Polish a Fender

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by photodoug, Oct 12, 2003.

  1. photodoug


    Sep 12, 2003
    I read that Fender uses automotive paint to finish their instruments. Does mean I can polish the body and neck (not fretboard)with car wax?

    The bass in question is a 1989 MIA J in tobacco sunburst.
  2. Polish a fender with car wax?

    Hmmmm there's ajoke in there somewhere! :D :D

    Seriously, I don't know if that's really true, but auto paint is generally laquer so it should work fine for a guitar finish. I'm no expert and claim no responsibility.

    I do know that many production plants are using polyester based finishes, I think that cars use that too. the main thing is that a hard finish like auto paint will stand up to lots of abuse because it's thick. Most factory guitars have a pretty heavy finish on them, at least the painted kind. Better guitars have a thin finish on them and won't take the kind of abrasive polishes that auto paint will.

    Just my CD$0.03

  3. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    2000 MIA P. First treated with 3M Automotive cleaner wax and then finished up with Zano showcar polish.

  4. Wow LoJoe! That's nuts!

    Fender used to use car paints. They used Nitrocellulose Lacquer early on and in the 70s I think. But I read something about laquer shrinking or some problem with it. Fender uses urethane paints nowadays, I believe.
  5. Gentlemen, there's some goofy ideas flying around here. Let's set some of them straight.

    First, Both lacquers and polyurethanes are used in car finishing AND in instruments. For cars, lacquer is most often used in custom paint work for the ability to "burn in" overlaying coats. This allows extensive decoration to look smooth and remain on the same visual "plane" in the layering. Polyurethanes are almost exclusively reserved for production line painting. One reason is that poly's are "catalyst hardened". That means that their drying is assisted by a chemical reaction within the paint mixture. Heat speeds this process so that you can have a hardened, protective finish in under an hour. Lacquers are almost exclusively "air dry" paints. Drying time can be shortened a little with the proper choice of thinner but mostly it's the air curing that gives lacquer it's hardness.

    The finish on modern production line Fenders (not CS or Relic models) is polyurethane. It has been poly since the early 70's. Lacquers are still a strongly preferred finish for fine guitars both electric and acoustic. A good reason for this is the myriad of ways that lacquer can be used. For instance it's easy to tint lacquer for special effects. It's also a better finish to have for repairability. And finally, there is ample evidence to suggest that finishes have a strong effect on the tone of an instrument and lacquer is often chosen as one of the best for tone. I don't believe poly has ever gotten this reputation.

    And Yes, you CAN use automotive waxes and buffing agents on either lacquer or poly. Remember though that lacquer not near as tough as poly and buffing should be done gently to avoid overheating the finish. On a poly bass, you can put the elbow grease to it since the poly is really tough. Just go slow and assess your progress regularly.

    Hope this helps
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