Guitar finishing has come a long way in recent years. It used to be that if you wanted your guitar to look good, you had to do it yourself. Over the last few decades, manufacturers have increased their level of quality control and have developed new and better coatings. There are now several different types of guitar finishes to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. With this newfound variety, you should now be able to find something that will work for you. So whether you want a nitrocellulose lacquer finish or a polyester finish, read on for all the tips you need to know about how to clear coat a guitar and the different options available and how to clear coat a guitar so that it looks its absolute best.
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How to Clear Coat a Guitar
No matter what type of finish you want for your guitar, the process for applying it is pretty similar. The first step is to remove any old finish with a chemical stripper. This will take off any surface dirt and make the new coat last longer. Be careful when using chemical strippers because they can produce harmful fumes. Follow the instructions carefully and work in a well-ventilated area.
Next, sand the surface of your guitar until it’s nice and smooth. Use a fine grit sandpaper (around 400) and go over every inch of the guitar at least twice. If you see any glossy areas, those are areas that need more sanding.
Now you’re ready to apply your finish! One way to do this is spray on your finish. The advantage here is that you won’t have to worry about runs or unevenness in the coating, but there’s also a higher risk of overspray getting on other parts of your instrument or nearby surfaces. If you’re not comfortable with spraying, another option is wiping on your clear coat – just dip a cloth in some finishing material and wipe away!
The Different Types of Guitar Finishes
There are two main types of guitar finishes: nitrocellulose lacquer and polyester. Nitrocellulose is the traditional finish for guitars, and it’s available in both matte and gloss varieties. These days, however, most nitrocellulose finishes are applied by machine. Polyester is a more recent development in the world of guitar finishing. It’s available in just one variety, a satin finish that can be applied by hand or machine (although most quality guitars will have their polyester finish applied by hand).
**Nitro Cellulose Lacquer Finish:** Nitrocellulose guitar finishes are the classic choice for a vintage looking vibe. These formulas produce a harder feel than polyesters, but they’re also far more prone to cracking and flaking over time. They’re very durable when used with the correct preparation before applying them to the guitar body.
**Polyester Finish: **Polyester is a newer type of guitar finish that many companies prefer because it’s less likely to crack or peel than nitrocellulose lacquer. The only problem is that polyesters are not as glossy as nitros, meaning you’ll lose some shine on your instrument if you choose this option. The good news is that polyesters don’t need any special prep work before application like nitros do, which means it should be cheaper!
Nitrocellulose Lacquer Guitar Finishes
If you’re looking for a traditional guitar finish, nitrocellulose lacquer is one of the best options available. Nitrocellulose lacquer has been used on guitars for decades because it is easy to apply and dries to a nice glossy finish. It’s also very durable and resists wear and tear better than other finishes. The downside is that it can’t be sprayed, so it must be applied by hand, which can lead to inconsistencies in the thickness of the coating.
Polyester Finish Guitar Finishes
Polyester finishes are a great way to get your guitar looking like new. Polyester is a tough finish, which means that it can withstand the wear and tear of day-to-day use. The downside? It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as some other types of finishes. But if you’re looking for something that will last a long time, polyester is the way to go.
Polyurethane Finish Guitar Finishes
One of the most popular guitar finishes is polyurethane. Unlike other types of guitar finishes, polyurethane is water-based and won’t make your guitar feel sticky or tacky. It is also very easy to apply, meaning you can get a professional looking finish with little effort on your part. Polyurethane is a durable finish that will help protect your guitar from moisture and abrasion. It’s available in an assortment of sheens, which lets you customize the look of your instrument. Depending on the sheen you choose, your guitar will either have a glossy or flat appearance. One downside to polyurethane is that it can yellow slightly over time if not buffed out properly before each application. For this reason, some people recommend using clear coats every 3-5 years to keep the guitar looking great.
You will find that spray finishes are the best bet for beginners. They’re the easiest to apply and don’t require any special equipment. You can buy a can of spray finish at your local hardware or home improvement store. It takes just a few minutes to do.
If you want something more durable, you’ll need to invest in a lacquer finish. Lacquer provides a great look, but it can be difficult to apply evenly and requires more prep work before application.
When it comes to polyurethane finishes, they provide an excellent appearance with better clarity than other finishes. If you like the look of high gloss, this is the finish for you!
Though not as popular as other choices, nitrocellulose is also a viable option when it comes to finishing your guitar. Nitrocellulose provides an old-school vibe because it’s what was used in many vintage guitars and amplifiers back in the day.
The main drawback of nitrocellulose is that it doesn’t adhere well so it’s prone to chipping and peeling if not properly taken care of after application.
Polyurethane Finish Guitar Finishes
Polyurethane is a tough and durable finish, making it a good choice for those who live in an environment with high amounts of dust or other abrasive particles. Polyurethane is also easier to apply than nitrocellulose lacquer. But one of its main disadvantages is that it can scratch easily and doesn’t breathe very well.
In order to clear coat a guitar with polyurethane, you will need to first clean the surface with alcohol until it’s completely free of dirt and grime. Once you’ve done this, wipe the surface down with denatured alcohol, followed by rubbing alcohol. After applying the polyurethane finish, allow it to dry thoroughly before finishing it off with multiple coats of clear polyurethane. This will help protect your guitar from scratches and dust particles as well as provide it with extra protection against fingerprints, water spots, and smudges.
How to clearing coat a guitar FAQS
A clear coat finish is a protective coating that is applied to the top of your guitar finish to help seal and protect it. It will also add a glossy sheen to the guitar. The most common type of clear coat is polyurethane. It is a relatively economical and durable option that will help your guitar last much longer than if you were to leave it unprotected.
Lacquer is a liquid that will tend to have a glossy finish, which may cause it to yellow. Polyesters are more durable than lacquers and will not yellow with age.
The standard rule of thumb is to use a primer, basecoat, and clear coat.
You should also apply several coats of clear coat to the back. This will keep your guitar looking good as well as protecting it from damage.
Now that you know what to look for, it should be a lot easier to find the perfect finish for your guitar!
Once you have found the best guitar finish for your needs, it is time to start the clear coating process.
After the guitar is all sanded and finished, you will want to apply the clear coat to protect the finish from future wear and tear. The clear coat acts as a barrier between the guitar and the elements, making it easier to wipe away any dust or debris that may have collected on the surface.
To apply the clear coat, start by lightly sanding with a fine grit sandpaper or steel wool. Make sure you pay attention to all the details on your guitar, such as the headstock, parts of the finish that might be more susceptible to chipping, or any other parts of the guitar that you think will be most vulnerable. After sanding, wipe down the entire surface with a tack cloth to remove any dust or debris.
Apply a thin layer of clear coat, using either a foam brush or a rag to spread it evenly across the surface of your guitar. Allow it to dry for at least 4 hours before handling the guitar or before moving it from its current location.
If you decide to use a nitrocellulose lacquer finish for your clear coat, you will want to make sure that you’re in a well-ventilated area because it contains toxic fumes.