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  1. #1
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    12.03.10 @ 03:16 PM
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    Default Prepping for a Nitro Finish

    Hey all. I'm posting this as a supplement to a lot of the advice given on here in regards to using nitrocellulose lacquers.
    As I mentioned in another thread, I started the process of refinishing a guitar that I reaqquired a while back. Since I started stripping it, I've uncovered a multitude of problems since getting it back. Firstly, my friend repainted it Eddie style with enamel. Not good.
    Second, under the enamel at the bridge where the Floyd rests, there has been a mahogany filler panel added. I had originally installed a Kahler bridge with a recess. He wanted a Floyd on it, so I sold him one and he took it to a luthier to make a flush mount. Not a bad idea. Anyway, tonight I was applying the sanding sealer and noticed the even after I did the grain filling and sanding, the application of the nitro sanding sealer still raised the grain on the filler panel and only the filler panel.....A LOT! It levels back down, but now the edge of the patch has a very fine visible crack.( Anyone who works with nitro knows you'll chase this forever without resolution. With each coat, it reactivates the last, and mimics what the last coat did. This is why we have acrylics. They hide more because of their thick formula and minimal shrinkage, thus hide imperfections, but because of it's makeup which remains a bit soft, it can affect tone. Nitro actually pulls and thins during setup and cure.) I sanded it down again, and reapplied a few lighter coats thinking that I may have gone a little heavy, as nitro is pretty aggressive and can raise grain. Same deal. Damn!
    No big deal if I was doing a Eddie job on it, but this will be a show quality finish......so the solution? Shellac.
    I had originally applied shellac to the guitar when I built it some 15 to 20 years ago, so thats why only the filler panels grain was effected. I just assumed it had been sealed by the guy he took it to, because it was not visible until it was stripped. (side note. Most chemical strippers geared at lacquer/acrylics WILL ONLY REMOVE THOSE FINISHES, as well as oil based enamels BUT DO NOT ATTACK SHELLAC AS IT IS A NATURAL RESIN with an alcohol or ester carrier agent.) I went down to the Finish House and picked up some shellac flakes, and denatured alcohol. Mixed up a batch, and sprayed 'er on. Voila! 30 min. later, I was able to to sand back a touch for smoothness, reapplied the nitro, and it's now glass smooth. No ridge, no grain, just a very hard, smooth finish. For the record, shellac is actually an incredible finish for stringed instruments by itself.
    It is incredibly hard, durable and has almost zero effect on sound. It's been used for classical stringed instruments and modern guitars alike, and it is by far one of the best sealers you can use, and if you do what I did, and mix your own, you can control the flowout of the coat. It is great for promoting adhesion as well. The coolest part is that it is natural. It's derived from a bug actually. Okay.....maybe it's a bit gross! A luthier friend of mine actually uses it with colorant on new nitro finishes as a toner to make them look more vintage. It's quite a versatile product. Anyway...just thought I'd pass this along. I'll post some pics tomorrow. It's gonna be sweet!
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

  2. #2
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    12.03.10 @ 03:16 PM
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    Wanted to post. some pics, but it's Canadian thanksgiving, so it's been busy. I did add a couple more thin coats of shellac today, just to give me a little more wiggleroom for the final sand before applying the first stages of white nitro prime. Where it will get real cool will be applying the champagne toner to produce the vintage cream color I'm after on the top.
    Here's some pics of the progress....so far. It ain't perfect, and there's lot's to correct.

    Here's how it started out.

    [IMG][/IMG] An enamel stripe job. Old but stood up surprisingly well. Don't sound real good though. LOL!

    Here's the headstock during stripping.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    This is just after sanding the entire neck, and applying the sanding sealer. The neck feels super fast as is. Maybe I'll leave it sealed.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    [IMG][/IMG]This is with the nitro primer applied. I used Mohawk nitro primer sealer.

    [IMG][/IMG]
    Checking the neck joint for slop. The neck had a very thick coat of factory urethane. Once removed, I was concerned the fit in the pocket might not be that great, but it's good and snug. Next step....stripping the body.
    Here you can see the hack job done by a "luthier" who fit a piece of mahogany to make a filler panel to eliminate a recess I incorporated to fit a Kahler bridge originally. He did a real crap job. Once I start finish sanding the body, I'll get this area straight. The white you see was a guide coat I applied so as not to break below this point, and tear into the filler. This area was terribly uneven. I think he hit it with a Makita belt sander. It's got that appearance.

