Nitrocellulose Lacquer vs. standard High Gloss?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by peaveybassamp88, Oct 26, 2003.

  1. A few months ago when I was first planning for my first re-do project (Teisco solidbody...going for a natural finish with a smooth, high gloss, crystal clear finish) some wise person on this board suggested to definitely use nitrocellulose lacquer for a hard finish. I'm only 14, but I'm no idiot, so I consulted my uncle who is an avid woodworker about using nitrocellulose. He basically said "It's gives a harder finish...But if you dont know what youre doing, don't mess with it" I stupidly opted for the Minwax high gloss water-based. That was a joke. After the lacquer dried I was left with a dull,sub-expectations finish. I managed to improve it by using a wipe-on oil-based lacquer, then using Old English polish over that to make it less sticky (even when dry..the Wipe-On in sticky as hell!). My question is...what the story with nitrocellulose??? What do most of the pros use? Also....i found it extremely difficult and time-comsuming to get a smooth finish (no brush marks, etc). ANY help will be needed, as i recently inherited a free Bradley fretless that could use a new sunburst. Thanks again, you guys/gals are the best!
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Nitro has to be sprayed to achieve best results. The routine goes: spray a couple of coats, level sand, spray a couple coats, level sand with a higher grit, spray a couple coats, level with a higher grit, etc. Do this until you get to about 2400 grit and then polish and buff. It's easy to sand (or even buff) through the finish, so be careful.

    So, there are a couple of reasons why nitro is considered a "pro" finish. None the least of which is that it is a spray finish that used to require an expensive spray rig. A HVLP setup will generally give you the best results. You can buy the stuff in cans through Stew Mac these days, though, and do a good job with them.

    Even a well-sprayed nitro finish will give you dull/crappy looking results if you do not do a good job of sanding and polishing.

    Be warned that nitro, when sprayed, is very bad to breathe in. A top-notch mask and well ventilated area is the bare minimum. Most people who do it more than once or twice will invest in a spray booth with an explosion-proof fan that can move air QUICK.
  3. Whoa...never knew making bassses was a high-risk job! So if nitro isn't a very good option, what would be second best? Any techniques that I can use to get a clear, vibrant finish by using "standard" lacquer? Don't get me wrong...the finish I came up with on the Teisco was good, but I want the next one I do to be as good as possible without blowing my house up. Thanks a lot!

    PS: I'll try to post some pics of the Teisco one I get the pickguard cut. Look for a post either on this board or the Basses one. It's actually kinda neat lookin :D
  4. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    Check out the Guitar ReRanch and read the 101. By all accounts this is much higher quality stuff than the repackaged Behlen furniture lacquer that Stew-Mac used to sell, although I haven't tried Stew-Macs new product line.