Nitro Finishes - the long term



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Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Wed Jan 11, 2017 5:32 pm

Last year I bought a brand new 2016 Gibson Faded T (worn brown) with a Nitro finish. I LOVE the look and feel of it. The trade off for the aesthetics is that nitro finishes are thinner and tend to ding more easily. I also read that the Nitro evaporates with time. For those with older nitro finished guitars what can I expect? Is it costly to refinish? When should you refinish?
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby waltdogg » Wed Jan 11, 2017 11:28 pm

not a guitar i would bother to refinish, the wearing down of the finish is part of the aesthetic of those guitars. i have a les paul special from 2002, satin ebony finish that's really worn down and the mahogany showing through looks very ghostly and cool.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby antennafarm » Thu Jan 12, 2017 1:25 am

*The finish itself doesn't evaporate, the solvent that suspends it (that makes it liquid so you can paint stuff) does. After time this makes it brittle and hard. It's not nearly as hard, in general, as poly finishes, and that may or may not have an actual effect on the sound (jury's still out but I haven't seen solid evidence for it beyond some anecdotal cork sniffing), but it feels different. I prefer nitro for this reason in particular (although I've felt some poly finishes that feel just as good, so it's not a hard and fast rule or anything).

*You can expect it to crack (called "checking" or "crazing"). This is caused due to rapid temperature changes and the wood/finish expanding/contracting at different rates. Look at pictures of old Gibsons - you'll see it on most of them to some degree. Supposedly this isn't as much of a factor in newer Gibsons because they add plasticizers (which are NOT plastic, they make the finish a bit more flexible AKA 'plastic') to make the finish more durable, but my 2013 Gibson goldtop cracked to fuck and back when I drove from MI to MN last winter, and the finish is actually cracking loose in some parts. Not sure if it's because I have a special edition (1952 'tribute to les' with the maple headstock) or what. If I recall correctly, satin finished Gibsons have a thinner finish and probably won't check the same way if at all.

*It WILL wear away, and quickly. My 2014 LP Melody Maker's finish was trashed in a couple months. I think it has the same sort of finish as yours. This isn't the case with the thicker finishes (especially if they had to build up a nice, thick gloss, which won't wear away as fast BUT is more prone to checking).

*Nitro tends to yellow faster than other finishes, although the satin finishes probably won't since it's actually the clear coat yellowing up. So you'll notice it over binding, white finishes, or the weird ones like Pelham blue where the clear coat yellows, making Pelham blue into a cool green color. Also, modern nitro doesn't yellow as much due to UV inhibitors.

*If you delve into refinishing with nitro, you can play with these different properties by finding stuff that doesn't have plasticizers or UV inhibitors, although it's harder and harder due to environmental regulations (queue EPA hate).

There's A LOT of cork sniffing with nitro, don't let it distract you. Ultimately it comes down to: feel (up to the player), durability (poly finishes, always), ease of refinishing/repair (nitro), and the way it wears/ages (up to the player but I've never seen anyone like poly over nitro in this regard, and all the cool old guitars that we get hard over tend to be nitro finished because that's what everyone used up until a point, with some deviation like Fender dipping their bodies in Fullerplast [literally plastic, which is the devil if you've ever tried to refinish a Fender] before finishing).

Hope that helps!
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:07 am

antennafarm wrote:*The finish itself doesn't evaporate, the solvent that suspends it (that makes it liquid so you can paint stuff) does. After time this makes it brittle and hard. It's not nearly as hard, in general, as poly finishes, and that may or may not have an actual effect on the sound (jury's still out but I haven't seen solid evidence for it beyond some anecdotal cork sniffing), but it feels different. I prefer nitro for this reason in particular (although I've felt some poly finishes that feel just as good, so it's not a hard and fast rule or anything).

*You can expect it to crack (called "checking" or "crazing"). This is caused due to rapid temperature changes and the wood/finish expanding/contracting at different rates. Look at pictures of old Gibsons - you'll see it on most of them to some degree. Supposedly this isn't as much of a factor in newer Gibsons because they add plasticizers (which are NOT plastic, they make the finish a bit more flexible AKA 'plastic') to make the finish more durable, but my 2013 Gibson goldtop cracked to fuck and back when I drove from MI to MN last winter, and the finish is actually cracking loose in some parts. Not sure if it's because I have a special edition (1952 'tribute to les' with the maple headstock) or what. If I recall correctly, satin finished Gibsons have a thinner finish and probably won't check the same way if at all.

*It WILL wear away, and quickly. My 2014 LP Melody Maker's finish was trashed in a couple months. I think it has the same sort of finish as yours. This isn't the case with the thicker finishes (especially if they had to build up a nice, thick gloss, which won't wear away as fast BUT is more prone to checking).

