Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #138995  by James-T
 Tue May 13, 2014 7:35 pm
Nitro or Poly - what are you guys using on your builds and why? Lots on this topic on the net, but I'm curious to what deadheads think! When all else fails just ask
What would Jerry use?

Like on the Alligator, and Wolf.


 #139010  by TI4-1009
 Wed May 14, 2014 10:39 am
For me- I used the Wudtone on the Wolf/SG and am really happy with it- plan to use it next time too. Thin, easy to apply (wipe on with cloth), looks great. Nitro would be next, for thin-ness and being able to spray on with cans or an automotive-type spray gun. Poly would be last because who wants a nice guitar encased in plastic?

PS- after reading a few bios of good ol' Jer, the last thing I'd advise my kids is to "just do what Jerry would do." :lol: :shock:
 #139013  by mgbills
 Wed May 14, 2014 12:32 pm
Target - EM6000
Water-based. Low VOC.
Used on about 15 Ukes & small-bodied acoustics now. Excellent results. No wet sanding. Buffs beautifully.

French polish - shine with bugs! Hard and fussy.

Nitro is highly toxic, and rest assured... it's going away. I work with 3 different finish companies as part of my day job. The mythos of nitrocellulose lacquer ranks up there with notion that amp hiss is essential to good tone & great RocknRoll. This is not intended as a dig on those who use it (btw), but all should know that it's days are short. If you love it great, it's your lungs & liver. Most of the chemists in the finish business chuckle at the notions that'r out there. Any quality finish that can apply in the fewest mils will provide every measurable benefit without the toxicity.

I'm also not nuts about those thick polyester finishes. Makes me feel like my guitar should have Hello Kitty painted on it.

My 2cents.
 #139016  by softmachine72
 Wed May 14, 2014 2:03 pm
Point taken M B . One must use a proper respirator and ventilation. Until it goes away it will be all I use.I do use Shellac for pore filling on purpleheart . French polish does have some liabilities. It scratches easily, especially on soft woods, such as spruce or cedar. It is also susceptible to heat, which can soften it. A guitar left in a car above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will probably receive an imprint from the case or, more disturbing, may stick to the case lining. Moisture can cloud the finish, and the body chemistry of some players can cause problems, crazing the contact surface over time. Not to mention it can take 2-4 weeks to cure properly. I have experimented with some water based lacquers but, i do not think they buff out a well.
 #139018  by James-T
 Wed May 14, 2014 4:30 pm
All good info, but this best is don't do what Jerry would do because Jerry was no saint! LOL. Yep kinda agree, but he was in the know for tone, and the guy who searched more than most, was one of the first to head into the custom build territory and lead a happy band of pranksters who paved the way for modern day sound. But if he didn't do someone would have, and it's not like Rick Turner and Doug Irwin, and Alembic weren't busy working just for the Dead!

Interesting thoughts on Nitro. I'm led to believe: don't believe everything you read......and in a few short hours there is more good information on this thread than elsewhere on the net, including Fender's own site! Many thanks.

I'm an architect and I know wood finishes is an evolving science and we just can't pollute and poison ourselves like we used to.

Best line here "who wants a plastic guitar!"..... and I'm going to look at nitro in a new light, at least with a grain of salt. :shock:

Peace, :smile:

 #139037  by milobender
 Thu May 15, 2014 8:33 am
I use Formby's Tung Oil finish applied by hand... using my own developed technique "o) I think it's got some plastic in it, but there's no breakdown on the label, so I'm not sure. I put at least 20 thin coats on and build up a lovely high gloss and very thin finish, that's very hardy and when dinged, relatively easy to fix. No spraying. Takes longer than spraying, but I really like it.

 #139038  by haydukej
 Thu May 15, 2014 10:06 am
Anyone want another $0.02? I'll admit as a disclaimer, that I have yet to apply finish to any of a guitar, although I did residential painting in college involving staining/sealing of fancy cabinetry. I've searched the threads as it sounds like the OP has done in preparation of building my own custom some day.

I think there's basically two camps with finishes: 1) it is crucial in determining the final tone of the instrument. 2) it is crucial in providing protection to the wood your instrument is made from.

Poly, nitro, shellac, tung oil, linseed oil: all will have their advantages/disadvantages. Any of these can be applied as thick/thin as you want, as far as I know.

Ultimate question is: what do you feel most comfortable working with and will yield the results you desire?
 #139039  by mgbills
 Thu May 15, 2014 10:08 am
Maybe this information is on this board...

I heard it somewhere, and I felt like it was solid info...That Fender USA used poly on all guitars. Even some that are sold as Nitro, like the $3K customs.

I'm an unskilled finisher with a bunch of pro's around me. I played with shellac. I just love that type of work, but man-o-man...that is some fussy fussy fussy stuff.

No judgement on the Nitro other than what I've already stated. If anybody has read Bob Taylor's book he talks quite a bit about the trials of their early work in nitro. Leo ...your guitars are stunning, and I'm sure you take care of yourself and your environs. There are a whole lot of small builders struggling with nitro, and doing harm in the process.

I just had to move beyond it. Between known qualitative inconsistencies and suppliers, toxicity, and the potential product extinction...I thought it wise.
 #139042  by softmachine72
 Thu May 15, 2014 1:46 pm
Thank M. B. you do some great work yourself.
I realize Low VOC's do not mean no VOC's but here is a quote from Cardinal Instrument finishes about their paint. Also they are a California company where the environmental manufacturing laws are most strict.

"Nitro- Being the traditional finish of the modern guitar and one of Cardinals original product lines Nitrocellulose Lacquer is a great finish choice for any luthier.
Catalyzed Lacquer- This system includes a catalyzed vinyl sealer, a catalyzed (CAB) lacquer topcoat and can be used with any combination of Cardinal’s air dry, UV, and urethane filler and color coats. Featuring ease of application, fast dry times and great sandability; these catalyzed finishes have faster turnaround times for buffing, are more durable, and have lower VOC’s compared to traditional lacquers."
 #139045  by mgbills
 Thu May 15, 2014 3:44 pm
Thanks Leo!
I just looked over their products briefly. Nice stuff. And you're right, not enormously high. Nitro is stinky when sprayed, but nothing like some of the MEK products. I spent 3 months in an Org Chem lab doing extractions with MEK. I think I can smell one drop from 500 miles away.

To be honest, it was easy for me to get into Target. My workplace sprays 1000's of gallons of waterbase stain & clearcoat from them per year. The owner and principle chemist is a buddy, and I see him 5 times a year.

I wasn't trying to hide anything. I don't work for them. But I probably should've vetted that as well. It does get me a price break for the menial amount I use.
 #139062  by tcsned
 Fri May 16, 2014 5:50 am
I've got a guitar that milobender refinished and it is a beautiful finish. I've got one with a water based poly finish and it's not nearly as glassy looking as Milo's or a nitro finish but it's still not a bad finish. But if you're looking for high gloss that's probably not the best choice.
 #139067  by TI4-1009
 Fri May 16, 2014 8:32 am
softmachine72 wrote:Milo Bender what are all those holes for?
Pots, switches, jacks, posts. You know- "stuff"..... :lol: