Nitro finish on a project guitar: DIY or pay big $$$?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by soli528, Jan 28, 2008.


  1. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm at a point with a guitar build project (first attempt) where I need to consider the finish. It's a 1 pc. swamp ash tele-ish body with a maple neck, pau ferro fretboard. I'm looking to do a transparent white nitro finish (Mary Kay, white blonde, etc...) on the body and a vintage tint on the neck. In all the reserach I've done, it sounds like a real chore to "do it right," that is, 14 coats, 3 days dry time and wetsanding between each, etc... but the alternative is to pay someone about $400 (for both pieces) and get it back in 6-8 weeks.
    So once again, I turn to TGP. What's the general consensus around here- is a DIY approach to nitro finishing recommended or will I be happy to have paid $400 to have it right by the time it's over? Any recommendations as to products or tips that anyone can provide? Any recommendations as to who does a great job for less $$$? Thanks in advance!
     
  2. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    Pay the money!!!!
     
  3. syxxstring

    syxxstring Member

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    2 Questions:
    Do you have any finish experience/tools etc?
    Do you want to do it, is it fun or work?
    Do you have more time or money?

    I love doing things myself, so question #2 does a lot of damage in my life. If number 2 is that its work pay to get it done. If it's going to be work and no fun pay to get it done.
    Also if you don't have a good enviorment and the set up to paint and polish than the $400 isn't a bad deal.
     
  4. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    I was afraid you'd say that. I figure you're the man to listen to. Is that unconditional advice? I was kinda hoping to reap the satisfaction of having done it myself, but then again, I guess I wouldn't be too proud if it turned out like sh!t either.
     
  5. Jellecaster

    Jellecaster Member

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    If you DIY - rethink the "3 days dry time". I let my Teles hang for a month before wetsanding and final buffing. We are talking about nitro, not poly - correct?
     
  6. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    You've hit the nail on the head here, even though it's three questions instead of two :D.
    My finishing experience is generally relegated to furniture wood working, and it's been brushing instead of spray. I've got a decent work area, but it's not actively ventilated or anything, just open windows in a walk-out basement.
    I would like to do it, and it would be more fun than a chore.
    The third question is the tricky one- I likely have more time than money (these parts projects really seem to go wildly off the budget track very quickly), but I also have a burning desire to finish it (that is, complete the project). Still, the 6-8 week quoted time seems like more time than I would take to do it myself, although it's entirely possible that that's what is required.
     
  7. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    Yes, I was referring to dry time between coats of nitro... seems like I read a similar timeline on Stew-Mac...
     
  8. HammyD

    HammyD Supporting Member

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  9. MartinPiana

    MartinPiana Supporting Member

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    i did mine with rattle cans -- nitro clear coat after a friend painted it (with nitro). it took plenty of time and patience and sanding and buffing, but i'm happy with the final product. i'd never done this before.

    apologies to all who are tired of me posting this dozens of times over the past couple years. i'm still proud of it!

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Jellecaster

    Jellecaster Member

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    Here's how I do mine assuming a solid finish: two to three coats of primer and let it sit for a couple of days. Color coat (about three coats usually does it) - let it sit one week for nitro, three days for Krylon. I usually don't wet sand the color coat unless it is really rough. I then spray eight coats of clear gloss Deft nitro and let it sit a week. I then wet sand with 400 grit, let it sit overnight and spray eight more coats of Deft. I let it hang for a month, wet sand from 400 to 2000 grit, hit it with fine rubbing compound and then polish.
     
  11. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    Martin, wow, that does look nice! Not bad for a first timer eh?

    Jellecaster- I pm'd you.

    Thanks!
     
  12. Aardvark

    Aardvark Silver Supporting Member

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    It sounds like you got a pretty good deal, assuming the finisher does good work. I just dropped off a swamp ash body for Donald Dunlavey (just south of the ATL airport) to do a translucent finish on. The turnaround time was estimated at 4-5 months, and I think the estimated charge was $450.
     
  13. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

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    Funny!

    I guess it depends on what kind of quality you want. If you really want to
    have fun with it, reap the satisfaction and don't expect a perfect finish, I say go for it!!!

    My biggest advice is "patience". Considereing most nitro takes 30 days to dry before sanding and polishing, 6-8 weeks ain't bad at all.

    I'm pretty sure you will have a great appreciation for the guys who do this work when all is said and done.

    Good luck whichever way you go.:AOK

    Oh yeah, it is a real chore to do it right and the price you were quoted is very reasonable for a nice nitro job in trans white with the neck included...
     
  14. Bob V

    Bob V Member

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    Not to throw a wrench in the works, but if you surf the Warmoth site (and others) you can pick from bodies that are already finished and you know what you're getting before you buy - tremendous value there.

    If you have more time than money, there are some amazing results obtained by people on this forum and others using rattle can nitro. It's very forgiving stuff using spray equipment (although it's a mess to clean the spray gun, you don't have to do that with a rattle can). Since a guitar is relatively small, spray cans aren't a bad idea (it's not like you're trying to spray a whole car).
     
  15. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    That sounds steep- I'm sure it'll turn out great. I was just going from quote prices & times from USACG and GuitarMill.
     
  16. Aardvark

    Aardvark Silver Supporting Member

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    Hopefully it's worth it. If anyone has had Mr. Dunlavey finish a guitar, I would be interested to hear about the outcome.
     
  17. rickkane32

    rickkane32 Member

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    I just bought a Partscaster from a guy here on TGP. The body was finished in nitro by Guitar Mill in TN. I heard they were really reasonable and the work was great.

    rickkane32
     
  18. js54

    js54 Member

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    If you like to do woodwork and finishing, doing your own guitar is very fun and rewarding. I've done a few and if you take your time and are careful you can get great results.

    Go to www.Reranch.com.
    Bill has everything you need plus there are instructions and very nice forum - most guys there are actually very helpful.

    I've done a few guitars and it does take about a week of spraying (weather, etc) and a good month to cure so you get a good buff-out.
    Of course you can do it faster, but, haste makes waste IMHO.

    To save money, get your colors/sandpapers/misc supplies from ReRanch and then get your sanding sealer and clear coats from:
    http://www.grizzly.com/products/Jet-Spray-153-Clear-Lacquer-Gloss/H3902

    Total cost for a first DIY job will be about $100-$150(extreme high end), but about half the expense wil be for supplies you can use for more jobs/guitars.

    Here's a Fiesta Red strat I just finished Neck and body:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  19. soli528

    soli528 Silver Supporting Member

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    That looks great! Thanks for the tips- the Reranch seems like a great resource. Looking over there, I'll likely start spending a bit more time on the computer- my wife will love that.
     
  20. lchyi

    lchyi Member

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    If this is a one time thing then I say shell out the $$$ for it. If it is not and you really want to make it a hobby, I'd say go for the equipment. Start out with rattle cans and then move on to better equipment if you so choose.

    I was on the RR forums for a couple years and I learned all I know now from them and I say I can adeptly finish a guitar in nitro right now.

    However, I do know that Mario over at Guitar Mill does some killer work on his bodies and his finishes (the ones that I've seen at least). Great prices too.
     

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