How to repair nitrocellulose guitar finish

How to repair nitrocellulose guitar finish

When you think of a vintage guitar, one thing that comes to mind is the old worn look. Nitrocellulose lacquer was the standard for decades, and it was renowned for its ability to produce incredible sound and finish. So, how to repair nitrocellulose guitar finish? There are so many factors that go into nitro finishing; it’s not just slapping some paint on an instrument. Nitrocellulose finishes have an incredibly long life span, but they can also be damaged by improper care.

It’s very important to know how to care for a nitrocellulose finish, because lacquer can be ruined by common mistakes. If you’ve recently purchased a vintage guitar or if you’ve been using a nitro finish style guitar for years, there’s no need to worry because this article will teach you everything you need to know about repairing your finish.

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What Is Nitrocellulose?

Nitrocellulose is a type of lacquer that has been used to coat instruments since the mid-1800s. It is known for its ability to produce incredible sound and finish. But this lacquer isn’t just slapped on like paint. Nitrocellulose requires a lot of steps, but it’s worth it because of its durability and unique look.

How To Care For A Nitrocellulose Finish

Nitrocellulose finishes have a long life span, but they can be damaged by improper care. One of the biggest mistakes people make when using nitro finishes is not using adequate climate control. A guitar that’s stored in a humid environment can shrink and warp, which will cause the nitro finish to peel away from the wood and crack. Nitrocellulose lacquer also needs to be thin for the best results; too much thickness can cause peeling and cracking as well. If you find your nitro finish becoming cracked or peeling, it’s time to do some restoration work.

One of the most popular methods for restoring vintage guitars is sanding and refinishing with nitrocellulose lacquer. This process will remove any damaged areas of the finish while applying a new coat of protective coating that will seal your guitar against humidity and other external factors. You’ll need some specific supplies, like a fret board cleaner, detailer and restorer, applicator brush, microfiber cloths, a spray booth (or other area with good ventilation), and an air compressor – as well as some patience!

When working on restoring an instrument with nitrocellulose lacquer, it’s important to first use a light abrasive like steel wool to remove any oxidation from the surface of the instrument if necessary. Once you’ve gotten rid of any oxidation from your guitar’s surface, you’re ready to begin! You’ll start by spraying down all

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What Can Ruin A Nitrocellulose Finish?

There are so many things that can lead to ruining a nitrocellulose finish- from handling the instrument improperly to not storing it properly. The most common ways that a finish can be ruined are by heat, water, and strong chemical reactions.

-Heat Damage: Nitrocellulose is a very volatile material, which means that any heat exposure will eventually cause the finish to deteriorate. If you’re using your guitar in hot environments or if you live in a warm climate, it’s important to keep your instrument out of direct sunlight and away from heating vents.

-Water Damage: Nitrocellulose reacts with water, so it’s important to never let your guitar come into contact with water unless it is being used for its specific purpose (i.e., playing). If you do happen to get some water on your guitar, wipe off any excess moisture immediately and don’t try to rub at the area that got wet as this will only make matters worse!

-Chemical Reactivity: Any substances that react with nitrocellulose should be kept away from it; otherwise, the lacquer will start peeling away from the wood and create a much rougher texture than before. This includes cleaners, polishes, lotions, perfumes, etc.

How To Fix A Nitrocellulose Finish, If It Gets Damaged

The first step in repairing a nitrocellulose finish is to identify what caused the damage. The most common reason for damages to a nitrocellulose finish is improper cleaning. If you’ve ever used a water-based cleaner on your guitar, you’ve probably noticed that the surface of your guitar changes drastically after wiping away any excess liquid. This is because nitrocellulose is soluble in water, so using anything that contains water will cause your lacquer to dissolve and peel off the surface of your guitar.

If you have ever spilled anything onto your guitar or left it in the rain, it is imperative that you wipe off any excess liquid as soon as possible. In some cases, removing a small amount of lacquer might be enough to save the instrument. You can use a clean cloth with mineral spirits to wipe away any residue and re-lacquer the area where there is no longer nitrocellulose coating.

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If there’s already too much damage done, you’ll need to strip the old lacquer and start fresh with new paint.

Buffing Out Scratches and Scuffs

No matter what type of finish you use, it can be damaged by scratches and scuffs. A lot of guitarists are guilty of touching up their own guitars before they go on stage, but these actions often lead to more problems. You can’t just buff out a scratch or scuff! You need to know how to fix it properly.

The first step is identifying the type of damage done to your instrument. If the scratch is in the clear coat, then you need to use wet sandpaper. Start with a coarse grit and work your way down to softer grits until you reach the desired level of smoothness.

If there’s no clear coat on your finish, then you need to wet sand your entire surface before attempting any other repairs. Apply some water with a sponge and start creating circular motions with a steel wool pad or automotive sandpaper. This will remove old finishes, lint, and other debris from the surface so that you can refinish your guitar properly and avoid damaging it further.

Repairing Cracks And Chips

One of the most common causes of nitrocellulose finish damage is cracking. This can be caused by rough handling, exposure to extreme temperatures, or even UV light. The area with a crack will need to be sealed and filled with a matching color lacquer.

There are two ways you can repair cracks in your guitar:

– You can use a filler stick to fill in the crack

– You can use a brush to fill in the crack

If you’re using a filler stick, simply apply it to the crack and then wipe off any excess with a paper towel or rag. If you’re going for an old worn look, you might want to add more cracks over time for aesthetic purposes.

The second way involves painting over the top of the crack with either clear nail polish or clear acrylic paint. If this is not an option, some people recommend using tinted varnish (dark browns, orange reds). For chips, it’s best to clean up the area first and then apply new liquid finish lacquer once it’s dry.

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Remember that multiple layers are important when repairing cracks and chips in order to maintain your guitar’s original sheen as much as possible!

Restoring Faded Colors

If you notice that your guitar has faded colors, there are two main reasons why this may have happened.

The first reason is that the color of the wood may not be a match with the original finish. If you’re using a nitrocellulose finish on a lighter wood, there’s a chance that it won’t take because the two shades are too far apart. The second reason is that the paint can become less vibrant if it’s exposed to extreme changes in temperature or humidity.

Regardless of which issue you’re dealing with, you can restore faded colors by sanding off and finishing over with a color-matched finish or by sanding lightly and reapplying an oilbased finish.

How to repair nitrocellulose guitar finish FAQS

What is nitrocellulose lacquer?

Nitrocellulose lacquer is a type of finish that is often used for guitars. It is created by dissolving nitrocellulose in alcohol and then combining it with other ingredients.

How was it known for its sound quality?

This type of finish produces an incredible sound because it can be sprayed on guitar bodies and necks, meaning the lacquer doesn’t just cover a surface.

What are some things that can damage the nitro finish?

There are several ways to damage your lacquer finish, including using harsh chemicals, dropping your guitar, or storing your guitar in humid conditions. If any of the above come in contact with your instrument, you should have it repaired right away.


Nitrocellulose is a type of lacquer that is commonly used on guitars and other musical instruments. It is easy to care for, but it can be damaged by a number of things. For example, scratches can be buffed out with a bit of furniture paste wax, while chips and cracks may require a bit more work to repair. Regardless of the damage, it is always possible to repair your nitrocellulose finish.

Nitrocellulose finishes are popular for guitars, they are easy to repair and restore, and come in a variety of colors. Nitrocellulose finishes are popular for guitars – they’re easy to repair, come in a variety of colors, and are a durable option.