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what year did fender start using poly finishes on basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by choo5, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. choo5


    Apr 15, 2004
    sydney, australia
    what year did fender start using poly finishes on their basses? im assuming its sometime during the late 70's? iv googled numerous times and just cant find this piece of info.

  2. Makten


    Oct 30, 2007
    As early as 1968!

    "Bob Gowan ran the Fender finish shop for Leo Fender and for CBS until he got sick of CBS and quit in the early 1970s. It was the decision of Bob and another gentlemen at Fender in 1968 to change to Aliphatic Urethane Coatings (aka "Poly") on the guitars. Fender immediately went from numerous coat application of clearcoat lacquer to *two* coats of Aliphatic Urethane. The decision was strictly a labor thing, but in the process, the decision essentially ruined Fender instruments!

    Also it should be noted that 1968 and later Fenders are not entirely AUC (Aliphatic Urethane Coating). What Fender did was seal the body (as always), and then spray the sunburst colors with lacquer. Now instead of using lacquer as the clear coat over the sunburst, they just sprayed two coats of AUC. Also the face of the peghead stayed entirely lacquer, even though the rest of the neck was spray with AUC. This happened because the peghead "Fender" decal reacted with AUC. The problem occured because in 1968 Fender now clearcoated *over* the peghead decal for the first time."

    That's why I think prices on 70's Fenders now are going ridicilous.

  3. choo5


    Apr 15, 2004
    sydney, australia
    ah I see... but basses up til the late 70's had poly underneath and nitro over the top didnt they? they seem to relic alot easier than todays MIM's and those type of things.

    im looking for a bass that will relic naturaly like a friend of mines highway1 bass has, nitro seems to be the way to go.
  4. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    My 1974 P is nitro and I think my recently purchased late 90's '62 reissue P is also nitro.

    Across the board, the switch to poly was likely very late '70's or maybe '80-81. Just based on conversations I have had over the years, no real facts.

  5. justabass


    Nov 7, 2006
    Nashville TN/Old Hickory TN
    Endorsing-Trace Elliot,Peavey Basses,PedalTrain,Starkey inears
    Your 74' is poly unless it has been refinished...Here's some info...

    1950 to 1967: Fender used nitrocellulose lacquer for all finishes. Film thickness was very thin, especially in the 1950's.

    1968 to 1980: Fender used a "thick skin" polyester finish. Later "thick skin" finishes got really thick in the 1970's, resembling a bowling ball. But all polyester finishes are very thick and glossy compared to the early lacquer finishes.

    Hope this helps!
  6. Hemispheres85


    Jun 15, 2006
    So- Is the general consensus that the nitro finish is better than the poly finish?

    I ask because I'm looking at the Highway One Jazz in thin nitro finish or the Geddy Lee Jazz in that appears to be poly finish.
  7. rjny36


    Jan 29, 2006
    Syracuse, NY
    I think it's largely a preference thing. Personally, I prefer the way the nitro finishes feel under my hands... less slippery, and it more like wood, to me... though this could be because I have a lot of old furniture that's finished with lacquer, so I'm used to that feel.

    Some folks find that their hands "sticks" on nitro finished necks, and can never get past it for that reason.

    So the answer, in my opinion, to your dilemma is the usual one: play both, and whichever feels and sounds better to you is the way you should go. :)
    mojomike001 likes this.
  8. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    I don't think it matters a ton tone wise, one way or the other.I like how nitro ages, but tonally, for equally thin finishes, it doesn't much matter. OTOH, a really thick poly finish does seem to lead to a dead sounding instrument. I notice it more on the guitars than the basses, but I've played some really dead 80s-90's strats, and the ones I've seen with chips out of them had unbelievably thick finishes
  9. My '73 P is Nitro on poly - just as described in the article.

    Gives you an interesting comparison actually of how differently nitro and poly wear. And I doubt they sanded the fullerplast before they applied the nitro coats - especially if they were trying to save labour. So once the nitro has oxidised and aged etc over the years, it comes away from the poly very easily - often you can just rub it off with your thumb.

    how so?

