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Dec 3, 2020 - 7:05:58 PM
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wadeee

USA

24 posts since 10/18/2020

What's your pick between Nitrocellulose laquer and water based lacquer? I think I've decided to use water based for several reasons but wanted to get the pro's take on it. Thanks in advance.

Dec 4, 2020 - 12:57:47 AM
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QldPicker

Australia

182 posts since 4/17/2020

I'm not a pro banjo luthier, however I have two (soon to be three) banjos from different highly reputable luthiers, one with a water based finish and the other a more traditional oil/solvent based finish.

My verdict for what it is worth, stay away from water based finishes. There IS NO COMPARISON in my view. Look at every other trusted and accepted possibility. I know many will not agree and I respect that. However how many of them have a water based finish on their banjo?

Dec 4, 2020 - 4:25:24 AM
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13331 posts since 6/29/2005

Dec 4, 2020 - 4:29:40 AM
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beegee

USA

22066 posts since 7/6/2005

I still prefer nitro. I bought a new Martin D-28 several years ago and within a few weeks of delivery, the finsih started peeling off like sunburned skin. Martin replaced the guitar, but it left me with a bad impression of water-based finishes. I've been shooting notro lacquer for so long that I pretty much understand it.

Dec 4, 2020 - 6:42:07 AM
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720 posts since 6/11/2003

Nitro is the easiest finish to apply. Please be careful and cautious, it is very flammable. The overspray dusty residue is gunpowder and must be cleaned up and removed from the shop on a regular basis.

Dec 4, 2020 - 7:04:23 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13266 posts since 8/30/2006

Water Bourne. New products are hitting the market. Green is the future

Boiled linseed oil for me gives a smooth base for a “player’s neck
I can steel wool and burnish it back with an 80 count linen hanky
Gives a dry neck over water bourne

Dec 4, 2020 - 9:03:03 AM
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632 posts since 2/15/2015

I would use nitro.
Or a rub on oil like Tung.
Wax it with ANY wax that DOES NOT contain silicon.

Dec 4, 2020 - 2:21:35 PM
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2244 posts since 2/7/2008

Crystalac Brite-Tone Instrument Finish is about as close to nitro as I've seen. I can still see a difference between Crystalac and Nitro and I find it much more finicky to spray, but on the flip side, I'm not filling my shop with explosive toxins. I think it was on this forum that I read about someone applying it with a foam brush. It's hard for me to imagine that working well, but the results I saw were extraordinary, so I've gotten some high quality foam brushes and I'm going to give it a whirl. If nothing else, it may compensate for my poor spraying skills.

On my last banjo, I used Osmo Hard Wax oil on the back of the neck. It leaves the neck nice and slick, it seems well protected and it's about a billion times easier than finishing, sanding and polishing. It doesn't build enough gloss to use everywhere, but for the neck it's the bees knees (IMHO)

Dec 5, 2020 - 5:08:43 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13266 posts since 8/30/2006

Quick. What you were seeing was the use of glazing or pore filler until it was thick and shiny
The person was using sponge

Dec 5, 2020 - 5:47:37 AM
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13331 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Quickstep192

Crystalac Brite-Tone Instrument Finish is about as close to nitro as I've seen. I can still see a difference between Crystalac and Nitro and I find it much more finicky to spray, but on the flip side, I'm not filling my shop with explosive toxins. I think it was on this forum that I read about someone applying it with a foam brush. It's hard for me to imagine that working well, but the results I saw were extraordinary, so I've gotten some high quality foam brushes and I'm going to give it a whirl. If nothing else, it may compensate for my poor spraying skills.

On my last banjo, I used Osmo Hard Wax oil on the back of the neck. It leaves the neck nice and slick, it seems well protected and it's about a billion times easier than finishing, sanding and polishing. It doesn't build enough gloss to use everywhere, but for the neck it's the bees knees (IMHO)


I'm finishing a number of banjo lute bodies right now—walnut, which is open pored, and very figured cherry, which has it's own challenges—started with "Aqua Cote" wood grain filler stained brown for the walnut, then switched to the Crysa-Lac version, which was much better IMO. I applied these with a bondo squeegee, three coats, sanding in between to get rid of the ridges.

