Nitrocellulose lacquer frequently asked questions

NOTE Lacquer should only be used in a well ventilated area. You should wear a properly fitted vapour respirator during the application and drying of nitrocellulose lacquer. Machine Mart sell an ideal respirator for under £20 including organic solvent cartridges.

All my lacquer is supplied in 400ml aerosols, which generally have adjustable elliptical nozzles allowing a vertical or horizontal fan. An alternative round nozzle which is better for sunbursts is available on request.

It is illegal in the UK for anyone under the age of 16 to attempt to purchase aerosol paints. By ordering lacquer aerosols, you confirm that you are over 16 years of age.

I’m sorry but I can not send lacquer outside the UK at this time.

If you are looking for general information on how to spray a guitar, there is a series of posts in the blog on guitar finishing. More to follow soon!

Please note that I do not offer a finishing or refinishing service!

Before you buy


Recipes for authentic-looking finishes

Spraying technique

Other stuff

Q. Why do the colour swatches show two different colours?


Where the lacquer colour shows a darker shade on the right hand side, it represents the colour of the lacquer when sprayed over with my Light Tint Gloss clearcoat.

The left hand side shows a close representation of the actual colour.

Q. Can you send lacquer to me in (France, Sweden, USA etc.)?


Since the end of the Brexit transition phase, I’m unfortunately unable to export lacquer to any country.

If you are in USA you can buy similar lacquer from ReRanch

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Q. What about grain filler and sanding sealer?


It’s essential for a professional looking finish to prepare your wood so that you have a perfect surface for the lacquer.

Sand to 320 grit to remove any pits or scratches.

Open pored wood such as ash and mahogany will require grain-filling. You don’t need to grain-fill maple and can generally get away without it on alder. I like the Rustins grain filler available from my shop but some people now are starting to use epoxies. I’ve recently tried  Stewart Macdonald’s water based grain filler but with mixed results in line with the reviews on the site.

See my  step-by-step grain-filling post in the blog.

The next step after grain filling is sealing, which is designed to give a smooth surface for the lacquer. You can just use lacquer if you wish but as it doesn’t fill
imperfections very well it can take a lot to get a smooth finish.

You can use a nitrocellulose-based sanding sealer under my lacquer and I sell a high build sanding sealer in aerosol form. If you are spraying a solid colour then my white primer will do the job well, plus it gives an even base for lighter colours, increasing their brightness.

Whether using sanding sealer or primer, always sand flat and if imperfections remain, spray another few coats, allow to dry and sand again.

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Q. Is this stuff I have compatible with your lacquer?


I haven’t a great deal of experience mixing finishes and only use nitrocellulose so you would need to test any combination yourself before use.

Generally anything that is cellulose or shellac based should be okay but again, you need to test it to be sure.

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Q. Can I just use Halfords car paint?


Although car sprays come in a wide variety of colours, many people have found that it doesn’t harden very well on wood and can stay soft for many months.

If you want a special colour making up, please ask as I can have most colours put into aerosol cans. It takes a couple weeks to get manufactured and is subject to a minimum order of 1 litre of lacquer (around £50) plus £16 per aerosol.

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Q. How do I refit the nozzle to the can?


If your lacquer arrives with the nozzle detached, the best way to refit it is with a twisting action. Trying to press it in will probably result in you getting lacquer all over your fingers.

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Q. How many coats should I apply?


It’s difficult to talk about coats as it depends how thick you apply it. Generally I’d expect three coats each of about 3 passes, and depending on ambient temperature, with between 5 minutes and 1/2 hour between coats. The transparent colours get darker the more coats you spray so you’ll need to spray enough to get your desired shade.

You only need to sand between coats if you need to remove an imperfection such as dust or a run. You should spray thinly enough so that runs don’t happen of course.

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Q. Any special tips for metallics?


Yes! The technique that I use when I spray metallics is to dust the final coat of colour on from a distance, allowing the flakes to stand at all angles instead of flat on the body. Then I dust on the first few clear coats (so as not to disturb the metallic) before building up thickness. This technique give the strongest contrast.
See an example.

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Q. Any special tips for satin and matt finishes?


What I do is to spray plenty of coats of Clear Satin lacquer (or Clear Matt) leave to harden overnight and flat sand with 800 grit. As ever when flat sanding, take care on the corners as it is all to easy to sand through.

Then I spray a final coat of Clear Satin (or matt) lacquer all over and leave it. No buffing! That way you’ll get a nice even sheen all over.

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Q. How many tins do I need?


As a rule of thumb, refinishing a guitar body will take a can each of primer, colour and clear. It depends however on how well you prepare the wood, how economical you are and how much paint actually ends up on the guitar and this does depend on your skill level. Inexperienced refinishers may need more!

Preparation is also a key factor. Sand out those scratches first. Trying to fill them with lacquer can be a long and expensive process!

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Q. How long do I leave the guitar before buffing?


