Nitrocellulose lacquer, often referred to as nitro or cellulose lacquer, is a classic finish used on cars, instruments and furniture up to 1970s. While no longer used to lacquer automobiles it remains a popular finish for guitars and furniture, particularly on vintage restoration and reproduction pieces.
Famously used on the original Fender electric guitars in the 1950s, nitrocellulose lacquer gives a thin finish that brings out and enhances the appearance of the wood’s grain. Available in a wide selection of tinted see-through colours, as well as clear gloss, satin and matt top coats, nitro lacquer can be used to create stunning see-through coloured and sunburst finishes. Clear nitro lacquer can be used over the tinted lacquers, and over cellulose paint, to give a protective top coat that can be polished to a high gloss, silky satin or subtle matt finish.
Nitrocellulose lacquer is an air-drying lacquer which sets through solvent evaporation. Once sprayed the cellulose thinner and other solvents evaporate to leave behind the nitrocellulose resins, thus forming the finish. Compared to contemporary lacquers its lower solids content makes it easy to achieve a thin finish which is ideal for guitars (both electric and acoustic), as it does not inhibit the movement of the wood.
As can be seen on guitars from the 50s nitro changes as it ages. After being sprayed the lacquer can crack and discolour as time passes – this process can take anything from months to decades, but will happen eventually. The effect can be seen where it has been used as a guitar lacquer, changing the appearance of the paint underneath to make it more yellow, with blue finishes now looking greener and red finishes looking more orange than when they were originally sprayed.
Our nitrocellulose lacquer is available in aerosol spray cans, or in 250ml, 1 litre and 5 litre tins for use in spray guns or HVLP kits. Our stock range includes gloss, satin and matt nitro lacquer, along with dozens of shades of our see-through tinted lacquers.
Nitrocellulose lacquer cannot be shipped by air. As such, we can only send it to UK and European addresses using a road courier. Always spray in a well ventilated area, keep away from children, pregnant women and animals, and always wear suitable PPE including nitrile gloves and filtered facemask. Professional use only.