    This has been the toughest part of the refinish. I assumed that the luthier had sealed this portion, but it did not appear to be. The guitar was painted by my friend with enamel, so I think this hid the patch panel because of it's elasticity. The nitro sanding sealer just kept raising the grain, so this is why I switched to shellac as the sealer. it may appear a bit lumpy, but this is only a sanding coat. It will be brought down with 220 gr. then 320, then 400.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    Now the dilema.......I came across an old Floyd nut slot Tele neck I had kicking around. It's all maple. I'm 99% sure I'll use the old Kramer, but my buddy suggested the Tele. Hmmmmmmmm.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    I'll post some more pics tomorrow once I've sanded the body down smooth.
    Last edited by SLEEPER5150; 10.12.09 at 08:31 PM.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

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    07.04.16 @ 08:03 PM
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    Cool info, Sleeper!

    How easy is shellac to work with once it's applied? I've read a lot of positive things about it lately in addition to what you had to say. On my custom guitars I've taken to using Tru-Oil a LOT--mainly because I've had so much trouble with my amateur setup and poly-type finishes. I'm getting curious to try other things again.

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    07.04.12 @ 08:16 AM
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    Great work!
    Nitro can be a bitch. Eats up fillers too.
    Great info.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    "Talent is God Given, But Success is Hard Work"

    www.ronscustomguitars.com

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    04.20.10 @ 03:48 AM
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    Sleeper...Good post, yes, nitro can be a bitch to work with. Curious..where did you find nitro in Canada?

  6. #6
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    12.03.10 @ 03:16 PM
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    Hey guys. Thanks! First I must appologize for the quality of some of the pics.
    Al.......I gt my nitro lacquer from Mohawk finishes. They have a walk in store in Vancouver, but you can check 'em out online. They have pretty much every format of any finish you could want. I use their aerosols simply because their that good.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    To answer you Andrew,Shellac is pretty easy to work with. For guitars, I usually mix a 2lb. cut. It must be the non wax variety though. If you just go get shellac, that's the first thing you must keep in mind if you plan on covering your project with nitro. Secondly, sanding shelac can be a real bitch. It tends to load the paper quickly and "corn" or leave little kernals behind that you must flick off periodically, but the results are well worth it. If you spray it, it will look a bit lumpy, like a waterbourne. here's a better pic.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    In addition to what Jimi suggested, I use a sanding block for the initial knock down. I use the flexible 3M or Norton ones he's shown on the sides to follow contour, but for the top, back , and bringing back the arm cut straight, I use this.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    It's a semi soft neoprene block. It's real important to use one of these to take down high grain ridges that shellac and nitro tend to follow.
    Ron....You're right. It soaks into grain real quick, especially on a redo like this. You can see where some of my previous amber shellac was sanded through. For grain filler, I went kinda old school. I use a wood filler that is natural.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    It's actually made with resins, and talc like wood particles. I use the cherry/mahogany color so I cat check my progress as I sand.
    More pics tonight.
    Later guys.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

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    04.20.10 @ 03:48 AM
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    OH..i'm using their nitro..but mostly the clear has their catalogue does'nt have even "black" in nitro. the local dealer, called RICHELIEU, mostly keeps in stock the tinted lacquer, but almost no solid colors.

  8. #8
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    12.03.10 @ 03:16 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by al3d View Post
    OH..i'm using their nitro..but mostly the clear has their catalogue does'nt have even "black" in nitro. the local dealer, called RICHELIEU, mostly keeps in stock the tinted lacquer, but almost no solid colors.
    Yeah.....At the Mohawk Finishes branch I go to, they do have whites and blacks in aerosols, but can tint any solid color for you if you want to use spray equipment. To acheive the top color I'm going to do, I will be using their Champagne toner. It will give it that nice Barreta like cream. The faux binding will be white for a transition, and the back and sides will be black. Then I'll use the clear you mentioned. I like their Ultra Gloss clear, but I go one step further. After a 30 day cure, I hit the entire surface, with Legrew optical polish. You just mix up a paste with distilled water, and apply it with the french polish style "tampon" pad method; figure eight motion. Then wipe it of with cheese cloth. Finish ends up looking eight miles deep, and just like glass.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SLEEPER5150 View Post
    Yeah.....At the Mohawk Finishes branch I go to, they do have whites and blacks in aerosols, but can tint any solid color for you if you want to use spray equipment. To acheive the top color I'm going to do, I will be using their Champagne toner. It will give it that nice Barreta like cream. The faux binding will be white for a transition, and the back and sides will be black. Then I'll use the clear you mentioned. I like their Ultra Gloss clear, but I go one step further. After a 30 day cure, I hit the entire surface, with Legrew optical polish. You just mix up a paste with distilled water, and apply it with the french polish style "tampon" pad method; figure eight motion. Then wipe it of with cheese cloth. Finish ends up looking eight miles deep, and just like glass.
    are you sure the black is nitro?...when i called Mohawk..they certified me that they did not produced a Nitro Base lacquer in black. what's the number of your can?