The longer the better! I’d say a minimum of a week. I tend to leave at least 3 weeks.

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Q. Why do this buffing thing?


It’s impossible to get a flat finish with lacquer so it is always flat sanded and buffed to a high gloss. See the Reranch site for details.

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Q. Why am I getting drips of lacquer on my guitar?


If you press too hard on the nozzle, you can sometimes get a buildup of lacquer on the rim of the can (where it’s crimped closed) and this can sometimes drop off or be blown onto your work. It’s a good idea to wipe the rim every few passes.

You can mimimise the chances of this by hanging the body rather than laying it flat for spraying.

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Q. Should I invert the can to clean the nozzle?


Some people suggest that after use you invert the can and spray to clean the nozzle. I DO NOT recommend you do this.

The nozzles do not tend to clog and cleaning them this way is a sure way to waste propellant, depressurise the can and end up with half a can of lacquer that won’t spray, or worse splutter lacquer onto your guitar due to low can pressure.

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Q. How do I get a blond or butterscotch finish?


If the body is ash (and it really should be as the look depends on ash’s strong grain pattern) then you’ll need to grain fill first. I like and use Rustins grain filler.

There are instructions for finishing blond at bottom of this page on the Vintage Guitar site.

Following this, to get an authentic-looking blonde finish with my aerosols:

  1. Sand the wood to 320 grit to remove any scratches.
  2. grain fill thoroughly and sand smooth to 320 grit.
  3. Spray several thin coats of sanding sealer to lock it all in and flatten. The aim is to get a very smooth surface for the lacquer. Repeat this step if necessary until you have a very smooth guitar body. There is sanding sealer demo here.
  4. Spray White Blonde gloss evenly so as to opaque the grain but not too much. Spray more white on the edges if you like as they were generally opaqued to hide any joins in the body.
  5. If you want a “butterscotch blonde” spray (lightly) tinted gloss to give an amber shade to your taste. For a creamy colour use Light Tint
    lacquer, for a full-on butterscotch use Tinted Gloss or for a more yellow colour, Clear Amber.
  6. Follow with more coats of clear gloss, and leave for 2-3 weeks to harden
  7. Finally flat sand and buff.

Don’t sand the blonde before the clear coat as it’s likely you’ll rub through and expose wood.

To sand at the end you should use progressively finer “wet and dry” papers (from B&Q etc.) used with water that has a little washing-up-liquid added. Don’t get your guitar too wet as if water gets in screw holes it will swell the wood and crack your finish.

Finish with P1200 paper and then use T-Cut to bring up the gloss.

The reason for the sanding and buffing is that it’s impossible to get a completely smooth finish when spraying.

If you wish you can substitute my Butterscotch lacquer for the White Blond and omit the tinting steps unless you want to further darken the colour.

More good stuff on finishing on the Reranch site.

These guitars were finished using my lacquer aerosols.

You’ll need:

  • 1 can Rustins Grain Filler (natural)
  • 1 can Sanding Sealer
  • 1 can White Blonde
  • 1 can (Lightly) Tinted Gloss
  • 1 or 2 cans Clear Gloss

You’ll also need grain filler (Craft Supplies) and some abrasives (B&Q, Homebase, Halfords) and some T-Cut (B&Q, Homebase, Halfords).

You might be surprised how easy it is to get good results. As you probably know, the key success factors are preparation and patience. Take your time and you’ll have a far better chance of getting it right. Always practice your spraying technique on scrap wood. It’s easier than stripping and repainting your guitar body! There’s a post showing the process of  spraying a butterscotch body here.

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Q. How do I get a 3-colour sunburst finish?


Here’s how to do it (briefly)

  1. Seal the body with sanding sealer.
  2. Spray front, back and sides in amber.
  3. Spray red transition band including the sides.
  4. Spray Tobacco Brown band on edges. Keep nice and tight in with this so the band isn’t too wide. You’ll need several coats to build up opacity, be careful to let each one dry before the next to avoid runs – don’t rush this step!
  5. Follow with plenty of coats of clear gloss.
  6. After a few weeks hardening, flat, buff and polish.

You’ll need:

See Reranch 101

It’s a good idea to practice first on some scrap wood. Patience is essential. If you rush things, you’ll end up with a less than perfect job.

I apply sunbursts freehand but you can use a masking template held above the body so as not to get a hard edge.

My aersols are normally supplied with an elliptical nozzle, which is great for large areas but a round spray pattern is better for sunbursts. Please let me know if you’d prefer a round nozzle when you buy.

See my sunbursting demo.

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Q. Do you stock Candy Apple Red lacquer?


Candy Apple Red (CAR) is not one colour but a sequence of layers. See how Fender did it here:

My colours work well to achieve a realistic Candy Apple Red.

The “recipe” is:

  1. White primer
  2. Inca Silver (or gold) metallic
  3. Clear Red
  4. Clear Gloss

Fender used a silver basecoat up to 1965 and a gold basecoat thereafter.