Then I started in with the Crysta-lac sanding sealer, which is slightly tinted, and I thought I would be clever and got little foam paint rollers used for kitchen cabinets, and these were a total bust, leaving a pocked tiny bubble texture, which I quickly wiped off.  What I wound up liking are "Taklon" brushes, which are very cheap, but soft as a baby's behind and leave no marks—I love them!  You can wash them out with water and dish detergent between coats and they stay nice and smooth, not puffing up like natural bristle ones when used for water based finish.

https://www.amazon.com/Taklon-Angular-Brushes-Great-Acrylics/dp/B00557N4A6/ref=sr_1_36?dchild=1&keywords=varnish+brush&qid=1607174873&sr=8-36

I did four coats of the sanding sealer, scratching in between with 220 sandpaper. This took 3 days, then after a day of drying, I sanded it level with 400 grit on an orbital sander, and hand sanding with 320 and a maroon 3M cloth.

Next I will do the top coat, probably 4 coats with the Crysta-Lac instrument top coat, gloss, using a wide Taklon brush, and let it sit for a few days, then level it and buff it

One very nice thing about the Crysta-Lac (and you can see this in the O'Brian guitar video linked earlier) is that it dries so hard you just get white dust like talcum powder when you sand it—no gumming of the sandpaper, even 400, and you can wet sand for the final levelling—it's a much harder and more durable surface than nitro.

Dec 5, 2020 - 7:00:51 AM

2244 posts since 2/7/2008

Ken, thanks for the videos. It was Robbie O'Brien who was using the foam brush!

I have used dense foam rollers with some success by fully saturated the roller with finish. When the foam is saturated it produces less bubbling. The extra finish can be squeezed out after you're done, but it's messy.

Dec 5, 2020 - 8:39:36 AM

13331 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Quickstep192

Ken, thanks for the videos. It was Robbie O'Brien who was using the foam brush!

I have used dense foam rollers with some success by fully saturated the roller with finish. When the foam is saturated it produces less bubbling. The extra finish can be squeezed out after you're done, but it's messy.


I got scared when I saw the bubbles.  Maybe I'll try the rollers again saturating it, as you say.

One thing I like about ther Taklon brushes is that they are re-usable many many times and easy to clean.

Dec 5, 2020 - 8:45:29 AM

2244 posts since 2/7/2008

Yes, I’ve cleaned water based finishes from the foam rollers, but it takes a long time and uses a lot of water.

Dec 5, 2020 - 2:22:33 PM
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13331 posts since 6/29/2005

l'll take a shot at "PROs and CONs"

Other than the subjective argument that nitro looks better than water borne (which it doesn't), please feel free to edit and modify anything I have said—maybe we can come up with something useful.

 

Nitro-PROs
(1) It’s what you are used to seeing, and loved by many‚ darkens with age, a positive with some kinds of wood—it can produce a beautiful finish given proper preparation.

 

(2) Path dependent because of fast drying and familiarity in the guitar building craft—”Solvent-based lacquers that contain nitrocellulose, a resin obtained from the nitration of cotton and other cellulosic materials, debuted in the 19th century along with nitrocellulose's other commercial applications. They were used, for example, on brass items such as musical instruments. Faster-drying and more durable versions of these lacquers were developed in the early 1920s and soon greatly displaced much use of the slower-drying paints and lacquers that preceded them; they were extensively used in the automotive industry and others for the next 30 years until further chemical advancements replaced them”.
Further chemical advancements replacing them is the operative idea.

(3) Easy to apply—anyone with a spray gun can do it—requires no artistic skill (sorry).

(4) can be buffed, rubbed, and polished to a fair-thee well.

(5) Is easily dissolvable  with lacquer thinner, so any mess can be cleaned up and residue on spray equipment can be totally cleaned

(6) somewhat repairable.

Nitro-CONs

(1) Is explosive and a fire hazard—spark proof / explosion proof exhaust is required

(2) Has toxic fumes and a noxious odor.

(3) Environmetally unfriendly and will soon be outlawed

(4) Must be sprayed, and the thinner used to clean the spray gun is worse than the material itself.

Water-Borne PROS:

(1) Can produce a beautiful finish with great depth—brings out the grain in figured wood.

