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Old 11-29-2016, 01:49 PM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Default Please educate me on finishes

I was wondering about the different type of finishes available on guitars. How are they cosmetically? How do they compare on durability? How do they affect the guitar sonically? Once again, thank you for your knowledge.
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:26 PM
Rodger Knox Rodger Knox is offline
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I'll give you a short answer, a good answer would take several pages.

French polish is a shellac finish that may be sonically superior, it's probably the thinnest of the finishes typically used on guitars. It's the most fragile, but also the easiest to repair. It's the traditional finish on classical guitars.

Oil varnishes are the next most durable, and in my opinion the best looking. There are a lot of different formulations, some work better than others.

Nitrocellulose lacquer is even more durable, and has become the traditional finish on steel string guitars. Once again, there are numerous formulations.

The most durable are the new high tech poly finishes, and there are quite a few of those as well.

A better answer would include more specific product information for each of these types of finishes as well as application techniques.
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Old 11-29-2016, 03:53 PM
redir redir is offline
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Basically what Roger said in a nut shell.

This is like a PHD dissertation type of question
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Old 11-29-2016, 04:16 PM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Sorry, wasn't thinking it would be that convoluted. I guess I was thinking of a simplified version like the one given by Rodger. I hear about different finishes like satin, nitro, etc. I hear a thinner finish at times helps the sound. I see threads like the one about nitro cracking, and I get to thinking, I might want to know a little more about the finish. Never really thought about it before. I pretty much like every guitar I get my hands on. I guess I don't have a discerning ear yet.
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Old 11-29-2016, 04:24 PM
Steel and wood Steel and wood is offline
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My Martin has a satin finish and to my ears, the tone is "woodier" for want of a better term.
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Old 11-29-2016, 04:40 PM
SuperB23 SuperB23 is offline
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A couple builders I respect and I think make some of the best sounding guitars on the planet (Goodall and Froggy Bottom) switched from Nitro to catalyzed urethane. Froggy in 2007 and Goodall in 1998 if I remember right. Their reasons are sound. A lot of the older Nitro Goodalls and Froggies have a lot of finish checking issues. Some great builders still use Nitro Finishes like Martin and Santa Cruz.

The Traditional reasons Martin and Santa Cruz use Nitro are quite sound as well so I say the finish doesn't affect tone as much as people think in that both companies build great sounding guitars!! The thickness of the finish as applied might affect it more than the type.
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Old 11-29-2016, 08:34 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by numb fingertips View Post
Sorry, wasn't thinking it would be that convoluted. I guess I was thinking of a simplified version like the one given by Rodger. I hear about different finishes like satin, nitro, etc. I hear a thinner finish at times helps the sound. I see threads like the one about nitro cracking, and I get to thinking, I might want to know a little more about the finish. Never really thought about it before. I pretty much like every guitar I get my hands on. I guess I don't have a discerning ear yet.
Numb, satin is a word that's used for a non-glossy finish. It's also sometimes called a matte finish.

There are a number of different finish materials that can produce a matte/satin finish, whether the finish itself is nitrocellulose, UV-cured polyester, urethane, or what have you. Don't make the mistake of assuming all satin finishes are made from the same finish material, because they're not.

It's a common mistake, one that never seems to go away on these various online forums, but I can think of at least half a dozen different materials that have been used for satin finishes on guitars in the past twenty years.

So, short version: most finish materials can produce a satin finish of some sort, and almost as many can produce a high gloss finish. The important questions are not whether the finish is satin or shiny, but what the actual finish material on a guitar is and what finish process was used.

Hope that makes sense.


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Old 11-30-2016, 04:37 AM
Bill Yellow Bill Yellow is offline
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As with other aspects of guitar construction, it is not just the ingredients that make the difference but the skill and care with which they are applied.

A luthier can spend several weeks creating an ultra-thin, ultra-glossy nitro finish - spraying, drying, sanding, resting, repeat, repeat, repeat. A satin finish is less time consuming, so should be a little cheaper on the same instrument.

Martin are making much use of robots for lacquer spraying. This can not only give consistent results but protects the human workers from exposure to noxious fumes. (Look at some videos of some far eastern shops where they don't even wear face masks!)

So, many factors to consider.
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:27 AM
tadol tadol is offline
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I would not worry about the effect of finish on tone - unless you notice that the finish is exceptionally thick, which is never good. All of them have benefits and problems, and there is no one finish that is perfect (otherwise everyone would be using it!). Why a manufacturer chooses a particular finish usually has less to do with its sonic properties than with some other factor - regulations, technology, cost, repairability, tradition, just to name a few.

