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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    or is it really a Poly undercoat with a layer of Nitro on top just so they can call them Nitrocellulose finishes?

    I've heard different stories but can't seem to find a DEFINITE REAL answer.

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    I'm not sure.

    I would guess no, simply because I can't imagine how well a bond nitro would make against poly.

    Of course I'm no expert on petro-chemicals, nor do I mix the stuff at Gibson!

  3. #3
    Administrator MikeSlub's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Nitro, baby -- all the way!
    Mike Slubowski

    * "Gibson guitars are like potato chips - you can't have just one!"

    * "So many Gibsons to love, so little time..."

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeSlub View Post
    Nitro, baby -- all the way!
    Are you 100% positive about that? I've heard stories that Gibson quit using all Nitro in the mid 90's and now uses a Poly undercoat with Nitro as a top coat just so they can say they still use Nitro finishes.

  5. #5

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by access View Post
    I'm not sure.

    I would guess no, simply because I can't imagine how well a bond nitro would make against poly.

    Of course I'm no expert on petro-chemicals, nor do I mix the stuff at Gibson!

    It bonds fine. Poly is often used as a pore filler and nitro over top. Or in the case of Fender and their American Vintage Series, it's as was asked....poly all the way until the final coat of Nitro so they can say it is nitro finished.

    Gibson is nitro but more and more placticizer recently.

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by emg32 View Post
    Are you 100% positive about that? I've heard stories that Gibson quit using all Nitro in the mid 90's and now uses a Poly undercoat with Nitro as a top coat just so they can say they still use Nitro finishes.
    maybe you're talking about Fender.
    i had a '04 Std. i regularly played for 5 years and the finish is starting to wear where my forearm rest right down to the maple.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Garampingat View Post
    maybe you're talking about Fender.
    i had a '04 Std. i regularly played for 5 years and the finish is starting to wear where my forearm rest right down to the maple.
    I know Fender has did this for years but I'm hearing some say that Gibson does the same thing as Fender just so they can say they still use Nitro finishes.

    I believe (and really hope) Gibson does still use true Nitro down to the wood but I'm just trying to get some expert responses so I know the REAL truth.

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member ScottsR9's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by emg32 View Post
    or is it really a Poly undercoat with a layer of Nitro on top just so they can call them Nitrocellulose finishes?

    I've heard different stories but can't seem to find a DEFINITE REAL answer.
    A picture is worth a thousand words...



    Photo is from Florian Jaeger's website.
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  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottsR9 View Post
    A picture is worth a thousand words...



    Photo is from Florian Jaeger's website.

    I know Gibsons finish has slightly more plasicizers in it than the old days but it's still Nitrocellulose down to the wood isn't it?

  10. #10

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Yes. Not like vintage in terms of placticizers and how thick it goes on but yes, still all nitro.

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Gold Tone View Post
    Yes. Not like vintage in terms of placticizers and how thick it goes on but yes, still all nitro.

    Thanks. Even if Gibson adds more plasticizers now I don't feel the finishes are really any thicker now (at least not from my experience). You can see/feel the wood grain through most of my Gibsons finishes, even the black.

  12. #12

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    True, you can see it too.

    But....if you've ever had the pleasure of holding and playing a 50's or early 60's Gibson you'd see the difference....and it is HUGE. The finish on a vintage Gibson is more part of the wood than on top of it. Sure, a lot of it has to do with time and that nitro shrinks and settles in over time, but new Gibsons are not that thin. They are comparatively quite thick.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Gold Tone View Post
    True, you can see it too.

    But....if you've ever had the pleasure of holding and playing a 50's or early 60's Gibson you'd see the difference....and it is HUGE. The finish on a vintage Gibson is more part of the wood than on top of it. Sure, a lot of it has to do with time and that nitro shrinks and settles in over time, but new Gibsons are not that thin. They are comparatively quite thick.
    Maybe someday. A '74 Gibson LPC is the oldest I have had the pleasure of playing so far.

    I'm sure 30 years from now alot will be praising how awesome the Gibsons of today are. It seems like everything vintage gets praise over newer, especially with musical instruments.

  14. #14

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Most often it is deserved but not always. There are A LOT of dogs in the vintage world.

    If we were talking Fender then you would get a HUGE number of people saying the opposite. It is pretty well agreed that what the Fender Custom Shop is putting out today beats the "average" vintage Fender to the ground.

