Do you find issues in a lot of small luthier finishes over time?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by zekmoe, Feb 16, 2015.

  1. zekmoe

    zekmoe Member

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    Occasionally I'll run across some of the small builder guitars mentioned here , used and hanging in a local shop or in NYC when I visit for work. Strangely I've seen some finish irregularities in many different builders axes. Wild checking, uneven top wear as if it flaked off or sunk in, glue discolorations, flaking at the fretboard edges from usage. Glue separations though that's not exactly finish. It seems worse on older examples of some builders. Have you experienced this? Were they just seconds that made it into the used market or did they wear differently than Gibsons and Fenders of similar vintage?
     
  2. big mike

    big mike Moderator - EL34 Emeritas Staff Member

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    Personally I don't consider 'sinking in' a flaw.

    You want dipped In glass forever...that's fine, I want thin enough to sink in.

    So I guess my answer is no.
     
  3. Irreverent

    Irreverent Silver Supporting Member

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  4. Kmaz

    Kmaz Member

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    My Monty Tele's finish began to crack (check?) not long after I received it. Brian told me that it would likely happen and I'm cool with it. Natural relicing. :)
     
  5. customguitars87

    customguitars87 Member

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    I don't know...my favorite guitar that i had custom built is going into it's 7th year of life and despite gigging, etc it doesn't have any finish flaws like that. It has a couple of dings, but that's my fault and not the luthier's :).
     
  6. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    Not with my custom builds.

    The finish on my '86 PRS Custom, though, has sunk so far into the wood you can read it like brail - and the message is tone! [​IMG]
     
  7. Teleplayer

    Teleplayer Silver Supporting Member

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    Jon - LMAO at the TM. Well done, sir.
     
  8. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

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    Urethane and polyester finishes are less likely to do the things you say you see. The customer case demands nitro, from top to bottom. Nitro is not a great finish material in all reality. It has a huge shrink factor and gets so hard and brittle that it flakes rather than chips over time. Tone difference? Don't get me started:)
     
  9. yucatown

    yucatown Theory-free noodling enthusiast Gold Supporting Member

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    Which builder's guitars have you seen those flaws on? I have several "boutique" guitars from builders often mentioned in these pages, and I've never experienced what I would deem as "flaws". Finish checking and sink in are normal.
     
  10. beorn

    beorn Member

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    Beyond normal, in many cases deemed admirable.

    I recall a thread with a white Yaron strat that was just covered in checking because it had been flown to the US in a plane and the cargo region got really cold.

    People chimed in saying things like "Can I hire a plane to carry my guitar for a few thousand miles?"
     
  11. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    I have 7 custom guitars and have not experienced any issues.
     
  12. stealthtastic

    stealthtastic Supporting Member

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    I think a lot of custom/boutique guys don't know how to do finishes properly, which is why they outsource it. (nothing wrong with that!)
     
  13. prsflame

    prsflame Member

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    I'm curious which builders guitars OP is referring to? I've never experienced any of the issues described above with the small builder guitars I own, but maybe others have? Any wear and tear on my guitars came from regular use. I have had the finish fade on my 87 PRS custom from whale blue, to some sort of greenish fleshy color, but it doesn't bother me.
     
  14. fishleehooker

    fishleehooker Supporting Member

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    I think the OP is looking at it wrong...well, not wrong, but he is missing a major point of difference. A thin finish is always going to sound and feel better. Whereas a thick finish is great for the manufacturer and store. The problem a thin finish has is that a brand new guitar done with this should not be pawed at by every aspiring 16 year old guitar whiz and his mom. Even though it still will be "better" from a feel and sound stand-point that guitar will likely have some scratches and flaws more easily than a super thick Urethane finish, which excel at keeping the guitar as original as possible. Stores, salesmen, and manufacturers often need this. Especially ones that cater to young show offs and mall shoppers. Ultimately, guitars feel, act, and sound better to the vast majority broken in. The sinking in of a finish is a great sign as it often foes result in a very organic feel and sound. Checking just looks cool and seems to help the body resonate even more freely but that could just be s feel thing.

    So, I love my small luthier guitars I have had. I find I prefer Thorn and Lentz's finish over the big guy's I have felt, but also think the world of Collings, Gustavsson, Kauer, Briggs, McInturff, and a few others. I have only seen Michael Stevens, but his look to be easily amongst the greats. J Black, former Fender custom and John Page do wonderful things too. The list goes on. The only company I am familiar with was Hameritis on Hamers, but I still adore Hamer.
     
  15. 2HBStrat

    2HBStrat Member

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    Just curious here.....are you saying that the guitar finish that customers demand is inferior to more recent/modern finishes?
     
  16. atquinn

    atquinn Supporting Member

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    He might not be saying it, but I am. :D I hate nitro. Feels weird, smells weird and doesn't stand up. There are modern finishes that are just as thin and look, and hold up, much better (like the ones on my Hamers). Also, I love when the finish sinks in (definitely not a defect in my book), which has happened to the finishes on all my guitars (3 Hamers and one Fender), none of which have nitro finishes. So I get to have my cake and eat it too with non-nitro finishes.
    -
    Austin
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
    anyone likes this.
  17. zekmoe

    zekmoe Member

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    I'm talking what looks more like uneven finish wear, not like a normally worn instrument, but where the finish cracks or looks unevenly applied and begins showing more with age. Or edge cracking of finish where bindings and fretboards meet, looking poorly applied for expansion and contraction consideration.
    I don't mean mildy wear or a chip here and there. Lots of builders over the years, but I'd be hesitant to point one or two out. Not trying to claim they're deficient. Just something I've casually seen. When I see a 15 year old Les Paul, they show signs of wear but nothing like flaking of entire sections of finishes peeling.
     
  18. fishleehooker

    fishleehooker Supporting Member

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    With such generalities it makes it hard to defend the Small builders you are taking to task. The fact is you are right. With hundreds of people who have built guitars, I am sure 10% or more have had some finish issues.

    I did my research before going with my guys (Thorn, Lentz, Stevens), and see and hear story after story of finishes of the highest calibre. Then after owning the these things, knowing that I really do like the feel and look of their' finishes.
     
  19. yucatown

    yucatown Theory-free noodling enthusiast Gold Supporting Member

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    Right. There are hundreds of small luthiers out there, some better than others. OP, I'd venture to say you won't see those issues with the most respectable names.
     
  20. Stevo57

    Stevo57 Supporting Member

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    Only guitar I've owned that had a failing finish was a Taylor acoustic. I'm not talking about checking from age or temperature extremes. I'm talking the finish lifting and separating from the guitar body. Every small luthier build I've owned has had spectacular finishes. Lentz, Thorn, Asher, Brauchli, Burgin, Malinoski, Stehr, Goodall, Morgan, to name a few off the top of my increasingly shiny head.
     

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