The point of finish is to 1, protect the material underneath from a wide range of things, and 2, to alter or enhance the appearance of the material under it. FOr instruments, you might add sonic quality, but how you evaluate that is very subjective. And then it starts to get tricky - a finish may be amazing in durability and protection, but virtually impossible to repair cleanly and in an aesthetically acceptable fashion. Others may excel at repairability, but limited protection. And so on, and so on - insert thesis here -

Its always interesting to learn about these things, but I would not base purchasing decisions about a guitar based on the makers choice of finish. I might think about it if looking at a used guitar that needed some finish repair and it was important to me to see those repairs done, but even then -
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:35 AM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post
Numb, satin is a word that's used for a non-glossy finish. It's also sometimes called a matte finish.

There are a number of different finish materials that can produce a matte/satin finish, whether the finish itself is nitrocellulose, UV-cured polyester, urethane, or what have you. Don't make the mistake of assuming all satin finishes are made from the same finish material, because they're not.

It's a common mistake, one that never seems to go away on these various online forums, but I can think of at least half a dozen different materials that have been used for satin finishes on guitars in the past twenty years.

So, short version: most finish materials can produce a satin finish of some sort, and almost as many can produce a high gloss finish. The important questions are not whether the finish is satin or shiny, but what the actual finish material on a guitar is and what finish process was used.

Hope that makes sense.


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Thank you. Learned something new. And yes it made sense.
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:36 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tadol View Post
I would not worry about the effect of finish on tone ... I would not base purchasing decisions about a guitar based on the makers choice of finish.
Good post.

I'd add only that there are individuals whose physical chemistry is very hard on finishes. If you are one such individual, the type of finish will matter, but not for tonal reasons. You'll likely want a urethane-type finish, rather than shellac, varnish or lacquer.
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:37 AM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Yellow View Post
As with other aspects of guitar construction, it is not just the ingredients that make the difference but the skill and care with which they are applied.

A luthier can spend several weeks creating an ultra-thin, ultra-glossy nitro finish - spraying, drying, sanding, resting, repeat, repeat, repeat. A satin finish is less time consuming, so should be a little cheaper on the same instrument.

Martin are making much use of robots for lacquer spraying. This can not only give consistent results but protects the human workers from exposure to noxious fumes. (Look at some videos of some far eastern shops where they don't even wear face masks!)

So, many factors to consider.
Yes, seems there is a lot more involved than I imagined.
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:41 AM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tadol View Post
I would not worry about the effect of finish on tone - unless you notice that the finish is exceptionally thick, which is never good. All of them have benefits and problems, and there is no one finish that is perfect (otherwise everyone would be using it!). Why a manufacturer chooses a particular finish usually has less to do with its sonic properties than with some other factor - regulations, technology, cost, repairability, tradition, just to name a few.

The point of finish is to 1, protect the material underneath from a wide range of things, and 2, to alter or enhance the appearance of the material under it. FOr instruments, you might add sonic quality, but how you evaluate that is very subjective. And then it starts to get tricky - a finish may be amazing in durability and protection, but virtually impossible to repair cleanly and in an aesthetically acceptable fashion. Others may excel at repairability, but limited protection. And so on, and so on - insert thesis here -

Its always interesting to learn about these things, but I would not base purchasing decisions about a guitar based on the makers choice of finish. I might think about it if looking at a used guitar that needed some finish repair and it was important to me to see those repairs done, but even then -
Yeah, I hear ya. I just took a 1970 Guild D 40 in for some work, and the repair person said the finish was hard to work with. I had a Taylor 310 with a small issue and the he was saying the finish on that was very easy to work with. Made a huge difference on the price of the repair.
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Old 11-30-2016, 11:44 AM
numb fingertips numb fingertips is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
Good post.

I'd add only that there are individuals whose physical chemistry is very hard on finishes. If you are one such individual, the type of finish will matter, but not for tonal reasons. You'll likely want a urethane-type finish, rather than shellac, varnish or lacquer.
Yes, it is the same with jewelry. I imagine, what we put into our bodies is what we sweat out and is a factor.
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Old 11-30-2016, 12:35 PM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by numb fingertips View Post
Yeah, I hear ya. I just took a 1970 Guild D 40 in for some work, and the repair person said the finish was hard to work with. I had a Taylor 310 with a small issue and the he was saying the finish on that was very easy to work with. Made a huge difference on the price of the repair.
Well, if you needed a neck reset on the Guild, yes, it could run into some serious money, because American-made Guilds were traditionally built with the neck being attached before the finish was applied. This is in direct contrast to the usual industry practice of applying finish on the neck and body separately, then attaching them. The problem with Guild's approach is that when the neck has to be taken off, the finish gets damaged and has to be repaired, as well.


whm
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