Cleaning Nitrocellulose Laquer.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Rev J, Mar 12, 2016.

  1. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I figured it was best to ask builders about this one.

    I have a Fender Steve Bailey Jazz Bass that came standard with Nitro Laquer finish. I've read that it is a fairly fragile finish so I've been kind of paranoid about cleaning it because it is now a collectors item and don't want to scratch the hell out of it so I am wondering what to use to clean it.

    C/S,
    Rev J
     
  2. praisegig

    praisegig Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Stephenville, TX
    Naphtha would be the strongest solvent I would use to clean grime from the surface without harming the finish.
     
    Laklandfan likes this.
  3. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Just use a soft cloth and regular guitar polish.
     
  4. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    If you go for a guitar polish make sure you pick one which does not contain Silicone. Dunlop 65 for example does. The Silicone probably won't damage the finish, but it will make any refinish work (should any ever be necessary) very difficult.

    Naphtha would be safe, but if it's not too dirty a damp cloth will work as long as it's not too wet and there are no bare areas on the bass.
     
  5. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    Thanks! It is pretty grimy since I really haven't cleaned it since I got it brand new in 2011. It's interesting that I started wearing a divit in the finish around the B string area of the bridge pickup within the first week as that is where I anchor my thumb.

    C/S,
    Rev J
     
  6. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    Any non solvent degreaser. . . agreee NO silicone as it will make future problems. I would do 3 things, clean, polish then protect.

    Clean- I would use Simple Green almost full strength, best de-greaser I've found. Foam spray glass cleaner will help too
    Polish- the mildest polishing compound you can find without silicone (my choice, by hand would be McGuiars #82 Dual Action cleaner or any McGuiars polishing compound that is NOT aggressive) this step will remove minor scratches
    Protect- Again, you should avoid silicone and a great choice (my preference) McGuiar's #7 Show Sealer (name not right)

    All this would be overkill but would yield great results. It really depends if the guitar is just grimy. I use McGuiar's products becase I have experience with them and they are hard to beat. Also, they are readily available at your local Harbor Freight store in small, affordable bottles (I buy a gallon at a time at my local autobody supply store).

    Before I took any solvent based cleaners to the axe, I would try a water based solution which should not, at all harm the finish.

    Just my thoughts! Let us know how you make out!

    Brent
     
  7. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Personally, I don't think one should even worry about what they use to clean a guitar with for worry of future refinishing. The finish should last the life of the bass, and the Dunlap 65 stuff works well without leaving streaks.
     
  8. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    That's fine if you're working on your own instruments, but to do something like that to someone else's is not really responsible, especially when there is no good reason to do so in the first place. One of the great things about Nitro is that it can be repaired very easily, introduce Silicone and you wave goodbye to that possibility. Bottom line, there is no good reason to use a polish which has Silicone in it, it's just not necessary.
     
    ColinLP likes this.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Ive used the Dunlop 65 polish for years because it works well. If doing a finish touch up, you should be cleaning with a good grease and wax remover before hand anyway so its pretty much a non issue IMHO. But again, I don't really think that one should be concerned with future repairs to perform a simple task like cleaning a bass.
     
  10. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    probably true, old finish should go anyways if it is failing or compromised. I don't use lacquer so maybe should not have commented.
     
  11. Manton Customs

    Manton Customs UK Luthier

    Jan 31, 2014
    Shropshire, UK
    Luthier, Manton Customs
    That's the thing though, removing Silicone with said products (well any products!) is very difficult. It'll just smear it about the place. It gets especially difficult if there are checks in the finish or bare areas of wood as there often will be on a repair project. That's why Silicone has got such a bad rep with people who do lots of repair/finish work.

    Obviously, feel free to use whatever you like, but thought the above info would contribute to the thread :).
     
  12. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I've been going through a lot of stuff (as in boxes not as in personal issues) lately and found a bottle of Martin Guitar Polish and a cloth that I haven't used in years. I couldn't find any type of ingredients list on it. It says "Natural Ingredients" Do you think this should be fairly safe. I know Martin are high end acoustic guitars so thought it should be fairly safe.

    Sorry if I sound naïve. I'm a player not a builder and am new to high end instruments. Also being/growing up broke I have the tendency to want to take care of the little nice stuff that I have.

    C/S,
    Rev J
     
  13. Laklandfan

    Laklandfan Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2010
    New Orleans, LA
    I've heard of people using lighter fluid to clean guitars (old gibsons in particular case); is that the same as naphtha?
     
  14. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    Yes Zippo Brand used to be almost pure naptha. Haven't bought any in years though.
     
  15. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I would recommend buying naphtha, for cleaning and your zippo. Zippo fluid is excessively expensive compared to just buying a gallon of naphtha.
     
  16. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    I would recommend against carrying on over full zippo, with naptha in any pocket close to your skin as it burns when it makes contact. . . Sadly I'm speaking from experience here.

    Hope you get it cleaned up and it looks awesome!
     
    ICM likes this.
  17. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    LOL, I've had plenty of solvents get on my skin over the years, naphtha is one of the the least objectionable. Ever have lacquer retarder spill down your leg and onto your inner thy and not realize it until it starts burning?
     
  18. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.

    Thanks I've over filled my Zippo in the past and burnt the crap out of my leg.

    So do I apply it then light it on fire? That's really not what I want to do to my $2500 Fender.

    It would seem to me like a good way to get the lacquer off the body. I've heard that nitro lacquer on it's own is highly flammable.

    C/S,
    Rev J
     
  19. earlysecond

    earlysecond In Memoriam

    Jan 26, 2016
    I'm confident you are kidding rev., no dont light it just clean with it! Haha
     
  20. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Over time cleaning nitro with anything containing silicon can soften the finish I'm told by 35 year custom furniture, cabinet, and guitar luthier. I personally do not have experience with the timelines he can speak about but he had built several custom guitars for himself and one is a Les Paul type which he had made it a point to never clean with anything other than a soft cloth and a few drops of water and he said it hasn't chipped dented or seriously scratched and just got harder and harder with time. He says silicon is nothing you want to put on a nitro finish. There are plenty of products to clean without it why chance it. He also was the rep for years for the mother company for Titebond glues when the furniture part of his business got crushed by the economy and worked with paint and finish guys. I trust him completely.

    He also told me to never do a scarf joint but that's another story..