(2) Has no noxious fumes or off-gassing—is environmentally friendly

(3) Residue can be cleaned up with soap and water

(4) Can be brushed or sprayed—overspray is not noxious.

(5) can be rubbed, buffed, or polished to a fair-thee-well.

(6) Is very hard and durable—hard enough for gym floors, sands esily between coats and  doesn’t gum sandpaper.

(6) Much easier to repair than nitro or oil.

(7) Is great for blonde wood because it has UV blockers and doesn’t yellow (see CONs)

Water-borne CONs
(1) Doesn’t yellow because of UV blockers,  so you have to stain if you want the wood (like cherry) to darken.

(2) Can be brushed, but brushing requres greater skill than spraying—if sprayed, there is no difference

 except

(3) spray equipment must be cleaned immediately because water borne finishes cannot be dissolved once cured.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 12/05/2020 14:23:18

Dec 5, 2020 - 3:54:36 PM
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wadeee

USA

24 posts since 10/18/2020

How many of you guys have explosion proof fans, electrical connections and lighting that is compliant? Would you risk your insurance company checking the undotted I's and uncrossed T's of your setup and failing to pay the claim if you burned your house down? I know the chances of explosion are probably rare but there was an accident, it could be bad. That's why I decided to ask. I really wanted to use nitro also.

Dec 5, 2020 - 5:09:43 PM
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182 posts since 4/3/2009

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

I still prefer nitro. I bought a new Martin D-28 several years ago and within a few weeks of delivery, the finsih started peeling off like sunburned skin. Martin replaced the guitar, but it left me with a bad impression of water-based finishes. I've been shooting notro lacquer for so long that I pretty much understand it.


I'm sorry your guitar had finish problems.  However, I am not aware that Martin ever changed from nitrocellulose lacquer for any guitars, at least in the Standard series and above.  If they have changed, do you have some source that confirms it?  Thanks.

Dec 5, 2020 - 5:32:32 PM
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beegee

USA

22066 posts since 7/6/2005

When I last visited the factory  well over 20 years ago, they said they were moving away from nitro due to EPA and OSHA regs. I thought they said they were eitherconsidering or going to water-based. I may have mis-remembered ormisspoken, but I didn't make it up. I don't know what they use on each model, but the use different finishes on the neck and body. I just know when I talked to the repair guys about the peeling finish, they were not surprised. And they did replace the guitar. The finishes on today's Martins seem thicker and glossier than they did in the 70's and certainly  different from the 40's-60's

Edited by - beegee on 12/05/2020 17:45:06

Dec 5, 2020 - 8:34:03 PM
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2244 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

l'll take a shot at "PROs and CONs"

 

Nitro-PROs
(1) It’s what you are used to seeing, and loved by many‚ darkens with age, a positive with some kinds of wood—it can produce a beautiful finish given proper preparation.

 

(2) Path dependent because of fast drying and familiarity in the guitar building craft—”Solvent-based lacquers that contain nitrocellulose, a resin obtained from the nitration of cotton and other cellulosic materials, debuted in the 19th century along with nitrocellulose's other commercial applications. They were used, for example, on brass items such as musical instruments. Faster-drying and more durable versions of these lacquers were developed in the early 1920s and soon greatly displaced much use of the slower-drying paints and lacquers that preceded them; they were extensively used in the automotive industry and others for the next 30 years until further chemical advancements replaced them”.
Further chemical advancements replacing them is the operative idea.

(3) Easy to apply—anyone with a spray gun can do it—requires no artistic skill (sorry).

(4) can be buffed, rubbed, and polished to a fair-thee well.

(5) Is easily dissolvable  with lacquer thinner, so any mess can be cleaned up and residue on spray equipment can be totally cleaned

(6) somewhat repairable.

Nitro-CONs

(1) Is explosive and a fire hazard—spark proof / explosion proof exhaust is required

(2) Has toxic fumes and a noxious odor.

(3) Environmetally unfriendly and will soon be outlawed

(4) Must be sprayed, and the thinner used to clean the spray gun is worse than the material itself.

