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Best Finish for First Timer

Total Topics: 7
Total Posts: 18
I've been reading through these posts for days trying to get a handle on the whole concept of finishing a guitar. From what I discovered from my research, it's a pretty complicated process. I've watched some videos on french polish and that originally appealed to me because it was a non toxic, rub on finish. I've finished non musical wood working projects in the past and always got the best results with rub on as opposed to brush or spray.

My biggest concern with french polish is durability. I plan on playing guitar and I'm not always one to treat the instrument gently. So I started having second thoughts.

I read some about water based lacquer. From what I've read you have to mix this, make sure you have the right ratio or it won't cure, get a spray booth, gun and compressor to apply it. This is all more of an investment then I am willing to make.

I want to avoid real flammable stuff as well since this will be done in my basement.

So now I am looking at the StewMac Color Tone kit. Any thoughts? Suggestions? Have people have had success with this kit, other first timers experiences?

I am a ways off of starting the finish but would like to have a battle plan in place for when that day comes.

Apr 28, 10 | 10:35 am

Total Topics: 26
Total Posts: 257
I just finished my first, using the Target Emtech 6000 and brushing it on.
I didn't pore fill the mahogany very well, but it did fill pretty good after a lot of finish coats. Also, I didn't level well. But, it did turn out a very good finish in my eyes. I will spray it on next time because I have a tank already and my business neighbor is an auto body shop and is hooking me up with a mini-gun, regulator, moisture remover all for less than a C note.

Apr 28, 10 | 11:56 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
I have not used the Color Tone spray can lacquer, but I have done two guitars with Deft Spray can lacquer that you can get at Lowe's for about $6 per can. This is more costly than buying it by the quart and using a spray gun, but it is convenient. There is also an accompanying sanding sealer for the undercoat. I was very pleased with the results. I do have a portable spray booth I put up on the patio, and you do have to be concerned about the vapors. If dust is not a problem for you you can forgo the booth.
I put this over an epoxy pore fill.

The lacquer in the Color Tone kit is also nitro lacquer and it is real flammable.


Apr 28, 10 | 1:05 pm

Total Topics: 4
Total Posts: 68
Since you have some time, read this this thread at least two or three times. It really does not get much easier than the Target water based lacquers. Advice: stay away from the minwax WB stuff. I have used it in the past and it does have a good initial finish but I've had some discoloration and softening over time.

These is no mixing with emtech6000 , unless you're brushing and use retarder...and I suspect the ratio is not real critical.

Apr 28, 10 | 5:28 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Tim hit on my current favorite WB system --- his advice to read the thread several times is very good. Kevin hit on my favorite nitro system -- except I would recommend Pore O Pac filler rather than epoxy, those interested in the Deft finishing schedule can send me an Emial for details.


Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Apr 29, 10 | 2:46 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Another option is Truoil. It is hand applied, non-toxic, and brings out a warmer character and depth to the wood (certainly my opinion). It is very easy to apply, correctable, bit as with any hand applied finish, your surface prep has to be dead perfect to get perfect results. It does take a long time to do, but I am likeing the results so far. The final coats are going on so smooth you almost don't need to polish and buff.

Apr 29, 10 | 8:47 am

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
I used StewMac rattle can lacquer for my first two and think that it is probable the best finish of all. I pore filled using their past product, shot maybe 6 or so coats of their filler/primer, and finished with 15 - 18 coats of the gloss. Color sand to 1200 or higher, then their medium and fine buffing compound with their foam pad and a drill motor. This was number two

The little white streaks are because I only did one pore fill - now I do at least two.

HOWEVER solvent based finishes including nitro are explosive, toxic and generally bad for you and the environment. They are a PITA to clean up (not really a problem with rattle cans) but you should have some lacquer thinner handy. You must wear a carbon canister mask while shooting, you should do it in a ventilated explosion proof paint booth, the over spray will settle on everything. I made a little cardboard "booth" out of a couple of guitar shipping boxed - not nearly adequate and my wife complained of the stink for weeks. Second one I actually did in a paint booth where I work but that was a hassle because you want 3-4 coats a day (lets see, morning break, lunch, afternoon, after work).

So, short story - rattle cans of nitro are very easy, relatively inexpensive, can give a beautiful finish, but is dangerous, toxic and explosive.

For number 3 I bought a little compressor and have been shooting water based since - almost as good and none of the issues.

Apr 29, 10 | 11:28 am

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