Nitrocellulose Lacquer – What It Is:
Nitrocellulose Lacquer is known as an evaporative finish, in that it dries very quickly, sands easily, has a high solids content, and dries to a crystal clear finish.
The lacquer is made by dissolving nitrocellulose pellets in an appropriate solvent to bring it to a liquid state.
The finish depends of the lacquer air drying almost on contact, with the solvent evaporating very quickly, leaving the nitrocellulose bonding to the instrument.
It then eventually dries to a very hard finish that can easily be sanded and buffed to a high gloss.
Why Nitrocellulose Lacquer Makes a Great Guitar Finish:
Nitrocellulose Lacquer is known as the standard for which many fine stringed instruments and upper-end furniture is finished. It is also known as water-white lacquer because it does not yellow and give a crystal-clear finish.
Another characteristic of modern Nitrocellulose Lacquer is it’s high gloss and buffing ability and the finish tends to be tough and resistant to checking and crazing. The lacquers provided by the Behlen Co., are in my opinion, so of the best products available to the luthier today.
Behlen’s lacquer is marketed as Stringed Instrument Lacquer or simply as Luthier’s Lacquer, and is specifically formulated to be used the the expansion and contraction uniqueness of large-bodied stringed instruments, such as acoustic guitars.
The final attribute of a good stringed instrument lacquer is that it contain a high level of solids.
Today’s Nitrocellulose Lacquer cannot be confused with the older generation of lacquers that often yellowed with age. The lacquers available nowadays remain crystal clear for as long as they remain on the instruments.
Do Not Expect Lacquer Formulated for Metal to Work On Stringed Instruments :
Also, it is imperative that you do not use a lacquer that is formulated for metal finishes such as automobiles. You will find that that formula lacquer will not flex with the guitar’s changing dimensions as it experiences expansion and contraction as the moisture and heat levels of the guitar’s environment change. Therefore, I would recommend this Behlen product and I’m sure you will not be disappointed – that is if you follow the application directions.
Nitrocellulose Lacquer – The Advantages:
- Very easy to spray apply.
- Easily Repaired as the subsequent layers dissolve the under layers, thus leaving no evidence of a patch.
- Dries extremely fast.
- Buffs to a very high gloss or a mirror-like finish.
- Superior acoustical values as compared to other finishes.
Nitrocellulose Lacquer – The Disadvantages:
- The lacquer and thinners contain high levels of VOC’s, which are volatile organic compounds, which are known to cause health problems when inhaled.
- In order to achieve the optimal finish, it takes quite a investment in spray equipment, including an air compressor, spray gun, filtration equipment and a spray booth that has explosion proof electrical devices, lights and fans.