Tips For Completing And Caring For
Your Nitro Lacquer Finished Guitar

Neck Pocket Preparation
Rule #1: Never force a neck into the neck pocket. You can stress the wood causing cracks to develop both in the finish as well as into the wood itself. You should be able to press the neck into the pocket very easily with light pressure. If you cannot, then the neck pocket will need to be enlarged carefully. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, take it to a guitar tech/luthier to make the fit for you.

If you decide to do it yourself, be aware of the following: The neck pocket on your body has been sealed, but there is little if any finish applied (on the work we do). The lacquer therefor comes to an edge at the pocket recess and as such needs to be handled carefully.

If you need to enlarge the opening to fit your neck,use some 320 grit sandpaper and a small sanding block. Use a block with fairly square edges (not rounded) so that you can get into the corners. Apply even pressure and check your work often. Remove material from both sides of the pocket to keep your neck centered.

If you use a file to do your work, only file in a *downward* direction (or into the neck pocket - never up or out)! Then lift the file away from the body and file again in a downward direction. If you file in an up & down motion, the file will likely catch the edge of the lacquer on the up-stroke and could chip it out. Doing it the right way is a bit slow, but it's better than chipping your nice new finish.

Drilling Holes
Most likely you will need to drill a few holes as you assemble your guitar - for the pickguard, strap buttons, etc. To avoid excessive chipping where you drill, place a small piece of tape where you’re going to drill, mark and drill the hole and then immediately remove the tape. Do not leave tape on the body for any length of time. Masking tape, in particular, can be difficult to remove if it remains in place too long, leaving a hard to remove residue.

Caring for the Finish
Lacquer is a beautiful way to finish a guitar. It has an incredible appearance and many believe it provides beautiful tone. The Poly type finishes used on many production guitars is often applied very thickly and can deaden the sound of your instrument. Poly does have an advantage in that it's very tough and can take a lot of abuse. Lacquer, while a great finish, requires a bit more care in comparison.

Be very careful about what you clean your guitar with. Do not use lacquer thinner or alcohol, for example. They can eat right into and destroy your finish. We’ve used Naphtha to remove adhesive, but always test in an inconspicuous area first. Generally it’s best to use mild soap and water, though don’t allow any moisture to linger. Always dry with a clean soft cloth. There are also cleaners available that are made just for cleaning your guitar. The “Virtuoso Group” has both cleaners and polishes that they advertise as being formulated specifically for lacquer finishes:

Personally, I would never use cleansers like 409, as they may contain harsh chemicals that could cause damage.

We do not recommend ever using wax. If you decide you want to, then wait 90 days before applying. Lacquer contains solvents that need to evaporate. While most of this takes place during the finishing process, a small amount remains and needs to be given time to do so. Waxing the finish traps these solvents, preventing them from escaping and can effect the appearance of your finish.

Just be aware that wax can build up over time and actually attract dirt. Also, using wax makes it more difficult if your guitar requires finish repairs down the road, as lacquer will not adhere to wax. If you do use wax and find that you need finish repairs, be sure to inform your finish person so that they can strip the wax off before beginning repairs.

Many people recommend using only polishes made for guitars that are “finish-shop” friendly. Typically these leave no residue and should you need repair work done, you will be in good shape. The “Virtuoso Group” mentioned above carries a guitar polish along with their cleaner:

“Stewart MacDonald” also carries a polish for guitars called "Preservation Polish:"

Soft Cloth
Any time you apply polish or clean your guitar, do so with a clean soft "micro-fiber" type cloth made for such a purpose. A coarse or dirty rage can scratch your finish! Check your music, automotive or hardware store for polishing cloths.

Pot Cleaner
Be carefully when using the products made for cleaning your volume and tone pots. They may contain chemicals that could damage your finish. If you must use these, take measures to shield your finish from any spray or dripping.

Keep WD40 and other silicone-based products away from your guitar! While silicone shouldn’t damage your finish, it is not “finish-shop” friendly and can cause problems if you need to repair your finish at some point.

Use A Nitro-Safe Guitar Stand
Be sure that your guitar stand is “nitro lacquer safe.” Many are not and the vinyl padding used can actually soften and eat through a lacquer finish.

I didn’t believe it either until I actually used such a stand and in a short while found I had damaged the finish. That was not a good day. When you shop for a stand, ask if it’s lacquer safe. If the sales person doesn’t know, pass on it and look for a stand that is advertised as being safe for lacquer. The Hercules stands are advertized as being lacquer friendly, for example.

Avoid excessive temperatures for your guitar. Baking or freezing it in the trunk of your car is not a good idea. And subjecting your intrument to a sudden change in temperature is also a bad idea.You could crack the finish. If you do have to move it from a cool to warm environment, or vice versa, leave it in the case for as long as possible. This will provide some insulation and allow the instrument to adjust more slowly to the change.

It is a good idea to give your new guitar a chance to beathe, so don't leave it in the case all the time. But don't leave in sitting in direct sunlight for long periods of time either. Get lacquer warm enough and it will actually get a bit soft - not good!

While we have found the above advice to work positively for us, please use this advice at your own risk. If you’re not sure about something, check into it further and ask lots of question. While we have recommended a few products or product types, we have no control over the companies that sell them and their formulations, which could change at any time. If you do use one of these products you may wish to try it somewhere that doesn't show (like under a pick guard).


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