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member jpap's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Without being an expert, I see HUGE difference between Gibson USA and Gibson CS finishes.. The USA models seem to have a harder, much thicker finish, that definitely has plasticizers in it. The CS guitars (as in the image above, it's probably during a refinishing of a VOS towards a makeover), especially VOS have a very thin, soft finish. Actually I see also huge difference between CS guitars of the same year. I always do slightly age my CSs, so recently I aged a 09 R7 and a 09 R8. The finish at the back of body and neck is absolutely of different art (besides the color) on both guitars. The R8 has that typical VOS "elastic" finish (as in the image above and as in my 07 VOS R9). The R7, on the other side, has a much thinner, harder coat, that makes it look a lot more real by aging, as it becomes almost one part with the wood (exactly as Gold Tone described...). This R7 is by far my most "vintage" looking LP (Ok, along with my Murphy R9)... To make it more understandable: R8 coat pieces are bendable, like skin (as clearly seen in the image above), R7 pieces are not, the just break by the slightest pressure...My 2c
    Last edited by jpap; 08-27-09 at 06:18 AM.
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  16. #16
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by emg32 View Post
    Are you 100% positive about that? I've heard stories that Gibson quit using all Nitro in the mid 90's and now uses a Poly undercoat with Nitro as a top coat just so they can say they still use Nitro finishes.
    Not trying to be an ass but Mike Slub knows more about Gibson than probably any 200 people on here put together. With a few exceptions of course! Check out some of his articles and photos of his collection. The man is hard-wired into Gibson. Past and Present.

  17. #17

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Gibson definitely adds something to the finish when compared to Fender. I had put some masking tape on a strat that I was shielding the cavity on. Immagine my horror when I pull the tape off to find it has interacted with the nitrocellulose laquer and has left permanent melt marks. I had to go down to 600 grit to get the marks out. The immagine my horror when I realized I had the same tap on my CS-336 for a mod I was doing, only it had been on there longger! Pulled the tape off, cleaned up the goo with naptha, and the finish looked as good as new. Gibson definitely adds something to the nitro.
    Is it you or the equipment?

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member reswot's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Different lacquers have different formulations. There's not a single formula for nitrocellulose lacquer. Read the MSDS forms for a few known nitros; there are several differences.

    McFadden, Deft, and Watco are all nitro, but they're all a bit different -- not only in the amount, but in the type of plasticizers they use, along with a few other ingredients. The Deft is a bit more flexible even after drying and resistant to checking and yellowing -- not unlike what Gibson uses now. Watco dries hard and fast; it checks easily and will yellow pretty quickly.

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member Scott Lentz's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    As stated, their are many different formulations,synthetic resins and natural resins , what most manufacturers use is Catalizied Lacquer. One can add the harderener to the finish and the cure time is enhanced greatly for polishing.The amount of finish that is applied equals the time the Lacquer needs to dry.The less finish, less drying time! This, is what a "Journeyman" finisher understands, the relationship between sealer, woodfiller, and top coats. The idea that there is some Magical Lacquer out there with out plasticizer, or that plasticizer is equal to plastic, is unfounded.

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member Beano Geno's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Scott Lentz and Slub's words are good enough for me anyday!

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Lentz View Post
    As stated, their are many different formulations,synthetic resins and natural resins , what most manufacturers use is Catalizied Lacquer. One can add the harderener to the finish and the cure time is enhanced greatly for polishing.The amount of finish that is applied equals the time the Lacquer needs to dry.The less finish, less drying time! This, is what a "Journeyman" finisher understands, the relationship between sealer, woodfiller, and top coats. The idea that there is some Magical Lacquer out there with out plasticizer, or that plasticizer is equal to plastic, is unfounded.
    Thanks guys. That pretty much seals the deal for me also. I was pretty sure that Gibson was still all Nitro but your comments are definite proof for me.

  22. #22
    Les Paul Forum Member 58Lover's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    I do remember a few years back, seeing some LP models from USA that had a "UV Cured" finish, which we employees took as "shhh, it's poly, but we're not calling it that." I'm sure Custom Shop didn't use that, but nowadays, who knows?

  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by 58Lover View Post
    I do remember a few years back, seeing some LP models from USA that had a "UV Cured" finish, which we employees took as "shhh, it's poly, but we're not calling it that." I'm sure Custom Shop didn't use that, but nowadays, who knows?
    maybe its the Les Paul Special SL. SL meaning 'Sans Lacquer'. i don't think Gibson hid it that its a non-nitro finished.


    its the only non-nitro Gibson i know.

  24. #24
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    edit: Nevermind. I read something incorrectly.
    Last edited by Magnum; 08-27-09 at 07:51 PM.

  25. #25
    Les Paul Forum Member 58Lover's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Hey Mag, didja get a lap dance or sumptin' fun for your birthday?

  26. #26
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by 58Lover View Post
    Hey Mag, didja get a lap dance or sumptin' fun for your birthday?
    Not quite! It was pretty boring. As it should be!

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Member 58Lover's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Remember my 40th? Staring into long necks in Nashburg???

  28. #28

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Gold Tone View Post
    Most often it is deserved but not always. There are A LOT of dogs in the vintage world.

    If we were talking Fender then you would get a HUGE number of people saying the opposite. It is pretty well agreed that what the Fender Custom Shop is putting out today beats the "average" vintage Fender to the ground.
    I agree that there are a lot of vintage dogs, not to mention vintage guitars that don't live up to the hype, but the idea that Fender Custom Shop is generally agreed to produce better guitars than vintage Fenders is news to me.

    I am sure some would say so, but I am unaware of any consensus on this.

  29. #29
    Les Paul Forum Member hoss's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottsR9 View Post
    A picture is worth a thousand words...



    Photo is from Florian Jaeger's website.
    And I believe Florian. The lacquer Gibson puts on todays guitars (also Historics) is way different than in the old days.