Dust the final coat of silver or gold on from a distance, allowing the flakes to stand at all angles instead of flat on the body. Then dust on the first few coats of clear red (so as not to disturb the metallic) before building up thickness and colour.

I’ve demo’d the whole process here: Creating a Candy Apple Red finish

You need the Clear Gloss at the end for when you flat sand and buff you don’t want to rub through your red. See

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Q. How do I strip the existing finish?


To strip a guitar you have 3 options:

  1. Chemicals. In the past I have had success with Nitromors but recently learned that due to new regulations controlling the use of methylene chloride, its formulation has changed and it now won’t have any effect on the majority of guitar finishes. It will strip nitrocellulose finishes, as will cellulose thinners, acetone or ethyl acetate (ethyl ethanoate).
  2. Heat. Using a heat gun can work well for synthetic finishes but be careful not to scorch the wood. Too much heat can lift veneers too so exercise caution.
  3. Abrasive. Sanding works when all else fails but it is a time-consuming task. A mouse type sander is good for curved surfaces such as a guitar top. Start with a coarse grade to remove most of the finish then switch to finer at the end. Be careful not to sand through any veneers.

You must get a smooth, faultless surface before doing anything else.

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Q. How can I age (relic) the lacquer?


I’m no expert in weather checking but have had good results by putting Tele bodies into the freezer overnight. A couple of cycles of freeze/thaw works well. Add a few dings first and these act a centres for the checking. Here’s a  Telecaster that I finished and then distressed.

The ReRanch site has some information on aging finishes and hardware , and see the excellent article in Guitar and Bass Magazine “How To Relic A Guitar Body With A Nitro Finish ” which uses my lacquer.

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Q. What should I use to give my guitar neck a vintage colour?


You can spray my Tinted lacquer over bare wood or existing poly finishes. If the latter, scuff sand very lightly first to provide a key.

If you want to use a tinted lacquer you need to understand that the colour depth increases with film thickness – the more you spray, the darker it gets. If you want to tint the neck I’d recommend sealing first with clear lacquer, spraying the tinted to get the colour you want (matching the back and headstock). Then more clear to build up final finish thickness. That way when you buff you won’t be rubbing through the colour, making it paler in patches.

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Q. Do I need to mask the frets on a maple neck before spraying?


There is no need to mask and you should spray right over the frets.

You can remove the lacquer using a scraper made from a small nail as pictured. The notch is filed in the nail head using a rat-tail file. Wear eye protection though as bits fly everywhere!

You will also find that the lacquer will easily chip off when you dress the frets.

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Q. Why has my lacquer gone cloudy?


The milkiness (called bloom or blush) is down to spraying in humid conditions and it’s caused by moisture getting trapped in the lacquer. You can mimimise this by spraying thinner coats so that the moisture can escape before the lacquer dries. Often this milkiness will go away as the piece warms up or it can be removed by spraying more lacquer in less humid conditions.

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Q. Why does my finish look rough and powdery?


It’s probably a combination of spraying too far away and the weather being too warm. Warming the can can also cause this so don’t.

What is happening is that the solvents in the lacquer are drying before it hits the body so that it can’t flow to create a smooth surface.

Spray closer to your guitar so that the lacquer goes on wet, but not so wet that you get runs.

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Q. Should I warm the aerosol cans is a water bath?


Generally, no. The propellant in the aerosols is butane which boils at just under 0°C so unless you are spraying in sub-zero conditions (which I don’t advise) then you should have plenty of pressure without warming the cans.

Warming the can also causes the volatile solvents to flash off which can cause a dry powdery finish as the lacquer cannot flow, and the rapid evaporation of solvent as the lacquer leaves the nozzle causes buildup of lacquer which can result in blockage.

The only time when I would recommend warming is if spraying a sunburst, where the extra pressure does help create a find spray which gives a good feathering to the edge. Here you are generally spraying very close to the work which minimises the issue above.

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Q. Why is delivery so expensive?


Lacquer aerosols are classed as hazardous and very few couriers will handle them. Those that do are trained appropriately.

I use a flat delivery cost, dependent on location as this is how I am charged by the courier.

Deliveries to areas outside of UK mainland are by sea and consequently take a little longer, typically 2-3 days.

Delivery on every parcel costs me more than I charge.

132 Comments on “Nitrocellulose lacquer frequently asked questions”

  1. Hi Steve
    What spray strategy would you suggest for achieving a satin back (neck and back/sides of body) and a gloss top….

    I was thinking of Satin first avoiding the top as much as possible then masking the satin and applying gloss to the top?


    • I’d spray all over gloss then mask off the top and spray the rest with a finish coat of satin (or matt).

      The reason for this is if you get any overspray it’s easy to buff the gloss back to a shine but it’s very difficult to restore a low sheen finish to an even level of gloss without obvious scratches.

