As a guitar paint, nitrocellulose lacquer is almost second to none.
This particularly special type of lacquer does the dual job of finishing your guitar, whilst adding strong bold shiny color to it.
Plus, it is fairly easy to fix cracks in a nitro lacquer finish; as any dings or nicks can be spot repaired in short order with a touch-up.
Which is why nitro lacquer is a great alternative guitar finish to using an oil finish.
Oil finishes like Tru-oil, on the other hand, are all about enhancing the natural color and look of wood. They won’t much alter the complexion of timber – although some oil finishes like Linseed oil can certainly darken the hue of it.
Related Post: Can Tru-Oil Really Finish And Protect Your Maple Fretboard?
But, while an oil finish may not add much color to your guitar, they have a dual advantage over lacquer;
- 1). They soak into wood protecting that body from the inside out.
- 2). This type of finish can feel smoother as you play.
You see, Tru oil is a finish that blends Linseed oil with varnish and thinners. This makes for a very thinned out product that’ll leave behind a barely-there super smooth resin coat on the surface of wood.
Unlike nitro lacquer, Tru oil will sink into wood – protecting your guitar right down to those wood fibers. And it doesn’t build up much above the surface and around those frets. Which is why it is perfect for finishing fretboards – letting you play fingerstyle with no restriction.
So, what if you want to have the best of both worlds and get the stand-out color of a nitro lacquer with the feel of Tru-oil. Can you simply go ahead and coat Tru oil over that nitrocellulose lacquer finish?
Nitro Lacquer coats and seals wood grain. Which means that if you apply a penetrating oil like Tru oil over nitro, the oil won’t be able to soak evenly (if at all) into the wood underneath.
As a result, you won’t get the full benefit of Tru oil sinking into wood. And, you will lose the benefit of being able to easily spot repair the nitro lacquer finish (due to that Tru oil barrier nestled atop it).
So, if a Tru oil top coat is out of the question, what should you put on lacquer? And does nitro even need a top coat finish in the first place?…
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Can You (Or Even Should You) Seal Over A Lacquer Finish?
Lacquer doesn’t need a sealer because it is a sealer. When it comes to wood finishing, lacquer is used as a top coat water-resistant sealant just like polyurethane, (although lacquer isn’t as durable as poly).
Related Post: What Is The Difference Between Lacquer and Polyurethane?
So, generally, lacquer doesn’t need a sealing top coat the way that (those comparatively less durable) oil finishes do.
The only time you’d add something on top of lacquer is if you were using lacquer as a sanding sealer.
In short, a sanding sealer is a kind wood filler. Made from hard drying substances, such as varnish or lacquer, sanding sealer is coated thinly over wood to fill in any cracks and exposed holes in that lumber.
Once the sanding sealer has dried, you then sand it off and right back down to the bare even wood surface. Except now, that wooden surface will have had all of those cracks filled in with lacquer.
In these particular circumstances, you would apply a lacquer finish over that lacquer sanding sealer base coat.
Are Nitrocellulose Lacquer and Lacquer The Same Thing?
Well, nitro is a type of lacquer.
Unlike acrylic lacquers and water-based lacquers, nitrocellulose lacquer is solvent based, making it particularly flammable.
Related Post: Can You Put Nitro Lacquer Over An Acrylic Guitar Finish?
And it’s this solvent-based sealer that’s specifically used to paint guitars and other instruments.
Water-based lacquers, on the other hand, are the types of lacquers we usually use as a wood finishing sealer. While acrylic lacquers are used as car paint and for automobile body repair.
Related Post: Don’t Put Nitro Lacquer Over That Polyurethane Finish [Here’s Why]
Is Tru Oil A Kind Of Lacquer?
Tru oil is not a lacquer, not even close. Instead, it is more of a hybrid oil finish, in that it mixes natural oils (linseed oil) with some thinning additives.
This makes Tru oil a penetrating oil finish that dries in less than half the time of a Linseed oil finish.
Related Post: Tru-oil vs Linseed Oil: The Top 5 Things You All Wanted To Know
So, How Do You Protect A Nitro Lacquer Finish?
You can best protect nitro lacquer finishes with simple everyday TLC.
That means you need to polish that guitar with polish every six months or so.
It also means you should take care to keep your guitar away from direct sunlight. This is because nitro lacquers have little to no UV protection – so those sun rays will fade the color of your guitar over time.
And, last but not least, it means that you should keep your leather guitar strap off that nitro finish. Especially if that strap has vinyl pads.
To Sum Up, What Is The Best Finish You Can Put Over Lacquer?
Honestly? Nothing at all is the best finish you can put onto lacquer.
If you try to put poly onto it, it won’t stick. An oil finish won’t be able to sink into the wood underneath. A wood stain will drip right off… and so continues the list of tragic mishaps.
Long story short; it’s best to just leave things alone and let that nitro lacquer finish be a final top coat. Either that, or you can sand the lacquer right off, and start again with a different finish.