1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Tell me about nitrocellulose finishes

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LotusCarsLtd52, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. LotusCarsLtd52


    Dec 6, 2009
    What are they like compared to modern polyester finishes, particularly in regards to wear, durability, feel, etc.? Oh and what's this I hear about nitrocellulose being toxic? Can anyone clarify? (although I assume the toxicity probably refers to the application of the lacquer to the guitar, not the actual physical handling of the instrument after the fact)
  2. ausf


    Jun 24, 2008
    New York
    The modern nitro is usually a matte finish, very thin, just barely opaque. It wears quicker than a poly and gets a satin sheen in well used spots.

    It is lacquer, therefore organic solvent based, but that's more of a concern for the applier, not the end user. THe solvent is gone for the most part when dry, especially considering the thin coat.
  3. Nitro is a very thin finish. It lets the instrument Resonate, letting the wood to open up to its fullest potentual. But because it is a thin finish it will wear quickly and add that character that would end up being what is called a Relic. Poly is like dipping the instrument in plastic...It puts a durable but thick finish on that will last for years without showing the wear that a Nitrocellulose finish will show. I also believe that the thick poly finish will effect the tone the instrument has. I have read some say it will "Choke" the tone. As far as it being toxic...I think if there is something to this it would have to be in the spraying process. In any case, to me Nitro is the way to go...It offers a tone like no other.
  4. Rocky McD

    Rocky McD

    Jun 28, 2005
    San Antonio, Texas
    Nitro is a very old but popular finish in the guitar world. The newer polyurethanes and other two parts paints, are very, very tough and scratch resistant. They protect the wood from moisture and other contaminants. Manufacturers use them because the are easy and quick to apply and they have very few warranty problems. Nitro is a lacquer, there is Acryllic lacquer and there is Nitrocellulous lacquer. They both will fade, chip, scratch, check, and become dull if not kept polished. Usually, a lacquer finish is much, much thinner than poly and some people think you get a better tone with a thin finish.
    All paint is toxic, especially when it is being applied. If you are going to paint a guitar, lacquer may have some advantages for you.
  5. depalm


    Apr 22, 2004
    São Paulo
    Nitro is also very flammable, don't try to spray it at home or unprotected places.
  6. SuperLauren


    Nov 3, 2009
    does anyone know where can i get a nitro-finish body part?:hyper:
    I have asked Warmoth and they only do poly finish, and I got no time to do it myself.:rollno:

  7. Figas


    Sep 8, 2008
    Nitro is F*****'n awesome!!


  8. Dark Horse

    Dark Horse

    Jul 31, 2008
    Austin, TX

  9. Nitro and the people who spray it are getting harder to find, and in places like California they are virtually outlawed. It's very toxic to breathe so don't ever spray it without a good respirator, which aren't all that expensive.
    The newer urethane clears that we have today are superior to lacquer in almost every way, but they do look noticeably thicker, which some don't like. Personally if I wanted wanted a thinner finish, I would just use an oil finish, but that's not always applicable.
  10. snyderz


    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    My one nitro bass sounds better unplugged than all of my poly basses.
  11. Boombass76

    Boombass76 Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2008
    BassCollect Blog & Shop (founder)
    Here is a warning with regard to nitro finishes. Even though they look great (especially after some wear), it is also quite fragile... It doesn't like cold weather!

    I learned this the hard way as I had a great instrument (ok, actually it was a guitar :) that I left in a cold place overnight (below the freezing point), and then I took it out of its case in a heated room... :rollno:

    You could atually see the cracks running slowly - but unstopable - across the body... :bawl:

    Later, I was told that you should leave a cold nitro finished instrument within its case for at least an hour in a heated room to adjust to the temperature slowly.

    About the poly finishes choking the tone? I qestion how much it really matters... I have owned several nitro basses as well as poly, and I would not participate in a blindfolded listening test... Just MHO.
  12. I'd stay away from it. Very fragile, minimal if any impact on tone (since modern poly finishes are very thin now), and the Nitro finishes are fussy in general (temperature, type of case, type of stand, and every darn thing).

    There is something organic and beautiful with an expertly applied nitro finish (one of my Alleva-Coppolo's has a Nitro finish, and it is just beautiful).

    These day, very little reason for nitro finishes, IMO.
  13. nitro finishes are made from cotton seeds, pro's it's vintage , which is short for it deteriorates over time. Cold checks. 10 to 12 coats of lacquer is not thin in my opinion and thats what it takes to finish a bass. Poly doesn't cold check 5 or 6 coats will do so the mil thickness is no different. Tone wise I can't tell a difference, I've built about 22 instruments and that my take. And they will both kill you with no respirator.
  14. Unless I am mistaken (and I often am) Gibson still uses nitrocellulose on all their USA models for both visual and tonal characteristics.
  15. minmei


    Apr 1, 2010
    all i know is you have to get special stands for nitro because certain rubber (on the cheapie guitar center stands :meh: )
    will leech into the nitro . . .
  16. Toneman


    Jun 6, 2001
    Long Island

    Thats only on the Highway Ones.
    If you get AV62 Reissue the nitro is thick and high gloss just an awesome finish. I own both and there's no comparision.
    Bthebassplayer likes this.
  17. Boombass76

    Boombass76 Commercial User

    Jul 1, 2008
    BassCollect Blog & Shop (founder)
    I don't think you're mistaken. I have also heard that Gibson uses nitro almost exclusively, but still, I question that the nitro causes a tonal benefit.

    Visually there may be a difference that some like more than others, though. A matter of personal taste, I guess...
  18. mr.mow


    Feb 11, 2009
    Endorsing Artist: BBE/G&L Basses
    Nitro can be thick or thin...
    Poly can be thick or thin...

    Poly unfortunately gets a bad wrap for being 'thick and goopy' cos thats what a lot of cheaper guitars are finished with.. its not the FINISH, its the APPLICATION.

    A lot of very VERY high end guitars use ultra thin poly finishes.

    I've seen some god awful thick Nitro finishes (1mm thick at least).. its the application not the finish!

    As for the myth of poly doesn't age or yellow..
    Here is my 5 year old Duesenberg.. poly finish..

  19. SuperLauren


    Nov 3, 2009
    So an Oly White poly can still turn yellow after years?

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.