  2. Hi Steve,
    I’m refinishing my Strat neck and am in the the throws of sanding.
    Do I need to sand back to complete pale wood? I’ve done the front and back of the headstock so far and despite being nice and flat now there are varying tones to the wood.
    Will the tinted lacquer take care of that and give me uniformity?
    Kind regards

    • The tinted lacquer is clear so shows everything through.

      It’s virtually impossible to correct patchiness and you should start with a uniformly coloured neck.

  3. Hi Steve, just wondering if a clear gloss nitro can be used as a sanding sealer? ill be buying the clear gloss anyway to finish the guitar so I was wondering if this does the same job as a sanding sealer. Cheers

  4. I have strippered a maple bass neck that was all over black, but there is a trace of black in various areas lurking in the wood grain, Is there anything that will get this out? Acetone?
    It gives a grey grubby look in places, alternatively if I can’t entirely lose it do you think a tinted laq would hide it?.. I was wanting to use a tint anyway..

    • As a ps to the above, I tried some acetone on recommendation from a friend who’s done a bit of spraying previously, unfortunately the acetone wouldn’t touch the black remains in the grain and did nothing.
      Perhaps there’s a bleach or something?
      Other than that I guess it’s a case of hope that a tinted clear coat will hide it :(

    • Maybe acetone if the finish was cellulose but otherwise you’ll just have to sand it out. My tinted lacquers are still transparent so don’t hide anything

      • Thanks for the reply, no idea what was on the neck but doubt it was cellulose, I’ll sand it as much as poss, but obviously can’t take too much wood off or I’ll be altering the shape of everything and it’s fairly ingrained !
        The staining in the grain looks grey ish so was hoping a build up of tinted laq might lose it, I realise the tinted stuff is a colored clear.

  5. Is it possible to get a pearlescent finish from your paints?
    I’d like to repaint a Warwick Corvette bass.

  6. I have acquired 1940s pre war Harmony Royal Crest,, the finish is just a collection of white scuff marks in the old lacquer
    How to procede? Its worth the effort to get some expert advice. please.

    Wet sand / polish / overspray/ amalgamator / retarder
    Very few scuffs go into wood or color., but as many scuffs as it has ,, i wonder if clearcoat or finish in general is “failing” or if that even happens
    i believe its just old finish and now scuffs a bit easier on top of having many scuffs already Any help is greatly appreciated
    The scheme is a dark wood/burgundy burst
    Thank You

  7. Hi, Is there a maximum amount of time between coats. E.G could I spray the sanding sealer then come back a week later and start on the primer?
    Jason Gale

    • No limit at all – lacquer never cures so can be sprayed over any time. Just wipe down to remove any dust.

  8. Hi Steve, what colours/products would you recommend to achieve a faded ’59 Les Paul finish. I have a Peter Green/Gary Moore project on the go and want to get close to that finish. Thank you.

  9. Hi Steve,

    I bought some translucent red gloss and clear top coat from you. It’s worked well but I must not have dune a very good job of filling the grain because the train is very visible. Should I get a load more clear and try to fill in the grain or just accept the finish will not be smooth

    • It’s certainly possible to fill the grain with more clear lacquer but depending how bad it is, it might take a lot.

      As I always emphasise, it’s really important to get the preparation right by grain filling if necessary and using sanding sealer to achieve a smooth base for the lacquer.

  10. Hi Steve,

    Is there a particular mask/filter rating that you can recommend for spraying?

    I have a half mask with P3R filter cartridges, but i’m finding it quite hard to get an exact specification of what’s needed for spraying nitro.

  11. Hi Steve

    I’ve just put down a layer of colour over previously grain filled & sanding sealer covered body but have spotted a small area that I mustn’t have quite filled properly. Can I put filler/sanding sealer over the colour at this point or do I need to take it back a step by removing the colour first and filling again? Thanks

    • It depends how bad it is. As your finish is transparent you can’t do anything that will show though.

      You have to be very careful too not to sand through any of the purple which would make it paler.

      If it’s not *too* bad (i.e. not pinholing at pores) I think the safest route would be to continue with your colour coats and then fill the grain using clear gloss.

  12. Hiya … i’ve sprayed a grain-filled and sealed ash body face in clear gloss but have ended up with stripes, drips and a milky finish. The back was primed with grey and though i can’t see the milkiness, i can see the stripes. It’s not all that glossy either. Any ideas why and what to do?

  13. Hi, I’m confused… I want to respray a nitro finished sunburst tele body in nitro solid colour. (which il purchase from Yourself)
    Can I just spray over the top or do I need to do anything to the original colour I’ve read they can bleed into each other or something because nitro never dries? Also I’ve seen on YouTube that I can use lacguer thinner to reveal the under colour too like arm wear. Does this work or would the lacquer thinner just remove the 2 different colours? Many thanks

    • You can spray over an existing nitrocellulose finish. You need to degrease it thoroughly first as any oils or grease will stop the new lacquer from adhering. The underlying colour won’t bleed through.