(5) Don't forget cold checking


Water-Borne PROS:

(1) Can produce a beautiful finish with great depth—brings out the grain in figured wood. Because most waterborne is so clear, I've not seen it "pop" the grain as well as amber colored finishes. Note my question later about adding an amber tint  

(2) Has no noxious fumes or off-gassing—is environmentally friendly

(3) Residue can be cleaned up with soap and water

(4) Can be brushed or sprayed—overspray is not noxious.

(5) can be rubbed, buffed, or polished to a fair-thee-well.

(6) Is very hard and durable—hard enough for gym floors, sands esily between coats and  doesn’t gum sandpaper.

(6) Much easier to repair than nitro or oil. I thought that waterborne finishes didn't "burn in" after full cure, making repairs more challenging. I'd love to learn more.

(7) Is great for blonde wood because it has UV blockers and doesn’t yellow (see CONs)

Water-borne CONs
(1) Doesn’t yellow because of UV blockers,  so you have to stain if you want the wood (like cherry) to darken. Have you ever tried tinting it to give it a little bit of an amber cast using  something like TransTint?

(2) Can be brushed, but brushing requres greater skill than spraying—if sprayed, there is no difference It could be that I'm just terrible at spraying, but I find waterbornes to be terribly sensitive to temperature and humidity when spraying. It also seems they're very sensitive to thinning which must be done to spray. I never was able to spray waterborne successfully, so   I'm very much looking forward to having a go at brushing or rolling it. I wonder if brushing it might be easier for rims and resonators if done on the lathe. (Doing a heck on the lathe might be problematic ;-)

 except

(3) spray equipment must be cleaned immediately because water borne finishes cannot be dissolved once cured.

 


I've injected some thoughts and questions in green. I'd be curious for your comments having used both. 

Dec 5, 2020 - 10:38:19 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24240 posts since 6/25/2005

Nitrocellulose is, of course, guncotton, long used in military artillery shells.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrocellulose

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 12/05/2020 22:47:59

Dec 6, 2020 - 5:16:49 AM

13331 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Quickstep192
quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

(5) Don't forget cold checking

YES, nitro does cold-check, and I once had to refinish a whole neck because of that—The Behlen chemist said it was because I sanded the wood too smooth and didn't get a good wood-to lacquer bond on the very first coat. You shouldn't go finer than 240


Water-Borne PROS:

(1) Can produce a beautiful finish with great depth—brings out the grain in figured wood. Because most waterborne is so clear, I've not seen it "pop" the grain as well as amber colored finishes. Note my question later about adding an amber tint  

It will absolutely pop the grain—this picture is before the top coat

 

(6) Much easier to repair than nitro or oil. I thought that waterborne finishes didn't "burn in" after full cure, making repairs more challenging. I'd love to learn more.

I have not had any problem with that, it fact I just repaired the corner of a peghead that I accidently hit with the metal center of the buffing wheel. As long as you scratch sand it there are no problems.

You must not use tack cloths or stearated sandpaper with water-borne, as they will compromise the bond

Water-borne CONs

(1) Doesn’t yellow because of UV blockers,  so you have to stain if you want the wood (like cherry) to darken. Have you ever tried tinting it to give it a little bit of an amber cast using  something like TransTint?

You can tint it—They do that in one of the videos—you can tint the grain filler for open pored wood, you can tint the sanding sealer (which is already slightly tinted) and you can tint the top-coat.  I would be careful not to have the tints  build up too much with multiple coats.

If I was going to do a sunburst, I would probably do that at the end of the sanding sealer, after leveling it and keep the topcoats clear

(2) Can be brushed, but brushing requres greater skill than spraying—if sprayed, there is no difference It could be that I'm just terrible at spraying, but I find waterbornes to be terribly sensitive to temperature and humidity when spraying. It also seems they're very sensitive to thinning which must be done to spray. I never was able to spray waterborne successfully, so   I'm very much looking forward to having a go at brushing or rolling it. I wonder if brushing it might be easier for rims and resonators if done on the lathe. (Doing a heck on the lathe might be problematic ;-)

I don't like spraying anything other than with rattle cans, but I really hate spraying water borne finishes, because you have to clean the spray gun after every coat,  When I was spraying hydrocote, I spent much more time cleaning out the gun than actually spraying.

I was told you should clean out the gun with acetone, but then there you are spraying another noxious chemical into the air.

 

 

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 12/06/2020 05:22:13

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