    Um I think that's round the other way. Poly is a far better finish than nitro. If you want a warm slightly amber look to a two-pack automotive finish, ask your luthier to spray a wash coat of shellac first. Or simply tint the poly. Or even better, find a company that specializes in timber coatings.
  10. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I can't hear a difference, too many other variables as well to form an opinion. I just love the way Fender nitro finishes look; I've never seen a poly finish with the same character. I also like the way the necks feel when worn much better.

    If anything I would guess the thickness of the finish could affect tone more than the material used, but that said, I had two CIJ '54 P RIs with that thick rock hard finish, and both were silly resonant with basswood bodies.
  11. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    You are correct in that those aren't real facts.

    Your 74 has a poly finish.

    The switch was in 68 as stated above.
  12. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    Those basses have been played *hard in many cases* for well over 30 years. Those 70's Poly finishes are pretty tough, but will "relic" eventually. The finish tends to check in a different way than Nitro though.

    I'm sure after 30+ years of hard playing, you MIM will look pretty similar.
  13. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006

    I've seen that thick stuff peel off in sheets in some cases on 70's Fenders.
    godofthunder59 likes this.
  14. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    An important consideration for Fender was that environmental regulations made it difficult to spray nitro economically. That's still true, which is why only the higher-end Fenders use it.

    As to feel, I don't like the stickiness. Poly's fine for me, and the wood sure as hell doesn't care what's slathered over it. In case nobody noticed, the wood in your Fender bass is dead, inanimate tissue. It doesn't breathe. In fact, it didn't breathe while it was "alive". If it makes you think it's better, though, it's better, just like everything else.

    Finish on acoustic instruments can be crucial to getting a good sound, but we''re talking about nearly 2" slabs of wood here. I'm skeptical of the whole business of thinking one finish on a solid body is superior to another, barring toxicity or other real-life issues.
  15. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    That is not entirely true...
    Like LPdelixe said, environmental laws/regulations is what changed everybody back then from using laquer.
    The automakers also had to stop using laquer paints in that same era.
  16. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    The finish has come off the back of my '73 like that, from a previous owners belt wear. I've seen it often, because the colour coats didn't bind as well with the undercoat.

    This J has had a refret, and the binding is worn to a rounded smooth shape. It's been so heavily played, but the finish is still intact everywhere save for the spot on the back- if it were a nitro finish it would be worn clean off in places and be micro thin by now. I can understand why Fender made the change- before the craze for vintage ones wear was just, well, wear. People wanted instruments that stayed shiny.
  17. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    And Fender was all about saving a buck in that time period as well.

    It's just less labor intensive to use poly.
  18. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    I worked in an aluminum plant back in that era. The place manufactured extruded aluminum components for large skyscraper windows and whatnot. The pieces were extruded, anodized, and then shot with lacquer with a spray gun out in the middle of the floor!

    Needless to say, that came to an end in the late '60s.

    I painted many a motorcycle and crash helmet with lacquer back in the day, then got into a different kind of trouble (college, marriage and kids) and by then the rules had all changed. But a luthier friend filled me in on developments once when we discussing guitar finishes. He went from spraying in a garage to a nearly sealed booth with some kind of fiiltering for the fumes before they hit the outside air. Added immensely to his expense.
  19. I don't like the nitro. I just sold a 62 avri that yellowed from olympic white to a beautiful shade of light yellowish, not sore of the finish material, I'm looking at another bass, . a 62 avri p built in 2012, beyond mint , wasn't used. or a 63 avri p. again i dont like the aged look, just ny feelings. I believe the 62 avri is not plyuretane, i dont understand lasted @ 20 years without so much as a ding, dent, chip, flakeing, spidering, it was like new. On older basses, I will buy a road worn bass np, but for my own, I like em to hold up finish wise. probably cause I painted cars in the past. lol
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