View Full Version : Bourgeois Finishes

03-06-2011, 02:37 PM
Are Bourgeois guitars primarily nitro-laquer finished?
They aren't polyurethane are they? I know some of the newer
ones are varnish.


Brackett Instruments
03-06-2011, 02:41 PM
I'm pretty sure their standard finish is catalyzed urethane. I think they may be offering a Varnish option, but I'm not sure.

03-06-2011, 03:21 PM
I just got my first Bourgeois, a new OMC, and its catalyzed urethane. According to Dana's website he does offer a varnish option which I don't believe is nitro either. The finish looks as good and as thin as the nitro on my Sadowsky archtop and is as perfect as I've seen on any guitar.

Latif, newbie on this forum

03-06-2011, 06:22 PM
What characteristics does catalyzed urethane have,
that are different than other finishes?

03-06-2011, 06:46 PM
A urethane finish is non-reactive. Non-reactive means the finish won't react with another substance, such as body sweat, certain vinyls, plastics, lotions, and chemicals such as DEET (all of which can react with a nitro-cellulose finish and compromise it)

Catalyzed just means something was used to make the finish dry quickly and truely. The finish could be UV-catalyzed (such as Taylor, Larrivee, Bourgeois, Olson) or chemically catalyzed, (Huss and Dalton and two-thirds of a Collings)

In addition to being non-reactive, a correctly-applied poly finish is not susceptible to finish checking when subjected to cold weather. (Taylor has tested their finish as good to -10 F).

I have a Bourgeois, and I regard its finish as superb (and sturdy, safe, secure, scintillating, satisfying, and sonically salubrious)

03-06-2011, 08:19 PM
Are there very many guitar makers that use a urethane finish?

03-06-2011, 09:03 PM
Add Goodall to the non-nitro mix. James Goodall uses a catalyzed urethane.

The nicer Asian guitars are pretty much split 50/50 between poly/nitro. I believe Yamahas are poly, as are Guilds.

03-06-2011, 09:14 PM
We use a Cat U finish. Though we've done nitro and varnish on request. Can't say enough good things about it.

Dr. Jazz
03-06-2011, 09:25 PM
Almost everyone has to use CU these days as the solvents in Nitro get the EPA all upset. With good reason, I might add.

I can tell you that Dana's varnish is worth every penny. As good as these guitars are with CU, they are an order of magnitude better with the Varnish. OK....... I exaggerate, but only a little. :-)

03-06-2011, 11:21 PM
What improvements do varnish bring to the table?

Brackett Instruments
03-07-2011, 05:47 AM
What improvements do varnish bring to the table?

Varnish is more flexible (therefore more acoustically friendly) than most finishes. This tends to make a Varnish finished guitar sound more open. Varnish is a little bit softer so proper care is a must. Unlike Nitro Varnish won't crack or craze, and isn't prone to damage by stuff like vinyl, insect spray, sweat ect. Varnish is my standard finish. I don't know what Bourgeois' upcharge is for a Varnish finish, but Collings' upcharge is almost as much as my base price. Varnish is more time consuming to apply correctly than most other finishes so it's expensive in a production enviroment.
French Polish is really flexible too, but it's alot more fragile than Varnish.

The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) UK
03-07-2011, 06:02 AM
I have a Bourgeois Vintage Varnish Mahogany OM on order. I will report back when its here.

03-07-2011, 10:10 PM
I know the upcharge for varnish on a Bourgeois dreadnought was $1500.

Dr. Jazz
03-08-2011, 01:27 AM
I have a 00 Varnish Bourgeoise that I picked up from the factory in October. Incredibly responsive.

Tim McKnight
03-08-2011, 08:53 AM
Are there very many guitar makers that use a urethane finish?

I have used catalyzed urethane for the last 8 years. Prior to that I used nitro. Going from nitro to Cat U was one of the best moves I have ever made in regard to finishes. It is very durable yet flexible enough to move with the wood. {If} applied thinly it has not negative impacts on tone.

I should point out that one should not use the word POLY as a generic term because not all polys are equal or even comparable. Poly-ester finishes are what some of the OEMs are using and Taylor comes to mind. Its tricky to apply and the finish builds very VERY quickly. If you don't have much experience shooting it the finish can be applied EXTREMELY thickly because the finish has a much higher solids content. Thick finishes can kill the tone of a guitar but the plus side is the finish is as hard as concrete so its almost like armor plating the instrument. Polyester will not scratch easily nor will it dent as easily as a softer finish.

Poly-urethane is one step down the hardness scale from polyester. It offers good scratch resistance, moderate dent resistance as well as resistance to most chemicals on the planet.

Instrument grade finishes are NOT the same finishes that one can purchase at their local home improvement store. Just don't think that you can go down to Lowe's and pick up some polyurethane, furniture lacquer or spar varnish and expect it to work on a musical instrument.

Nitro is the next down the hardness scale.

Varnish is among the softest finishes that I have tested to date and I have been on a testing rampage as of late. My urethane product, that I had used, is no longer available because the manufacturer went out of business last year so I have been trying to find a suitable replacement. Varnish is one of the slowest finishes to reach full hardness and one must allow ample time between spraying sessions and prior to buffing. Varnish has good resistance to scratches but poor resistance to dings and dents. It can become temporarily softer if subjected to intense heat (ie left in a HOT car) but will regain its hardness after it cools. In my own tests down to 2*F varnish has not exhibited any signs of cold checking.

Varnish can react with rubber and plastics but seems less susceptible after it has cured for 30 days. Learned this the hard way ;( Some say that Varnish damps the tone but I have not noticed this on the instruments that I have tested it on. Some, but not all varnish, is photoreactive to UV light. It can yellow with age similar to nitro. Most acrylic varnishes have UV inhibitors and are water white while most short oil alkyd varnishes do not and many of those are more amber in color.

I have fallen in love with the rich organic look of short oil varnish. It seems to cosmetically enhance the beauty of wood like no other finish that I have experienced. It has a depth and clarity to it like no other. Sheen seems to vary from brand to brand as does final hardness and drying / cure times. The plus side is that it can be applied as thin or thinner than any finish I have tested. Its not impossible to end up with a final finish in the 1.5 to 2.5 mils range. On sample spruce test panels I was unable to measure the thickness of 3 coats with a micrometer! Crazy as it sounds but true.

Bottom line is there are no ideal perfect finishes. They all have their own unique idiosyncrasies that one must learn to deal with and share with the end user.