Dartfords Clear Nitrocellulose Guitar Lacquer

Code: RP0023
  • From $6.38
Available to Order | In stock - order before 1PM for same day dispatch.

This is the real deal - vintage formulation nitro lacquer, specifically intended for use finishing and repairing guitars. It'll give an ultra-thin finish, will make the wood grain pop and in time will check and age just like those 50s originals.

  • Traditional nitrocellulose lacquer for instrument finishing and repair
  • Vintage formulation for an authentic, thin finish
  • Nitrocellulose lacquer naturally ages and checks over time
  • Available in bottles (for use in spray guns/HVLP kits) or easy to use aerosol spray cans
  • Gloss, Satin and Matt sheen levels
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This is the real deal - vintage formulation nitro lacquer, specifically intended for use finishing and repairing guitars. It'll give an ultra-thin finish, will make the wood grain pop and in time will check and age just like those 50s originals.

  • Traditional nitrocellulose lacquer for instrument finishing and repair
  • Vintage formulation for an authentic, thin finish
  • Nitrocellulose lacquer naturally ages and checks over time
  • Available in bottles (for use in spray guns/HVLP kits) or easy to use aerosol spray cans
  • Gloss, Satin and Matt sheen levels

Clear nitrocellulose (nitro) top coat lacquer for use on guitars and restoration pieces. Ours is the highest quality nitro, made here in the UK to our own spec. This is a true vintage finish making it ideal for vintage guitar builds, repair work and high-end handcrafted instruments.

Available in three sheen levels (gloss, satin, matt) and five pack sizes (handy 400ml aerosol, 60ml touchup pot for small spot repairs, 250ml bottle, 1 litre bottle and 5 litre tin for use in sprayguns and HVLP kits).

If using neat nitrocellulose lacquqer in a spray gun or HVLP kit it should be thinned beforehand using Anti-Bloom thinners. We recommend thinning no more than 30%. I.e., a ratio of 70:30 (lacquer:thinners). This is merely a guideline, though, not a firm rule - judgement is required as particular thinning ratios depend on a number of factors including equipment, temperature, weather, experience and desired results.

Nitrocellulose Lacquer FAQs

Q. Are there general Spraying Guidelines?

  • Thin neat lacquer up to 30% before spraying.
  • Spray from a distance of 12 inches.
  • The first coat should be a few fine mist sprays, 15 minutes apart. This helps the lacquer adhere to the finish underneath.
  • After this, leave 4 hours between coats. After the 4 hours have elapsed key in the finish lightly with 600 grit before spraying the next coat.
  • Leave to dry for 2 weeks before polishing.
  • Remember that polishing will take some of the lacquer off, so ensure that sufficient thickness is built up prior to polishing to prevent rubbing through to the undercoat.

Please note these are guidelines only as we have absolutely no control over your specific spraying conditions.

Q. Which finishes can Nitrocellulose Lacquer be used over?

FinishCompatible?Comments
1K LacquerNoNitrocellulose lacquer will not adhere to 1K.
Acrylic Sanding SealerNoTypically causes bubbling and damage to the acrylic base coat. 
Bare WoodNoFor a natural finish first use Clear Cellulose Sanding Sealer, then finish with Clear Nitro Lacquer as a top coat. 
Cellulose PaintYesFor either vintage finishes or to achieve a Satin or Matt shine. Otherwise, Cellulose Paint is a top coat and can be polished directly. 
Cellulose Sanding SealerYes 
Metallic Cellulose PaintYesMetallic paint must have a clear top coat, unlike solid colour cellulose paints which can be polished directly. 
OilNoIt simply won't stick. If refinishing an oiled body put a lot of work into removing the old oil finish, if possible, otherwise a lacquered finish will never work. 
Polyurethane/2K Paint/LacquerNo..ishNot recommended as the nitro typically won't stick, and so will peel off easily. Try at your own risk. 
Pre-Cat Sanding SealerNoOne of the most common causes of cracking is using over an incompatible base coat, such as Pre-Cat. 
Waterborne PaintNoSimilar effects to acrylic - bubbling and damage. 
Waterborne Sanding SealerYesOnly dartfords, can't vouch for any other brand as formulations and characteristics vary massively.

Q. Does Clear Nitrocellulose Lacquer look clear in the bottle?

In its neat bottled form it has a light amber colour to it. However, when it dries it dries to a clear finish. Only over time does the dried finish then naturally age and discolour to a slight yellow tinge.

