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nitrocellulose lacquer??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lawndart, Nov 18, 2004.

  1. lawndart


    Oct 4, 2003
    Northern NJ
    on their AVS series basses Fender uses nitrocellulose lacquer as a finish. How does that differ from other finishes that they offer? Will it show 'age' over time, ie cracking or yellowing? Like will an olympic white that starts off pretty white turn a pale yellow over time?
  2. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    Fury uses that for finishes as well. If the finish is applied with enough coats and allowed to cure for a couple of months in a stable environment it will stay nice forever
  3. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Not true. Nitro is in a constant state of breaking down. It will yellow with age, crack, etc as it shrinks and gets more brittle. Drastic temperature changes (never good for an instrument anyway) will check the finish in no time. It is always susceptible to plastizier migration (vinyl couches, cheap guitar stands) and can always be dissolved with lacquer thinner. On the plus side it looks great and is the easiest finish to repair. Other Fenders use either a catalyzed urethane or polyester.
  4. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    Does Nitro really allow the wood of a bass to "breathe" more and resonate better than Poly, or is that a myth?
  5. pistoleroace


    Sep 13, 2002

    According to John Suhr, the finish he uses on his instruments which is some sort of Poly, does breathe. He told me this over the phone about 1/2 year ago.

    As for the nitro finish, I'm not a fan at all. The finish on my F Bass which I believe to be a nitro finish is terrible. In a matter of hours of playing, I have put finish wear on that bass that took many years of playing on other basses. Some people think it adds to the mojo but not me.
  6. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004

    I think I would like a Nitro finish on a vintage-styled bass, but on a high-end like an F bass, I would want it to stay nice for longer than that.
  7. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Well...one thing I can say about Nitro is that it smells wondeful!!! :D I just happened to drag my '62 Reissue out today for the first time in MONTHS and am still amazed that it smells so great after all of these years (the bass is about 10-12 years old). :smug: BUT, in my opinion, nitro finishes do not wear very well at all.

    It is extremely easy to put micro-scratches in the finish, which tends to dull the overall appearance of the bass relatively quickly. While nitro's ability to "melt" makes it great for sunbursts, solid colors will age and deteriorate with age. All you have to do is look at photos of old Fender basses and see how white turns to yellow, how Nitro pickguards/knobs/pickup covers turn mint green, how lake placid blue takes on a greenish hue, how gold turns a copper color, etc.

    Another concern is that the finish will become brittle with age and is prone to cracking if exposed to sharp swings in temperature. This natural breakdown of the finish is generally what people refer to as the finish "breathing". By "breathing", they mean that the finish has lessened its bond with the body wood (at a microscopic level) and has broken down sufficiently enough to start to separate from the body....not to the point of flaking off, but to the point to where "they" claim that it allows the wood to vibrate and resonate more freely. Whether you belive that wood needs to "breathe" or not, or whether the notion is true that nitro allows a bass to resonate better than any other thinly applied finish is up to interpretation and debate...and a search will probably help you find plenty of past debates over this very issue! ;)

    Nevertheless, to answer your first questions (in my opinion), nitro may show age, nitro can be prone to chipping and cracking, nitro can be less durable than other modern finishes unless properly cared for, nitro finishes tend to be more costly due to the hazards and environmental laws surrounding their use, but nitro is easier to repair and touch up than other modern finishes. These are the primary differences between nitrocellulose finishes and other modern finished that Fender might use on their instruments.
  8. Spector_Ray


    Aug 8, 2004
    I agree...it actually queers it's mojo.
  9. lawndart


    Oct 4, 2003
    Northern NJ
    how would one care for or polish a Nitro bass?
  10. Don't use furniture polish or Windex. Most guitar polishes are fine. I had a 40+ year old guitar that I didn't want to use any polish on, and a soft 100% cotton cloth and occasionally steaming it with my breath did a fantastic job.

    Poly is more durable, but nitro is much more traditional. It has an entirely different feel.
  11. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Well, if you're talking about the bass itself, you would take the normal steps that you would with any other instrument: wipe down the back of the neck and fingerboard after use, keep the bass in the case when not in use, try to avoid swings in temperature and humidity, store the bass in a safe place, etc. All the standard stuff. However, if you're worried about protecting the finish, there really isn't anything you can do as long as you want to actually use the bass (and buying a bass and then being afraid to use it because you might get a scratch or ding in it might not be smart use of your money, if you know what I mean). As long as you play an instrument, it will be subject to wear and will always be at risk for damage. However, you might avoid wearing shirts with thick, sticky graphics on them, as they will tend to scuff the finish on the back of your bass. If you collect and wear HUGE belt buckles from the '70s, you might want to start wearing sweat pants and collecting baseball cards instead :D , and you might also want to watch out for rivits in jeans rubbing up against the finish of your bass. Overall, there are other finishes that protect and wear better than nitro, but nitrocellulose is not a bad finish. The aging process that has been outlined above generally takes DECADES, and the wear and tear that you see on some vintage instruments are from years and years of constant use. As long as you don't abuse your instrument and take particular care to keep your bass in a stable environment (or at lease minimize exposure to wide shifts in temperature: hot to cold or cold to hot), then you should be OK. ;)
  12. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements
    At this point, production nitro is just foolishness to juke suckers.

    You can't even get the original solvent-based nitrocellulose finish done legally in the US, plus the modern nitro is probably over a sealed wood anyway, as it has been on Fenders since the Fullerplast days.

    The modern catalyzed nitrocellulose lacquer is very different from the original and is extremely toxic and carcinogenic. You may find youself allergic to it and break out in hives on contact with it, as I do.

    Nasty, fragile, utterly pointless finish.