      Nitrocellulose lacquer does dry, othewise how could you handle a wet guitar? It never *cures* though which means you can always redissolve the lacquer in solvents. This also means that any new coats will bond well with the old lacquer as it partially dissolves it.

      I wouldn’t use solvent to expose the underlying sunburst though as it risks damaging that layer. If you *have to* then sanding (to mimic natural wear) is the way to go.

  14. Hi there … I’ve scanned to see if others have asked but not found it. Apologies if I am duplicating, but I want a mid (pigeon) grey solid finish on the back and neck. The only tins I can find in the colours I want are primers. Can I apply those and then overspray with clear lacquer?

  15. Hi, I wonder if you can advise me in any wat as to my problem with sourcing tropical turquoise nitro cellular touch up paint for my Eric Johnson Fender Strat which has a couple of small but deep chips.
    Is it possible to repair with enamel paints do you know?
    kind regards, Ian Andrew

  16. Hi, I’ve made a Telecaster body out of solid oak but I’m struggling to find a decent purchase list for body finishing as well as a simple, step-by-step, order of application, including when to sand and what grade paper.

    It’s virtually impossible to find this basic yet fundamental information anywhere.

    So far, from what I can tell (in order of application) I need:

    1) 2 pac wood filler for larger scratches/dents (sand smooth)
    2) Grain filler (then lots of sanding)
    3) Sealer (multiple coats – then more sanding?)
    4) Primer (more sanding – how many coats?)
    5) Colour paint (approx 3 coats – sand between coats?)
    6) Clear Gloss (polish with fine wet and dry paper – 400-2000)

    Is this correct or shall I just stick a load of mayonnaise and sriracha all over the body?



    • Pretty much correct but when grain filling remove all the filler from the surface of the wood before it dries then you’ll only need a light sand to remove any remaining residue. Heavy sanding afterwards can remove your filler meaning that you have to re-do.

      As for quantities, the better you prep, the less you need. The basic rule is to make sure each stage is perfect before starting the next.

      There are plenty of demos in my finishing blog posts and important ones are currently linked in the right hand column of the home page.

  17. hi Steve, I sprayed a body in celly black over celly sealer. The finish looks good, but is still slightly sticky to touch after 6 months, and fingerprints, when with sweat, leave a lasting dull print which can only be removed with a cutting compound like T Cut. What did I do wrong, and is there a fix?? regards Alex

    • Hi Alex, there’s no fix unfortunately, it will have to come off.

      Whose product did you use? I’ve seen this before with Halfords car paint but never with my cellulose.

      • Thanks for the reply Steve, it was from Northwest guitars, a dealer near me, no indication of the manufacturer. Not sure I can face another go on this one lol… I know where to come in future!

        • Hmm, I wonder could there have been any contamination on the body before you sprayed – was it a new bare wood body or a refinish?

          • Bare wood Steve, i did mop it with loads and loads of t cut for the final polish, after leaving it to harden 3 weeks. I did wonder if it might’ve forced the chemical into the surface? But surely not? Could a clearcoat help?

          • I use T-Cut all the time and have never had a problem. Three weeks should have been more than enough.

            If you apply a clearcoat it will just crack as the underneath is so soft.

  18. Hi! I would like to purchuse some of your lacquer. But I was wandering if you’re able to ship to Norway? Norway is outside of the EU, so I really hope you’re able to.

    I hope to refinish a stratocaster with a sonic blue nitro finish.

  19. I have a new Strat neck has a very thin nitro coat. Is there anything I can do to enhance the flame in the wood?

    I didn’t order it with the vintage tint as I didn’t want anything as dark and I’ve already got one, but there is some fantastic flame that I just want to enhance.

    Would another thin coat of your light tint lacquer over the existing finish achieve that?

        • Dyeing the bare wood (I like Colron’s Antique Pine) may enhance the figuring but there’s no guarantee.

          • Hi Steve I have a Gibson 1st edition les paul robot guitar and I have a couple of dings need repair I don’t know the colour Gibson used for this only it was a one off colour in nitrocellulose blue and silver burst and was wondering if you have had any knowledge of this guitar

          • Yes I’m familiar with the blue burst finish used on those guitars.

            I think it would be very difficult impossible to repair any damage so that it was invisible.

  20. Hi Steve,
    If I am building my own guitar with a relic finish to it, would you recommend still putting a coat of nitro finish over the relic after it has been done or is it best to relic through the finished nitro coating? Thanks!

    • If you want to replicate a worn guitar then I think you should paint it including the top coat and then distress. This is what Fender and Gibson does, staining the bare wood to mimic inground dirt.

      I’ve seen some guitars however (Vintage, ESP) where the finish has been distressed then everything including the bare wood has been clear coated.

      So it’s your choice really!

