The many smells of nitrocellulose

Krausewitz

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3,140
I have three guitars (Strat, Tele, 335) all finished in nitro, and they all smell different; I can tell them apart by that characteristic alone. Why is that? I'd get it if the Gibson smelled a bit different from the Fenders, but even the two Fenders smell noticeably different. Anyone else notice this? Do various colours smell slightly different from one another? (Ah, reminds me of my college days....)

(Note: Yes I realize this is a downright absurd thread, but whatever....beats doing the work I'm trying to avoid...)
 

stratter

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1,421
Are they all manufactured in the same relative era? I know Gibson changed their nitro recipie so it would cure a little faster, maybe fender did the same?
 

Krausewitz

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3,140
Are they all manufactured in the same relative era? I know Gibson changed their nitro recipie so it would cure a little faster, maybe fender did the same?
All built within 2-4 years of each other (I think...I bought them all 'new' between 2013 and 2014).
 

Ron Kirn

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7,380
the nitro formulations are constantly evolving.... EPA regulations compels the manufacturers to find new blends to comply with the changing "landscape" of environmental concerns.... Thus a specific product used in one year, may be considerably different the next...

also not all "nitro" is nitro... some are manufactured to be catalytically cured... containing only though nitrated cellulose to warrant the far more marketable label Nitro... They are in fact, far closer to a poly than a solvent based lacquer... such would obviously present a different odor. Further, Behlen's will smell differently than ICI's, which will smell differently than Sherwin William's, which will smell differently than Cabot's... etc, etc etc...

also many manufacturers, if they are smart, most are, will have several suppliers "on line" ready, should the primary source "dry up".. Fender did so in the 50's and 60's. Many think Leo ONLY used Dupont lacquer... not so... he used lacquers from anyone that was available when the need developed.. this is why his guitars of the same apparent color, age to different shades... it's primarily the different clear coats...

Ron Kirn
 

Ron Kirn

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7,380
I use Meguires car wax to buff 'em just before I pack 'em... that' the first scent that greets the new owner... that lasts about a day, then the Lacquer manifests it's self... that can last for a very long time... with the ambiguity "CAN" being notable... However, the Meguires is available in about any auto parts store, and the aroma is glorious... also, if it's good for a $40,000,000.00 NART Vintage Ferrari's Nitro finish.. (yeah, that's 40 million... wonder what the payments a month would be...) it'll be fine for your guitar....:p

rk
 

great-case.com

a.k.a. "Mitch"
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5,740
Lacquers when properly cured should not emit a detectable smell, but the chemists all agree that these substances do emit low level VOCs for a very long time. It is possible that some of the new (I call them Hyper Catalyzed) lacquers stink but that would surprise me.

My hypothesis is that you are smelling a wax, polish or the materials in the guitar's case.

Some cases are made with cheap, fast tac glues and/or MD Fiberboard. These stink forever and the gasses are (in the opinion of curatorial scientists) not good for your guitar. How do your cases smell all by themselves? With my apologies for the apparent shill*, I am in the curatorial trade and simply hope to share some of my exposure to this topic.

Regarding Waxes & Polishers: How long would that smell last? Years?
Waxes can smell until they don't dry out. Cheap waxes can be corrosive, but this is where I begin to sound paranoid. My guess is that if it is a coating on the guitar that smells, you'd notice a distinct reduction in weeks, but it has to be left out in the open to test this. If it's the case, the smell should fade more quickly. Make sense?

I had a case that wreaked long before I began studying the topic. I left it in the sun for a few days, open. It helped reduce the smell but 15 yrs later, it still stinks. I do not keep my finest guitFiddse in coffin cases such as the ones that stink.

* I regain my shill shamed self-respect by telling you about my competitors Ameritage and HumiCase. Dollar for dollar these are the best cases on the market.
 
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Ape Factory

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2,504
I have three nitro guitars and I can't smell anything resembling nitro. I've sprayed nitro but the smell goes away fairly quickly. The last neck I sprayed had a distinct nitro odor far less than a month from what I can remember. Maybe I'm desensitized. I also hang mine and tend to open the windows during the non-summer months. Cases get stored.
 

Tony Bones

Member
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1,214
I've never noticed lacquer having a distinctive odor after a few months. But maybe your nose is better than mine.

Try leaving the guitars out of the case with the case open for a week or two. I've left cases out on my back porch for a week, both brand new and old ones that smell like they've been in a cellar for decades. It's always helped.
 

Krausewitz

Member
Messages
3,140
Huh, so maybe it is just the smell of the case? That's interesting. The smells are all fairly sweet and pleasant.

The only thing making me think it is not the case is that the Tele and Strat both come in the same case (or, at any rate, from the same brand). It seems very unlikely that they'd smell so differently.
 




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