalac/Emtech/etc (and other similar products) of today are not the exact same as they were 5, 10, 15 years ago. And we'll certainly still see improvements in the years to come.

But fact of the matter is, and which you touched upon FK, there's a learning curve, and that applies to any finishing route one chooses - regardless if it's WB, solvent based, shellac, tru-oil, etc etc...
 




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