  30. #30
    Les Paul Forum Member dwagar's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    IIRC they started changing it in 1960. The damn old stuff faded right there in the store windows.
    - Don

    Originally Posted by reswot
    A 50's Special is, IMO, the coolest guitar ever made.

  31. #31
    Les Paul Forum Member hoss's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by dwagar View Post
    IIRC they started changing it in 1960. The damn old stuff faded right there in the store windows.
    That has something to do with the dye formula.
    Todays R8 and R9 Historics fade, too but they still don't have the same thin and hard nitro finish the old Bursts do.

  32. #32
    Les Paul Forum Member 1fastdog's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    There are different types of Nitro lacquer formulations.

    The finish on the Gibsons I have been around made post the early '60's have a thicker finish than earlier ones.

    As for Gibsons post 1990, I couldn't tell you.
    1fastdog

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  33. #33

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitArtMan View Post
    Gibson definitely adds something to the finish when compared to Fender. I had put some masking tape on a strat that I was shielding the cavity on. Immagine my horror when I pull the tape off to find it has interacted with the nitrocellulose laquer and has left permanent melt marks. I had to go down to 600 grit to get the marks out. The immagine my horror when I realized I had the same tap on my CS-336 for a mod I was doing, only it had been on there longger! Pulled the tape off, cleaned up the goo with naptha, and the finish looked as good as new. Gibson definitely adds something to the nitro.

    Yea, there has to be some plasticizers added or something. I have a white Fender strat with a nitro finish and there are little stress lines or whatever from temp changes, etc. I like the way it looks on that guitar but I'm glad the finish on my LP is a little more durable. The LP finishes still don't seem to be too thick or heavily plasticized like a Jackson or Ibanez or something.

  34. #34
    Les Paul Forum Member hoss's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Jon Rambo, the Fender custom colors also are not "true nitro". The DuPont colors themselves not and Fender used a thick layer of "Fullerplast" underneath the nitro.

  35. #35

    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by hoss View Post
    Jon Rambo, the Fender custom colors also are not "true nitro". The DuPont colors themselves not and Fender used a thick layer of "Fullerplast" underneath the nitro.
    Yea, I don't think much is just nitro. I just know the Fender I have has those stress lines and has faded and is worn down to the wood in some places. The finish on my LP feels different and looking at it it's a little more glossy looking. But as I said before, I'm all for it not fading too quick and having those lines from temp changes and all. It's still a nice feeling finish they have on the LPs.

    *I just want to add that I am by no means an expert on any of this. I'm just adding to someone's statemnt that there's all sorts of diff formulas for the laquers since I have guitars of diff brands that are both nitro, but def aren't the same.

  36. #36
    Les Paul Forum Member hoss's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Rambo View Post
    Yea, I don't think much is just nitro. I just know the Fender I have has those stress lines and has faded and is worn down to the wood in some places.
    Same with my early '65.

    Sorry for posting Fender pics on the LPF, just for illustration (cracks can be seen nicely around the bridge):






  37. #37
    Les Paul Forum Member 1fastdog's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Bear in mind that Dupont pretty much owned the industrial nitro lacquer business from the 20's through the end of it's legal use with vehicle finishes. Duco was Dupont's nitro and Dulux was the acrylic lacquer.

    Fender used Duco and Dulux.

    Gibson primarily shot nothing but nitro up 'til a point in the '60's.

    Thin is the deal with nitro. Also Gibson used paste fillers in finishing. Dyed paste fillers for walnut and cherry. The dyed paste fillers and nitro clears resulted in a bleed that was unique.

    The thicker finishes I have noted in '50-'60 LP's would be the goldtop color areas. With LP's the 'burst finishes are quite thin compared to later pieces.

    I'm certain Gibson can rightfully claim to shoot a "nitro" formulation. I don't believe it's the same mil thickness or characteristic as the true vintage stuff.

    My final thought is that a finish that compliments the tone of an instrument would be preferred over one that dampens positive tone quality.
    1fastdog

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  38. #38
    Les Paul Forum Member emg32's Avatar
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Gibson still to this day seems to be anti Poly or any type of finishes that doesn't let the wood breathe and resonate naturally.

    I'm sure their Nitro formulas and application thickness has changed many many times over the years but I'm pretty convinced, from what I have heard, they are still using a all Nitrocellulose finish down to the wood.

  39. #39
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    i remember reading somewhere that fender(and probably gibson too) in the 1950s shoots their nitro hot. as in they heat the nitro when they are spraying it allowing them to spray very thin finishes. it is dangerous since nitro is flammable so they stop doing it.

  40. #40
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Does Gibson still use a REAL Nitrocellulose Finish to the wood.....

    Here's a good test. Someone should take the pile of "stuff" in the previously posted photo out into an empty parking lot and try to light it on fire. If they lose all of their hair and eyebrows in about one second, it's nitrocellulose. On second thought, don't do that! That stuff really burns.

    Anyway, there are still a number of companies that use nitrocellulose to manufacture guitar picks so the "plastic" look of the material in this photo seems pretty normal to me.

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