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Thread: Nitrocellulose Lacquer

  1. #1
    Senior Member Rich Cohen's Avatar
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    Nitrocellulose Lacquer

    I spoke with an experienced luthier last night at a Thanksgiving dinner and we got on the subject of nitrocellulose lacquer, with which he has work experience. I told him how Oxnard wasn't producing guitars yet with nitro, and that we had heard about problems and challenges they're experiencing. He said something that I had not heard, namely, that after spraying nitro on a guitar, you need to wait 2 - 3 months for it to cure and settle before moving on with it. This in addition to the amount of experience it takes to work with nitro, plus the hazards of using it. So, there appears to be a combination of factors that are conspiring at Oxnard to the delay of production runs with nitro finishes.
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  2. #2
    I would not be at all surprised if CA's regs outlaw _any_ use of nitro. Seems to me through the fog of my fading old age memory, the production and use of lacquers for automotive purposes was DOA after some CA regs came down - and this trickle down effect is likely in place now.
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  3. #3
    Is there an approximate year that using nitro on guitars became the norm, or did it vary widely by manufacturers? How do you know if a used guitar you bought has a nitro finish or an old style lacquer finish?

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    Senior Member davismanLV's Avatar
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    Dear Rich.... I don't know why you have such a bee in your bonnet about Oxnard. Are you wishing to buy a new guitar from them? He gave you some half information about lacquer. Do you ever go online and Google lacquer? Lacquer is a quick and easy finish and it's very forgiving if you do it right and you can apply layer after layer after giving it a day to dry. Lacquer is it's own solvent and.... oh why am I even trying.... this is dumb. Look it up online.... and do some research. It's a super cool finish for guitars because of it's aging properties .... I'm done. Sorry......
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    Super Moderator chazmo's Avatar
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    Lots of misinformation and confusion here. Oxnard started their production of Guilds without using nitrocellulose laquer and using a non-Traditional neck joint. Now, I am fairly certain that they are using NCL, and doing dovetail neck joints, starting with the D-40 Traditional and probably anything else that says or will say "Traditional" on it.

    CosmicArkie, this is happening in California.

    Jerry, I think Guild has been using NCL since the beginning. I don't know about other manufacturers.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Rich Cohen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davismanLV View Post
    Dear Rich.... I don't know why you have such a bee in your bonnet about Oxnard. Are you wishing to buy a new guitar from them? He gave you some half information about lacquer. Do you ever go online and Google lacquer? Lacquer is a quick and easy finish and it's very forgiving if you do it right and you can apply layer after layer after giving it a day to dry. Lacquer is it's own solvent and.... oh why am I even trying.... this is dumb. Look it up online.... and do some research. It's a super cool finish for guitars because of it's aging properties .... I'm done. Sorry......
    DavismanLV,
    Mea culpa. Thanks for straightening me out. I checked the info on the internet as you suggested.
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    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CosmicArkie View Post
    I would not be at all surprised if CA's regs outlaw _any_ use of nitro. Seems to me through the fog of my fading old age memory, the production and use of lacquers for automotive purposes was DOA after some CA regs came down - and this trickle down effect is likely in place now.
    I will not pit my fading memory against yours but I seem to recall that Guild is using nitro in the Oxnard facility, and that such use is in line with the California regulations. I'll let some of the West Coast locals chime in but "no nitro in CA" seems to have reached the status of Urban Myth. The costs of using it are different but but many companies have decided to bear the costs.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.

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  8. #8
    both Guild and Fender are currently finishing guitars in nitrocellulose lacquer, in the state of California.

    It is my understanding that Guild, now in Oxnard, CA, has transplanted the actual spray booth from Guild New Hartford, Conn, and is using the same lacquer in the spray booth, that New Hartford used.

  9. #9
    Senior Member davismanLV's Avatar
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    Hey, Rich.... I didn't mean to be a bitch about this. Well, maybe a little bit. But it's just that we've discussed this stuff so many times over and over. And when people come here and ask questions, they shouldn't be lambasted for doing so. So I apologize for my snarky response. There really wasn't need for it. But we've seen opinions and snatches of wisdom from many different places. Maybe next time, ask how to do a search on Google for this forum where finishes are discussed. The guys and gals know how to do that and I forget but.... you'll get lots of information.

    Sorry for my outburst. You were just asking a question, okay?
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    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    I will not pit my fading memory against yours but I seem to recall that Guild is using nitro in the Oxnard facility, and that such use is in line with the California regulations.
    YES.
    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    I'll let some of the West Coast locals chime in but "no nitro in CA" seems to have reached the status of Urban Myth.
    BOY HOWDY.
    I'm getting a little tired of rebutting it, myself.
    Here's the deal:
    The SOLVENTS that make Nitrocellulose a sprayable lacquer are the regulated chemicals.
    When they vaporize as the lacquer dries, or even while it's being sprayed, it's the solvent gases that are associated with the formation of photochemical smog, depletion of the ozone layer, and sundry respiratory disorders.
    Equipping a spray booth with proper filtering to remove the solvent gasses is very expensive.
    Quote Originally Posted by fronobulax View Post
    The costs of using it are different but but many companies have decided to bear the costs.
    Yes any company that is willing to bear cost of installing the right filtering equipment in a certified spray booth and train employees in proper use AND clean-up can get certification to spray.
    Oxnard was certified before they ever even started up the production line.
    It IS true that CA upped the ante from the early '00's standards a few years back and lowered the allowable emission standards (requiring expensive retrofitting of existing equipment and re-certification) along with other measures like outlawing retail sales of spray paints that used the solvents and even things like old fashioned spot-removers, which had an impact on the dry-cleaning industry.
    It's also been pointed out by Twocorgis at least a couple of years agothat California Air Resource Board standards have been adopted in many industrial areas all over the country, which explains why New Hartford's spray booth was worth transporting to CA (if that's correct, that's the first time I recall hearing that report, but it's certainly a viable proposition)

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry1 View Post
    Is there an approximate year that using nitro on guitars became the norm, or did it vary widely by manufacturers? How do you know if a used guitar you bought has a nitro finish or an old style lacquer finish?
    These days I'd hazard that "Nitro" (short for NCL) IS considered to be the "old style lacquer finish".
    "Lacquer" is a generic term and when it comes to guitars, unless you're talking pre-'20's or specialty-built instruments, up through the '70's, chances are it IS NCL.
    Poly started showing up on the Asian imports of the late '70's and its use as a cost-saving measure gradually spread to the low-end market until the environmental pressures on NCL really started impacting cost.
    Taylor changed the game by making poly lacquers their standard finish.
    You can test nitro by its solubility in acetone (Nail polish remover). If you can find a spot on the guitar you're willing to test or get a small chip of the finish, it'll dissolve in acetone.
    Poly's pretty durable, impervious to solvents and even hard to scratch, so if it's hard to get a chip of finish to test that'll probably be indicative of a poly finish right there.

    Nitro Cellulose Lacquer was invented in 1921 as an economical automotive paint and was actually responsible for the development of a whole support industry that produced spraying/application machinery, aerosol cans, and the paint production industry .
    It offered a cheap way to offer a variety of colors on cars.
    http://www.theguitarmagazine.com/fea...itrocellulose/
    So use of NCL on guitars can't predate the '20's.
    The highly credible Frank Ford dates its introduction on guitars to between 1925-1930.
    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...nishintro.html
    Before that French polish, shellac, and other types of varnishes were used as wood and instrument finishes.
    Last edited by adorshki; 11-27-2017 at 07:28 PM.
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