  21. Hello,

    I am working on a tele which I would like to finish in butterscotch and wanted to confirm with you that the following is the order I need to place to finish one guitar please:

    1 can Rustins Grain Filler (natural)
    1 can Sanding Sealer
    1 can Butterscotch Lacquer
    1 can (Lightly) Tinted Gloss
    1 can Clear Gloss

    Can you confirm which colours I need to get the same type of finish that you show in your tutorial in this page pls:

    For two bodies, should I double the quantities?


    • Yes that is mostly correct.

      For the aged effect, I used my Tinted Gloss, the stronger shade. This takes fewer coats but is harder to achieve an even colour.

      If you use the stronger colour you will need more than one can of Clear Gloss, I used one and a half cans in the butterscotch demo as stated in the text.

      Note that one can of Rustins grain filler is enough for several bodies.

      You may be able to seal two guitars with one can of sanding sealer, depending on how well your wood is sanded and how carefully you have filled the grain.

      If you use the Tinted Gloss (as above) one can will be plenty for two guitars.

  22. Hi Steve,

    Any tips for spraying lacquer here in manchester, I have been looking at average relative humidity and it tends not to drop below 70%? Any tips for winter spraying? Thanks!

    • Wait until Summer! Seriously, this week doesn’t look too bad.

      Wait for a dry day with a bit of sun and spray thin coats to allow any trapped moisture to escape and it should be okay.

  23. hi Steve, I have just bought a sunburst strat that has a few pea sized chips in the darker and ‘transitioning to light brown’ areas of the sunburst – the chips reveal the light coloured body-wood underneath so they stand out a bit. Could I simply mask around the areas to be sprayed and then progressively apply your tobacco lacquer till it looks about right – or would you recommend another method? I am not after perfection but would like it to look a little nicer/less standout’ish. thanks, Dave

  24. Hi Steve,

    Sorry to bother you again, re my fender AV 64 tele ash body, if I wanted to do a ‘see through’ blonde finish which you have a picture of on your site, what is the process: sand body > grain filler > apply sanding sealer > then?

    Thanks for your help.

  25. Hello there, I have just picked up a 64 strat with a white nitro re-fin, on close inspection it seems it has been put straight on the original finish, which appears to be Sherwood green, my question is would somebody be able to remove the top coat, without ruining the original finish, which I assume will have been sanded anyway, don’t know if you can help, but I thought I would ask, I know you from the guitar shows, John shape usually helps me, and I know you have done work for him, regards Pat.

    • As you say it depends on what’s left of the original.

      I’ve known people remove such refinishes but it takes HOURS of careful sanding and certainly isn’t a job I’d want to take on!

  26. Hi, I sprayed two coats of gloss lacquer but due to unforeseen circumstances had to stop for five days, is it ok to carry on with more coats or should I sand first?
    Thanks for the help and the excellent website

  27. Hi Steve,

    I am going to attempt a respray of my fender AV 64 tele ash body (long story, but someone in Largs did a terrible attempt at a relic job). Sorry for the simple question, but is the process the same for spraying a black finish (i.e. sand body > grain filler > apply sanding sealer > white primer > apply black nitro > finally apply high gloss finish?).

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Yes that’s about the size of it. Please note that you only need grain filler on open pored wood such as ash.

      Check the demos on my blog for details on applying filler and sealer etc.

  28. Thank you very much for the reply. In trying to find less humid weather, how long can I leave it before I clear coat?

    • You can apply the clear lacquer straight away. Spray the first few coats very thin to allow the moisture to escape.

  29. Hello, I just sprayed black gloss nitro lacquer over nitro lacquer primer, which had dried for 24 hours. However, after spraying 4 coats with 20 mins drying time in between coats I noticed that the black gloss lacquer looks matte and a bit grey rather than glossy black. It is also slightly opalescent. Is this normal? Will it become glossy with sanding and polishing later, or is it a sign of blushing? Temp was about 18 C, humidity 70%. I was planning on adding nitrocellulose clearcoat after 24 hours drying.
    Thanks for any help you can offer!

    • Yes that’s definitely blush. The clearcoat should fix it so long as the weather is less humid (see FAQ above).

  30. hi Steve , I’m thinking of painting a guitar body in acrylic (paint pour technique) I was wondering can I use nitrocellulose spray afterwards or will it react …if so what would you recommend for a gloss finish.
    Also what do you suggest I can use for the guitar neck?….its bare wood right now and want to keep that way I wondering i could just oil or wax it rather than spray it

    • Hi Jason,

      I think your typo (which I corrected) pushed your comment to the bin!

      The solvents in nitrocellulose are pretty aggressive and could well damage your paint. The other issue would be that if you wish to level the finish, it will take a lot of lacquer.

      As for your neck, something like Tru-oil (and the matching Birchwood Casey wax) might be best which affords some protection from moisture whilst retaining a natural feel.

  31. Hi Steve. Regarding blush – is it ok to spray primer in higher humidity, since it’s going to be covered over anyway? Thanks!

    • You’ll find that it takes on an opalescent appearance with high humidity. I suppose it’s okay but I would avoid if possible, you are still trapping moisture in your finish which is not a good thing.