*Nitro tends to yellow faster than other finishes, although the satin finishes probably won't since it's actually the clear coat yellowing up. So you'll notice it over binding, white finishes, or the weird ones like Pelham blue where the clear coat yellows, making Pelham blue into a cool green color. Also, modern nitro doesn't yellow as much due to UV inhibitors.

*If you delve into refinishing with nitro, you can play with these different properties by finding stuff that doesn't have plasticizers or UV inhibitors, although it's harder and harder due to environmental regulations (queue EPA hate).

There's A LOT of cork sniffing with nitro, don't let it distract you. Ultimately it comes down to: feel (up to the player), durability (poly finishes, always), ease of refinishing/repair (nitro), and the way it wears/ages (up to the player but I've never seen anyone like poly over nitro in this regard, and all the cool old guitars that we get hard over tend to be nitro finished because that's what everyone used up until a point, with some deviation like Fender dipping their bodies in Fullerplast [literally plastic, which is the devil if you've ever tried to refinish a Fender] before finishing).

Hope that helps!


It sure does, thanks ...
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Arturia: Minibrute
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Novation: Mininova
Korg: MS-20
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Roland: JD-XI, JU-06
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Drum Machines/Samplers/Sequencers:

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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:14 am

waltdogg wrote:not a guitar i would bother to refinish, the wearing down of the finish is part of the aesthetic of those guitars. i have a les paul special from 2002, satin ebony finish that's really worn down and the mahogany showing through looks very ghostly and cool.


Check out Iommi's original SG:

Image

Looks like it has been in a landfill for decades :)
Synths:

Arturia: Minibrute
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Novation: Mininova
Korg: MS-20
Moog: Minitaur
Roland: JD-XI, JU-06
Yamaha: Reface DX

Drum Machines/Samplers/Sequencers:

Akai: Rhythm Wolf, Tom Cat, MPX8
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:34 am

By The Way, Iommi's original SG was a 1965 SG Special ...
Synths:

Arturia: Minibrute
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Novation: Mininova
Korg: MS-20
Moog: Minitaur
Roland: JD-XI, JU-06
Yamaha: Reface DX

Drum Machines/Samplers/Sequencers:

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Korg: Volca Beats
Zoom: RT-223, RT-123
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby waltdogg » Thu Jan 12, 2017 12:45 pm

that's cool as fuck. i hope my les paul special ends up looking like that.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Thu Jan 12, 2017 8:19 pm

waltdogg wrote:that's cool as fuck. i hope my les paul special ends up looking like that.


I'm sure it's psychological, but

Other people's worn out guitar = badass
My worn out guitar = looks like shit, need to get rid of it, need a new one ...
Synths:

Arturia: Minibrute
Casio: CTK-6200
Novation: Mininova
Korg: MS-20
Moog: Minitaur
Roland: JD-XI, JU-06
Yamaha: Reface DX

Drum Machines/Samplers/Sequencers:

Akai: Rhythm Wolf, Tom Cat, MPX8
Alesis: SR-16
Korg: Volca Beats
Zoom: RT-223, RT-123
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby popvulture » Thu Jan 12, 2017 11:23 pm

JereFuzz wrote:
waltdogg wrote:that's cool as fuck. i hope my les paul special ends up looking like that.


I'm sure it's psychological, but

Other people's worn out guitar = badass
My worn out guitar = looks like shit, need to get rid of it, need a new one ...


Well, I will say that on this topic, there's a huge advantage for nitro: your worn out guitar might look like shit at the moment, but it has a shit-ton better odds of ending up looking cool in the long run over poly. The guy who works on my guitars pointed out something to me that I'd seen but never really absorbed: when you ding a nitro guitar, you usually get a chip or a crack, the wear we've come to expect. Ding a poly guitar and you just end up with a nasty contusion sort of thing. Plus poly guitars just don't really age much at all compared to nitro... there is no "closet classic" thing that eventually happens.

My other favorite thing about nitro finished guitars: the weight. Some manufacturers do poly just fine, not overdoing the coat. On the other hand, plenty lay that shit on thick and you end up with something that feels much more like a piece of heavy-ass plastic than a piece of wood.

I'm not a hardcore corksniffer in the sense that I'll turn my nose up at anything poly—I've played shitty Squiers that sound amazing. I am, however, of the mind that the way they did stuff in the old days is better than they do now. I don't think that's an outlandish opinion—a lot of the fuckups and overall decreases in quality from manufacturers have been directly related to cost-cutting measures, and I consider bad poly finish jobs to be a prime example.

We all agree that the jury's still out on sound advantages, but in terms of just overall level of enjoyable tactility, I think the difference is undeniable.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby waltdogg » Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:58 am

popvulture wrote:
JereFuzz wrote:
waltdogg wrote:that's cool as fuck. i hope my les paul special ends up looking like that.