Q. Does this lacquer need to be thinned before use?

Our aerosol spray cans are sealed and ready to spray - simply shake for two minutes before use.

Our bottled lacquer, available in 250ml, 1 litre and 5 litre containers, is intended for use in spray guns and HVLP kits. It needs to be thinned before use using our Premium Anti-Bloom Cellulose Thinners. We recommend a thinning ratio of between 80:20 and 70:30 (lacquer:thinners). So, for example, to mix 100ml of ready-to-spray finish you would need approximately 70ml of lacquer and 30ml of thinners.

Q. How much lacquer do I need for a guitar body?

We recommend two aerosols, or 200ml of neat lacquer for an average Stratocaster-sized guitar body. This can vary depending on how you spray, the precise size and shape ofyour body, and what is underneath.

Q. How big are your aerosol spray cans? 

Our aerosol spray cans have a capacity of 400ml. This is made up of:

  • 150ml neat lacquer
  • 50ml premium anti-bloom thinners
  • 200ml propellant

This compares favourably to aerosols from most other suppliers and manufacturers, who use a 1:1 ratio for the lacquer and thinners. I.e., you get less useful lacquer per can. Being a thicker mixture closer to that you would use in a spray gun ours also gives a finer more consistent spray that is less prone to drips.

Q. Can this lacquer be tinted?

Yes, our Clear Nitro can be tinted with a variety of products such as:

We also stock a wide range of pre-tinted lacquers which are ready to use, available here.

Q. Will this lacquer crack?

Eventually, yes, it always cracks. The real question is how long it takes, and this is really difficult to say. If sprayed properly onto a well prepared base coat and kept at steady room temperature then it will be many years before the finish shows any signs of aging. a number of factors can reduce this time, some significantly. These include:

  • Using an incompatible base coat.
  • Spraying onto a contaminated surface.
  • Spraying lacquer which has been over-thinned.
  • Spraying too many coats too quickly.
  • Exposing the finish to large variations in temperature.
  • Spraying in very hot conditions.

The most common scenarios where cracking occur are:

  • Leaving the finish to dry overnight in somewhere like a garage which goes from warm to very cold.
  • Spraking many coats of very thin lacquer.
  • Spraying over an old finish which has been contaminated with silicones.
  • Using plumber's Pipe Freeze or similar on the finish to cool it very quickly.
  • Placing the body near a very hot radiator.

Cracking of the lacquer through poor adhesion or over thinning tends to be a crazing effect all over. Cracking to to wood expansion/contraction tends to be larger cracks focussed around drill holes.

Q. Does Nitro Lacquer discolour?

Yes, eventually. It gradually turns from clear to yellow. The effect of this is that any colour(s) underneath will take on a yellow tinge, so blue paint will look more green, red finishes will look more orange etc.

This discolouration is commonly seen on vintage guitars. This effect is the result of two effects:

  1. Discolouration of the lacquer itself through age.
  2. Buildup of dirt, grime and other external contaminants such as tobacco smoke.

If an instant discoloured/aged look is desired then once this clear coat has been sprayed one of our Tinted Nitrocellulose Lacquers can be sprayed over the top. We recommend our Light Brown or Weakest Amber lacquers for this purpose.

Q. How do I polish this finish?

We recommend the following process for hand polishing nitro finishes:

  1. Allow the lacquer to dry for two weeks.
  2. Wet sand the finish, starting with 600 grit. Work in straight lines, first across the workpiece and then lengthways.
  3. Repeat with 800 > 1000 > 1200 > 1500 and finally 2000 grit.
  4. Use our RF3 Liquid Polishing Compound and a clean soft microfibre cloth. As with the wet/dry paper, work in straight lines, first across the workpiece and then lengthways.
  5. Repeat with our RF5 and RF7 Liquid Polishing Compounts. Use a different cloth for each grade to prevent contamination.

All of the materials detailed above are part of our dartfords Complete Polishing Kit.

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All items are dispatched from our locations in the UK. We pack and dispatch items Monday-Friday.

Standard items are dispatched same-day if ordered before 12pm UK time. Standard items ordered after 12pm will be dispatched the following working day. Our website shows live stock levels.

Custom items are typically made and dispatched within 3-10 working days, and ship separately from our UK studio.

All of our products ship all over the UK - Scottish Islands, Highlands and Ireland included.