  32. Thank you very much for the invitation :). Best wishes.
    PS: How are you? I am from France :)

  33. Hi Steve, I have an old Westone Concord bass thats pretty worn on a few frets would I be able to use nitrocellulose to touch it on those specific patches or would you need a complete refinish on the whole fret board.

    • You can touch it up but bear in mind that the lacquer is transparent so won’t hide any damage

  34. Hi Steve,
    I’m refinishing my jazz bass body. I used a heat gun to remove the red metallic paint. It was really easy and 99% of the Sanding sealer underneath it is still intact. Should I sand back to wood and then re lacquer with your sanding sealer or am I ok to go ahead and spray my nitro sonic blue? The 1% of the sanding sealer that didn’t survive either cracked off or there were little stone chip sized sings left. These were near the strap button on the base. I’ve filled these with car compound and the deeper gaps with wood filler. I’m a complete beginner at this but would like to do the job properly!!

    • Yes but I’d use a primer coat before the colour, just to make sure everything is smooth and level.

  35. Hello Mr. Steve,
    I have a question about metallic colors. How do you suggest proceeding to sand the color between the coats and before applying the clear coat? I’m afraid I can remove the metal particles thus scratching the color…
    Thank you for your help!

    • You should never sand the metallic finish before the clear coat because it will disturb the metal particles and spoil the finish. If you do need to sand you have to apply more metallic lacquer.

      See my Ice Blue metallic demo

  36. Hi,

    I’m in the process of finishing a headstock using your nitro lacquers. I’ve been gently wet sanding the headstock smooth, there are still a couple of clusters of low spots, however I feel I’m getting very close to sanding through the decal (one spot of the carrier film has become more visible). Can I apply a few more coats of clear lacquer and sand back again? Would the extra coats fill these low spots?


    • Yes, spray some more coats of lacquer. The beauty of lacquer is that you can always spray more and it will blend in to the existing finish.

  37. What kind of compounds would you recommend to buff out nitrocellulose finish?

    • I use T-Cut applied by hand as you can see in my demos. I’ve tried others and always come back to it.

  38. Probably a stupid question but how many 13 Oz cans nitrocellulose amber tint would I need for my Strat neck? And how many cans of 13oz lacquer high gloss would I need?

      • Thank you so much! Last question. I had a strat body I was working on and I applied several coats of nitrocellulose lacquer finish to it a few years ago but never buffed it out. What I have to apply more coats of nitrocellulose OR would I still be able to buff the previous lacquer to a shine? And if I have to do the latter how many 13 Oz cans would I need?

  39. If my maple fretboard has that glossy finish do I have to remove that before I spray nitrocellulose vintage amber lacquer on it? Do I have to sand that gloss off? Or just leave it on and spray over top?

    • You can spray over the top. You should scuff sand (800 grit) beforehand to provide a key. You will probably need to add some clear coats to increase the film thickness and robustness of the lacquer.

      • Another question do you have to sand the whole neck like the headstock and back or just the fretboard are you talking about?

  40. HI Steve
    I have a Gibson J180 Circa 1993 finished in black. I am in the process of having the front refurbished and sprayed.
    The guy I have on it is very experienced in finishing and spraying etc but has never done a guitar.
    I have asked him to use nitro cellulose paint and finish with cellulose varnish.
    My question is: As this is a black finish Is there any other tips you might have for me to pass on.
    Really appreciate your informative website.

    • Only to say that when finishing an acoustic guitar it is usual to remove the bridge, apply the finish, flat and then reattach the bridge.

      This is especially important if your guitar has the Gibson hollow moustache bridge as it’s the only way to properly finish inside the cutouts.

      Not removing the bridge makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get a perfectly level finish right up to the bridge.

  41. Hi Steve,

    I’ve used some of your sprays for a headstock match before and was very impressed with the products and the result. I’m going to refinish another body and headstock shortly in fender turquoise – does one colour can typically cover a body or would you recommend 2?

    Thanks, Andy.

    • One can is the bare minimum, two is better.

      I did once have a professional car sprayer get two Strats from a can of shell pink though!

  42. Hi Steve,
    What’s the best way to get a finish like the Gibson Heritage Cherry, seen on the juniors and Specials.
    Thanks, David

    • There are two ways to achieve a cherry finish.

      Up until 1960, Gibson used a cherry pore filler. This was a grain filler with a cherry aniline dye added. The filler performed the double duty of filling the pores and dyeing the wood red. When the guitar was sprayed with clear lacquer, some of the dye was taken up by the lacquer, giving the effect of a coloured lacquer.

      Unfortunately the red filler caused dust which contaminated the factory and other finishes ended up with flecks of red in them so Gibson changed to using a coloured lacquer.

      For the second technique you can use either my Clear Red lacquer or Clear Cherry lacquer which is a deeper colour. They should be sprayed over a base coat of sanding sealer and finished with a Clear Gloss top coat.