I'm sure it's psychological, but

Other people's worn out guitar = badass
My worn out guitar = looks like shit, need to get rid of it, need a new one ...


Well, I will say that on this topic, there's a huge advantage for nitro: your worn out guitar might look like shit at the moment, but it has a shit-ton better odds of ending up looking cool in the long run over poly. The guy who works on my guitars pointed out something to me that I'd seen but never really absorbed: when you ding a nitro guitar, you usually get a chip or a crack, the wear we've come to expect. Ding a poly guitar and you just end up with a nasty contusion sort of thing. Plus poly guitars just don't really age much at all compared to nitro... there is no "closet classic" thing that eventually happens.

My other favorite thing about nitro finished guitars: the weight. Some manufacturers do poly just fine, not overdoing the coat. On the other hand, plenty lay that shit on thick and you end up with something that feels much more like a piece of heavy-ass plastic than a piece of wood.

I'm not a hardcore corksniffer in the sense that I'll turn my nose up at anything poly—I've played shitty Squiers that sound amazing. I am, however, of the mind that the way they did stuff in the old days is better than they do now. I don't think that's an outlandish opinion—a lot of the fuckups and overall decreases in quality from manufacturers have been directly related to cost-cutting measures, and I consider bad poly finish jobs to be a prime example.

We all agree that the jury's still out on sound advantages, but in terms of just overall level of enjoyable tactility, I think the difference is undeniable.

i'd take this to heart jerefuzz.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby antennafarm » Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:57 am

popvulture wrote:My other favorite thing about nitro finished guitars: the weight. Some manufacturers do poly just fine, not overdoing the coat. On the other hand, plenty lay that shit on thick and you end up with something that feels much more like a piece of heavy-ass plastic than a piece of wood.

I'm not a hardcore corksniffer in the sense that I'll turn my nose up at anything poly—I've played shitty Squiers that sound amazing. I am, however, of the mind that the way they did stuff in the old days is better than they do now. I don't think that's an outlandish opinion—a lot of the fuckups and overall decreases in quality from manufacturers have been directly related to cost-cutting measures, and I consider bad poly finish jobs to be a prime example.

We all agree that the jury's still out on sound advantages, but in terms of just overall level of enjoyable tactility, I think the difference is undeniable.


That's a different issue, not poly vs nitro, but cost cutting vs at-any-cost. I may be splitting hairs here, but I think that's an important distinction. I have a MIM tele neck that's poly but feels wonderful (satin finish, though). Comparing a Squier and, say, a non-import Parker... not fair.

Also, if you're talking about "cost-cutting," what do you think the satin-finished low end Gibsons are? That's purely cost cutting (just like the Studio and lower Gibsons in general - Studio is basically just a Standard without bling). Really, most of the processes we've inherited and are used to were just cost cutting measures of the past, and that cost-cut Gibson nitro finish isn't going to age like the checked-out vintage finishes. (note, for the record, I think we agree almost entirely on things! just the particulars I'm quibbling about)

I guess my end point is: find what's important to you and go from there, but ultimately, just find something that speaks to you and play the damned thing! Even superficial things can help you connect with an instrument and if that gets you playing more, then it's not that superficial, is it?
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby Iommic Pope » Fri Jan 13, 2017 5:48 am

JereFuzz wrote:By The Way, Iommi's original SG was a 1965 SG Special ...

The guitar pictured (The Old Boy) is still really fucking old. I believe it was built for him in the mid 70s.
Either way, it is rad and praise Iommi.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby foomanfat » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:31 am

I've grown to hate nitro, because I never take the straps off my guitars and vinyl eats nitro. Not to mention guitar stands.
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby JereFuzz » Fri Jan 13, 2017 10:29 am

Iommic Pope wrote:
JereFuzz wrote:By The Way, Iommi's original SG was a 1965 SG Special ...

The guitar pictured (The Old Boy) is still really fucking old. I believe it was built for him in the mid 70s.
Either way, it is rad and praise Iommi.


Thanks for the clarification
Synths:

Arturia: Minibrute
Casio: CTK-6200
Novation: Mininova
Korg: MS-20
Moog: Minitaur
Roland: JD-XI, JU-06
Yamaha: Reface DX

Drum Machines/Samplers/Sequencers:

Akai: Rhythm Wolf, Tom Cat, MPX8
Alesis: SR-16
Korg: Volca Beats
Zoom: RT-223, RT-123
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Re: Nitro Finishes - the long term

Postby antennafarm » Fri Jan 13, 2017 7:23 pm

foomanfat wrote:I've grown to hate nitro, because I never take the straps off my guitars and vinyl eats nitro. Not to mention guitar stands.


yeah, you've gotta be careful. I've never had a problem with the vinyl straps (two couch straps), but you've gotta be careful with the stands in particular. I think some market specifically as safe for guitar finishes.
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