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Nitrocellulose Finish Has It Out For Me

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by the federalist, Apr 4, 2020.

  1. the federalist

    the federalist I think about basses a lot. Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2014
    One of my favorite basses has a nitrocellulose finish.

    I baby it: Extremely careful in handling it. Never leaves home. No one else ever touches it. Lives in a case when not being played.

    Yet I keep finding more nicks on it. How can this be? I couldn't treat the finish any more kindly, yet the finish seems to want to cause me mental anguish.

    IMG_20200404_093817.jpg IMG_20200404_093830.jpg IMG_20200404_093932.jpg IMG_20200404_093851.jpg
  2. Tommyc


    Nov 11, 2015
    It’s not for nothing that makers have gone to poly finishes. Nitro is fragile. The alleged differences in tone probably had more to do with thickness of the finishes than the finishes themselves. Today poly coats can be and are done very thinly. Nitro can be repaired, but it may require someone skilled in working with lacquer. I remember Stew-Mac in their repair archives had a demo of a nitro finish repair. Good luck!
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
  3. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    That's a sign of spontaneous combustion. Your playing must be very hot. ;)

    In all seriousness, except for guitar bodies that have just come out of the paint shop, I've never seen a pristine nitro-finished instrument in my life. As noted by @Tommyc, the very nature of nitro is that it's prone to cracking over time. Keeping your Precision in a temperature/humidity controlled environment probably wouldn't even slow the rate of flaking.
    REMBO, MCF, kobass and 1 other person like this.
  4. starjag

    starjag Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2019
    It comes with the nitro territory. I've learned to enjoy it for what it is. Not for what is not :)
  5. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    That is one of the things about nitro that I actually like. My instrument registers my presence and takes on an individual character.

    Don't be sad. A light relic is a desirable thing.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2020
    Low84, VernRumseyIsGod, bebi and 19 others like this.
  6. steveinohio


    May 27, 2007
    Play the crap out of it. Enjoy it. Dont worry about the dings. If it got em while you were playing it youre doing something right.
  7. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    It's a brittle finish. And while I love the stuff - it's what I trained to finish with and the acoustic purists still demand it - it's not a finish for someone who wants a pristine finish for years.

    An additional issue with those Fender finishes is that they are not nitro from the ground up - they are shot on top of a VERY thick coat of sealer and then a poly finish as well. When you do that, it comes off. I have some stellar examples at home right now.

    Up until the late 1930s, car manufacturers used to use nitro as finish. Can you imagine what your new car would have looked like after a year or two?

    Frankly, the finish of the future - doesn't have the tone-blanket effect of poly but even better durability - is the UV crosslink lacquer that companies like Taylor and Martin are using now. Only problem is, I can't shoot that crap in my side yard spray booth. You need a legit booth and a supplied air full body suit to work in.
    Low84, dmt, OpposableThumbs and 2 others like this.
  8. Ghastly


    Oct 18, 2015
    Mill Valley
    Yea, sounds like you're treating it right. You have a beautiful instrument there. What's happening is part of its nature. I wouldn't be too concerned about it unless the paint starts coming off in sheets.
    andruca, murphy and kobass like this.
  9. Nitro finish continues to be used as it's what some part of the market demands, 'it's thinner, less effect on tone', etc. Can I sell you a bridge in Tucson . . . . .

    I've got news for you: It's WAY easier to fix at the builder before it goes out to sale, cuts way down on the 'do-overs' department. When I worked at Gibson, if everything else 'made it' thru QC, if there were a small ding from handling, installation, etc., a thin spot (paint does NOT like hard corners, you'd be surprised the evils body binding can save you), any kind of small paint problem was sent off to a wonderful lady who'd been painting them for years and years, and she could spot fix almost any buffing burn-through, an unexpected void in the mahogany, you name it. It's fresh paint, relatively easier to match. This is why lots of companies still offer it.

    Of course, it's flammable as hell, and when we'd have our once-a-week plant evacuation when hot sparks went up the sawdust system, we'd all wonder IF it would get to the paint locker !

    You can fix poly finishes somewhat, but it's far harder than little pots of every color you offer with a little lacquer thinner and a very experienced set of hands and eyes to apply the makeup !
    Rabidhamster likes this.
  10. bassstrangler


    Mar 2, 2015
    I also have a really nice Select Precision which I baby. It looks nothing like yours. What do you consider babying? Because if that's babying an instrument child protective service may be calling! ;)

    I'll be blunt, get over it and play it.
  11. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    I had one of these 58RI Precisions. Ontop of what the others said about laquer, the paperwork that came with the 58RI says on that last AVRI line, they purposely sprayed the thinnest possible finish on these so it would wear and look like the vintage basses.
    My previous 62RI had much thicker finishes and would not wear like that.
  12. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    Don't know what you are talkin' about.
    What's a nitrocellulose?
    Oil finished basses.
    JRA, Bahjark, bassballs27 and 5 others like this.
  13. the federalist

    the federalist I think about basses a lot. Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2014
    Wow! That actually makes me feel better. I bought mine used and it didn't have the paperwork.

    Thanks for the info! It's a wonderful instrument, nicks or no nicks.
    JRA, SJan3, Jim Carr and 1 other person like this.
  14. Rabidhamster


    Jan 15, 2014
    Looking better and better, it seems
    kobass and the federalist like this.
  15. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    As far as being flammable, the nitro of today is not the same formula as what was used decades back.
    dmt and REV like this.
  16. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Sponsored by Hipshot
    Gloss or satin poly finish = be picky as you want throughout ownership

    Nitro, oil, etc = accept any and all blemishes throughout ownership
  17. Allan Allan

    Allan Allan Guest

    Mar 25, 2018
    This is the part of noitro that isn't discussed. All those old guitars weren't "bashed on 8 days a week" that's just normal wear.

    Want to see nitro bashed on 8 days a week? Look up Rory Gallagher's Stratocaster
    Need Gigs, murphy and Pdaddy1978 like this.
  18. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Not a nitro fan at all.

    Had my share of bad experiences. And rubber stands should have warning labels on them. Or actually, nitro finished basses should.
  19. jim nolte

    jim nolte

    Oct 26, 2006
    You must take the path of no resistance, the more you resist something the more it appears in your life ‍♀️:)
    murphy likes this.
  20. the federalist

    the federalist I think about basses a lot. Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2014
    I believe a rubber stand was the culprit. Sometimes I would put said bass on a rubber stand if I wasn't done playing it. In retrospect, a mistake, but who would guess.

    On a separate topic, I hope your situation is not as dire as your photo suggests. Please be careful!!
    Joe Nerve likes this.

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