  43. Hi Steve, can I put acrylic based clear coat over a neck that I tinted with nitro based (amber) laquer? Or would that cause trouble?

  44. Hi Steve, I have an ash Strat body that I am doing a clear natural finish. I have done the grain filling and sealer coats. I have just sprayed 3 clear coats and have noticed little pinholes in the finish. What have I done wrong?

    • Pinholes or fisheyes?

      If pinholes then your grain filling and sealing were not as thorough as they should have been. These usually occur at end grain or areas of open grain.

      If fisheyes then there is some contamination on the surface.

      To fix either you should be able to drop fill some clear lacquer. Spray some into the can lid, let it thicken a little by evaporation and apply carefully to the hole. Once dry sand flat and continue.

  45. I’m interested in a tinted coat for the darker colour, but in a satin/matte finish – what would be the best way to achieve this?

  46. I need to ‘age’ some ivoiride celluloid binding, e.g. darken it. Do you know if the amber lacquer would work on this kind of binding?

  47. Hi is there any way I can remove the bloom or cloudy look on an older guitar. I’m sure it is nitro cellulose,and it just has patches where it is like this.Thanks Rick

    • All I can suggest is what I’ve written above.

      The question is how it became cloudy, has it been kept somewhere very damp?

      I’ve never seen cloudy nitrocellulose on a guitar but some Japanese models from the 70s and 80s become cloudy as the finish breaks down but there isn’t anything that can be done for those except a refinish.

  48. I want to respray a tobacco burst in Sea Foam green but I want a bit of the burst to show through in places. How easily does this finish distress and disappear? Would I be able to spray it and then play it and get the effect or would I need to sand or otherwise remove the new finish to expose the old one?

    • Theoretically you could play it a lot but it would take some time to wear through.

      Practically you would need to sand the top coat back. I’d recommend using plenty of clear lacquer over the sunburst to that it’s easier to sand off the green without taking the sunburst with it.

  49. Hi,

    How many clear coats to yo apply to a body, how long do you leave it before each coat and do you sand after a couple of coats

  50. Hi, do you have a step by step for spraying a maple with rosewood fretboard neck. More specifically the spraying itself to get a satin finish like a modern fender neck?
    many thanks

    • You should mask the fretboard face up to the nut.

      Spray a coat of clear lacquer (satin or gloss) to seal the wood and sand lightly to denib.

      If you want to add any colour you should spray tinted lacquer at this stage to achieve your desired shade.

      Then you spray clear satin lacquer to build up finish thickness.

      Then sand back and apply a final coat as in my “Any special tips for satin and matt finishes?” post above.

      When you remove the masking tape you’ll have a rough edge and maybe some overspray on the rosewood. This should be scraped back carefully using a Stanley knife blade or similar.

  51. Hi, for the butterscotch tele cracking finish (24hr in freezer) how soon after final coat did you start the process? touch dry, 1 day etc…? Cheers

      • Hi Steve that tele you’ve done looks excellent! Exactly the amount of light ageing I want to attempt on a sonic blueish strat body I’m doing.
        Now I’m sure I’m being thick asking this question but I feel I need to ask anyway, it says above that you put the body in the freezer a few days after your last clear coat. And it also says to leave it at least a week, if not 3 before cut and buffing.
        So freezing and checking is done before the final cut and polish? Or should I leave the body for 3 weeks after the last clear coat, then cut and polish and THEN bung it in the freezer?


        • The latter. Leave it to settle, flat sand buff and polish, and THEN freeze.

          Sometimes I am impatient and just jump the gun a bit.

  52. dear sir or madam , do you sell nitrocellulose lacqer none aersol…….(loos brush) ? thank you.

    • It’s hard to say as there are so many variables such as finish thickness and how good your technique is. I reckon I use no more than 1/2 litre.

    • Will the vintage lacquer be suitable for spraying over the top of the head decals, or should I get the tint sorted first?
      As I’m only doing the neck, it would save me having to buy another full tin of clear lacquer ( I have about half a tin left) just for going over the face of the headstock…..

      • You *could* but (i) by the time you have buried the decal it could end up very dark and (ii) when you flat you will make the finish paler in some areas.

        Unless you are just going to give it a light blow over, I’d recommend you use clear lacquer.

        • Thanks Steve – Will i need to clear lacquer over the vintage tint? I’m going for a mid ’70s tint on a maple precision neck+fingerboard………..

          • Hi. I purchased natural gloss clear lacquer from you to finish a Musicmaster bass body. I now wish to finish it in vintage white. May I ask please, can I apply a white undercoat to the existing clear finish then apply the vintage white lacquer or should I just apply the white lacquer to the clear ( natural wood ) finish. I know it will require more coats . Thanks for your time and regards Ross

          • If the gloss coat is good and smooth then yes you can use it as a base for a colour.

            If there are imperfections you would be best correcting these first, using a coat of sanding sealer or white primer.

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