  10. #10
    Good Enough SLEEPER5150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by al3d View Post
    are you sure the black is nitro?...when i called Mohawk..they certified me that they did not produced a Nitro Base lacquer in black. what's the number of your can?
    Uhhhh.... Yeah. I hav'nt picked it up yet, but I already saw it in the isle. I'm not sure of the number, sorry. they had black prime, flat, gloss.....What might be the confusion is that even on the white I got, they've changed the terminology on the label. This screwed me up too. What they call it is "Lacquer enamel". I made double sure that this was not as it sounded. The staffer there said "Im not sure why they call it that.....it may be an environmental thing, but it's definately nitro". I think that's probably true. I still tested it by applying a shot over some acrylic, and enamel, and it chewed through them both instantaniously. So yeah....nitro!
    It's getting very hard to find nitro lacquer anywhere though. There is still hope though. Tamiya Model Paints offer a nitro black as well as a full line of colour. Don't let the name or implied application fool you. If you read the ingredients side by side with nitrocellulose lacquer, it's identical. They as well don't go out of their way to market it as such. The only indications of what it is are number one, there is usually a secondary safety data label attached, usually over the fine print on the back, and second the ingredients, namely the two biggies being acetone, and cellulose nitrate. You will also see items like, methane, this is what expidites the drying of nitro, as it pulls the moisture out of the coating as it flashes off. It's also what makes nitro so volatile. I've used Tamiya alot on small repairs, and have actually done a complete guitar, as a test of the product, but it's a pretty expensive way to go. It's just as durable as any pro nitro though, and has NO ill effects when adding say, the Mohawk clear.
    Just something to keep in mind if you're having trouble sourcing the black.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

  11. #11
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    Worked on the guitar again last night. I sanded the shellac down, and sprayed my first two coats of white lacquer sealer prime. Looks pretty good. Very minimal reaction with the filler panel. I think the trick here with future coats is just not to apply too heavy a coat, to minimize it's flash time, thus reducing it's ability to reactivate the previous one. This is the stage where i correct any sanding errors, or fix small dings which are hard to spot with just a clear sanding sealer. I'll post some pics tonight, but it's going quite well. i can already tell by tapping the body, the tone will be brighter than with that aweful enamel. It just sounded dead by comparison.
    Later guys.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SLEEPER5150 View Post
    i can already tell by tapping the body, the tone will be brighter than with that aweful enamel. It just sounded dead by comparison.
    I noticed the same thing when going from Krylon to urethane.
    You can read about how paint effects tone all day long, but you really have to experience the difference for yourself to have a real appreciation IMO. I was really surprised.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dino5150 View Post
    I noticed the same thing when going from Krylon to urethane.
    You can read about how paint effects tone all day long, but you really have to experience the difference for yourself to have a real appreciation IMO. I was really surprised.
    Totally Dino. Especially in the lower bout. When I first took the guitar apart, the first thing I did was tap around the body for that nice crisp response. There was none. Just flat like a plank of damp hemlock! Once I stripped it with the ethyl methane, it was like a whole other guitar. That shit works wonders for pulling out oils and impurities below the surface too, and leaves no trace elements behind. very important with lacquer. I've used it before and been very impressed with the results. Like I said , I'll post some pics of the body's progress tonight. It looks a hell of alot better. Ohhhh. I forgot to mention, I picked up a new Duncan JB, and a Custom 5. I'm gonna try both to see which one sounds better. Iread somewhere that the Custom 5 was wound as a "hotter" '59. This kinda piqued my interest because there's alot of speculation as to weather or not this is basically what was used in the 5150; that or the JB. Anyone tried the Custom 5? Give me your opinions of it. I hav'ent cracked the case yet, and if you guys say it's not great for a single pickup guitar like mine, then I'll just take the sucker back.
    Later.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

  14. #14
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    The guitars coming along great. The patch panel is filled and levelled (finally!), and I'm just dressing the faux binding on the edge tonight. Should be ready to shoot the color in the next day or two, then I'll post some more pics.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

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    Final coat of white primer sealer applied. Color starts tonight.
    [IMG][/IMG]
    [IMG][/IMG]
    More to come.
    She looks so $#@!'n good ,so sexy and so frail....Somethin's got the bite on me, I'm goin' straight to Hell.

 

 

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