Royal Mail Letter, Parcel and Parcel Signed services are available from £1.50 for smaller, lighter and lower priced items. We only use First Class. Delivery time is 1-2 days from dispatch.

Economy UK Courier is delivered by Hermes or DPD, is tracked, requires a signature and is typically delivered in 2-5 days.

Next Day Courier is delivered by DPD or Parcelforce, is fully tracked, requires a signature and will provide you with a 1-hour delivery slot on the morning of your delivery.

Saturday Courier is delivered by DPD or Parcelforce, is fully tracked and requires a signature. Order before 12pm on Friday to receive this service.

For shipments to non-mainland areas only Royal Mail and Economy UK Courier services are available, but we don't charge any extra for these - for the available services we charge a flat rate all over the UK.

All of our products ship everywhere in mainland Europe.

Airmail Letter and Airmail Parcel are for smaller, lower priced items, with prices starting from £3.99. Delivery typically takes 3-10 days.

Airmail Tracked Letter and Airmail Tracked Parcel are for smaller items up to a value of £100. Prices start from £12.99, with delivery usually taking the same 3-10 days as standard un-tracked Airmail.

Economy Courier is a road service to all mainland European destinations, and is the service we use for all orders (including those which contain Dangerous Goods such as paints, lacquers and dyes, since these items cannot ship by Airmail or Express Courier). It is sent with DPD or DHL, is fully tracked and requires a signature. Delivery times vary by country, with 2-5 days being normal. Prices are £14.99 for Western, and £19.99 for Eastern. Additional handling charges apply to Non-EU countries.

Express Courier is an Air courier service for all non-Dangerous Goods items, ideal if you're in a hurry for your, materials, tools, inlays or decals. It ships with DHL or UPS, and as you'd expect is fully tracked. Delivery time to most areas is 1-2 days, with a cost of £15.99 to Western and £24.99 to Eastern Europe.

Please note: Economy courier service is not available to European Islands including Malta, Cyprus and Azores.

Decals, Inlays, Parts, Tools and Materials all ship Worldwide.

Wood Finishes are less clear-cut, as we can't send flammable liquids through the postal service or by Air. This means that unfortunately most of our paints, lacquers and dyes aren't available outside Europe, but we can ship any powdered dyes/pigments and non-flammable wood finishes or equipment.

Airmail Letter and Airmail Parcel are for smaller, lower priced items, with prices starting from £3.33. Delivery typically takes 3-10 days.

Airmail Tracked Letter and Airmail Tracked Parcel are for smaller items up to a value of £100. Prices start from £10.83, with delivery usually taking the same 3-10 days as standard un-tracked Airmail.

Express Courier is an Air courier service for all non-Dangerous Goods items, ideal if you're in a hurry for your, materials, tools, inlays or decals. It ships with DHL or UPS, and as you'd expect is fully tracked. Delivery time to most areas is 1-3 days, with prices varying by country, starting at £20.83.

Our returns policy is straightforward - we like our products and hope you do too. If there's something wrong just give us a call or send a message through our Support page and we'll do our best to fix it.

Broken, damaged, not as expected or no longer required - return in 30 days and we'll refund or exchange the item.

For custom items, if it isn't as requested let us know and we'll make you a replacement.

"Dangerous Goods", which is anything flammable (so includes most of our paints, lacquers and dyes), cannot be shipped through the postal service or by Air. As such, we can currently only send such items to UK and mainland European destinations.

See the Specifications tab for information about how and where this product can ship.

Whether or not VAT is charged depends your shipping address and tax status. You can use the toggle at the top of the site to display prices either inclusive or exclusive of Value Added Tax (VAT).

UK orders are subject to 20% VAT.

Orders to the EU are:

  • Subject to 20% VAT if you are a private individual
  • VAT Exempt as an Intra-EU sale if you are registered for VAT in any EU country (excluding UK) - please enter your valid EU VAT registration number during account setup and checkout for VAT to be automatically deducted from your order.

Orders to outside of the UK and EU are not subject to VAT, so once you have confirmed your shipping address VAT will not be charged. Please be aware that your items may be subject to additional Customs charges (import tax and duty, for example) - these charges are not included in our order and delivery charges, and are therefore your sole responsibility. Please check your local government websites for details on Import charges.

USA has a generous de minimis limit of $800 for imports by one individual on one day, so usually orders under this value will slip through customs without further charges.

VAT invoices are issued for all orders.

Our VAT number is GB155302731

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