Gibson Finishes Question

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by hedzeppelin, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. hedzeppelin

    hedzeppelin V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    After doing some research, part of which I've learned from the people on this forum, I'd like to know if the following is true:

    Gibsons use a nitrocellulose laquer finish. This does not clog the
    wood and allows it to breathe. Over the course of time, the
    finish becomes thinner, and as the wood ages, the guitar sounds
    better.
    True? False?

    Epiphone uses a Polyester finish, which is more durable, but
    does not allow the wood to breathe, thereby causing the instrument
    to sound more "brittle".
    True? False?

    Ok, this leads up to my final question....
    Epiphone makes an LP Vintage ,where the finish is apparently pretty thin.
    Would this make it closer to a Gibson's finish since it's thinner?
     
  2. FLICKOFLASH

    FLICKOFLASH V.I.P. Member

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    Polyester finish seems to get a bad Rap but remember it is also used by PRS

    Gibson nitrocellulose laquer finishes used today are not the same formulas usede in the 50's,, The only person I know of using the Old formulas today are Max which passed his secrets off to vintage restorations
     
  3. hedzeppelin

    hedzeppelin V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks, Flick!
    Just wondered about that, since I've heard so much about the nitro being so much better.
    I have an Epi LP Plaintop, and the finish is really nice on it. I don't really notice a lot of difference.
     
  4. FLICKOFLASH

    FLICKOFLASH V.I.P. Member

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    Nitro is much easier to repair but as it ages it shrinks & micro cracks & the brittle finish also breaths more

    Poly gets its bad rap from Fender when they used their thick finish
     
  5. ptate

    ptate V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    An article from a luthier:

    "The finish is the last thing I would like to note on method. Much has been said about Nitrocellulose Lacquer, some think it is the only finish worth considering but there are numerous high end guitar makers who use a Polyurethane or Acrylic type of finish and no one is complaining about the sound of their instruments, some Luthiers have even gone to a Catalyzed Polyester. The breathability of lacquer is often cited as an advantage. This breathability is most often defined as tonal breathability though I have heard some speak of Poly finished instruments as being plastic encased or sealed as though the protective properties of the finish cause it to also trap the acoustic qualities of the instrument. Actually it is more a matter of the hardness of the finish that either allows vibration transfer or impedes it. Also the thickness of the finish can become an issue in this regard. There are some forms of Poly that are on the soft side and certainly there was a period when makers were putting way to much finish on their instruments but that is not often the case any more and the various finish types being used have matured to produce as good as or better performance than Nitro, some have the acoustic transparency of Shellac which is honored as the best finish acoustically speaking and as I have stated there many very high end instrument makers who are using a Poly or Acrylic finish and are producing excellent sounding instruments (a good number of these luthiers are highly respected acoustic instrument makers) and many of the makers that do use Nitro use a Vinyl sealer for most of the build up and Lacquer is only used for a few of the top coats, any tonal advantage would be modified significantly by this. I have used Nitro in the past but it is so toxic not only to the user but also to the environment that I won't use it anymore, I am constantly listening to and reading stories of luthiers that have had their health severely compromised from years of using Nitro; it just isn't worth it. We have used Poly with good results both in durability (much better than lacquer) and tone."

    Seems perfectly reasonable.
     
  6. hedzeppelin

    hedzeppelin V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks, ptate! That's very informative. Flick also makes a good point about PRS guitars having the poly finish....and as you said, "no one's complaining"...
    I've often thought that the nitro thing was a bit overplayed, myself.
    Gibson could really cut costs by using a different finish, and consequently lower their prices..but then again, why should they, when people will pay the price anyway?
     
  7. FLICKOFLASH

    FLICKOFLASH V.I.P. Member

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    Gibson has fazed in a new finish ( dyes) this years they enhance the graining & are fade resistant, My guess Hydro based :eek2:
     
  8. hedzeppelin

    hedzeppelin V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    I understand that the finishing process at Gibson is very labor-intensive. Perhaps this new finish will cut that back a bit?
     

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