Nitro vs Poly, Is It Relevant Any More?

Fenderecho

New Member!
Oct 27, 2021
2
Duluth Ga
I'm beginning to get back into Strats and Teles for the first time in around 10 years or so. I have been focusing on acoustics and Les Pauls the past few years, but I'm ready to get back into the Fender game.

As I look around, all of my main players have a Nitro finish. Is this something that people still look for these days? I really like the idea of guitars aging gracefully, and I just don't think that you get the same aging process with poly.

I really want to get a new Strat or Tele, but I also feel like I "need" Nitro. However, the Vintera series looks like killer bang for the buck, but am I being ridiculous in my desire for getting something Nitro?

Heck, I can get two Mexican guitars for the price of one American with Nitro...
In my experience poly is more durable and less likely to crack in the future. I prefer Poly. Not interested in distressed guitars..
 

WilseyFanPDX

Strat-Talker
Nov 12, 2019
308
Portland OR
I was all about Nitro until I bought an American Special with the thin urethane finish. Pretty durable but not plastic looking as some of the MIM bodies Ive seen. But honestly, these days I could care less.
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,456
Edmonton, Alberta
Well.. I've been around for a very long time..:p

Oh okay, that makes sense then. So basically you can say whatever you want however you want because of being around a long time.

It wouldn’t take many people a long time to figure out their guitar was finished in automotive under coating though.
 

knh555

Most Honored Senior Member
Dec 6, 2016
6,346
Massachusetts
true.. BUT... Big BUTT here... (_____!_____) .. none of ya could tell the difference between a guitar painted in either of those two, or Nitro, or Latex House Paint, or, Automotive undercoating, or RockSolid Garage floor coating... well unless someone point each of them out to ya...

Given it some time and some use and a lot of people could tell I think. Not that I really care.
 

BuddyHollywood

Strat-O-Master
Jul 22, 2011
940
Venice, CA
To steer back to the original question, whatever finish is on the guitar is only as relevant as the player playing the guitar wants it to be. For you, it sounds like you prefer nitrocellulose and that's fine.

I have a 2011 Gretsch DSV Duo Jet finished finished in nitrocellulose with most likely a polyurethane sealer underneath. I do like the smell! There are a few dings and I've noticed some wear on the edges that really look great to me. Nitrocellulose does age well. Overall it doesn't feel drastically different to polyurethane or polyester when I play it. I have played some vintage guitars where the nitrocellulose has cured and sunk into the wood and there is a definite difference in the feel.

I have other guitars that are finished in polyurethane and polyester. It's hard to tell the difference between these two. The 2 MIM Fender bodies I have finished in polyester are done right. They are not too thick or not too thin. They seemed to have found the balance of protection and resonance for a musical instrument. I had a Squier Affinity Tele that had a thick polysomething finish on it that I received as a gift. It dampened the sound so much that it wasn't fun to play. I stripped the finish off one afternoon and then applied a ReRanch TV Yellow nitrocellulose finish on it. It came alive. I believe that the thickness of the finish makes way more of a difference than what the finish is made of.
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,456
Edmonton, Alberta
Given it some time and some use and a lot of people could tell I think. Not that I really care.

Yeah lots can tell just by the look and feel between the two, nitro and polyurethane. Not so much polyester and polyurethane.

I know I probably come off as some advocate for nitro. It’s true but I don’t blame or look down on someone for wanting polyurethane. That’s why fender has always made both.

It’s when someone asks about a nitro finish with a polyurethane sealer. Which has it, what doesn’t have the polyurethane sealer. That’s what everyone wants to know. Lots of confusion over it and people get upset when you say that their AVRI has polyurethane.

So it comes to does that bother you or not? For me it does because I’m paying for the vintage look and feel. I don’t want thick plastic anywhere on a 50’s or early 60’s fender. What’s the point in paying the premium price for nitro if that’s what I get.

This fullerplast sealed 63 strat looks great 6255FBEE-0C76-44E1-93B5-63A2AFFFE027.jpeg 11614ED0-DD18-4E5B-8572-71C8E91E595E.jpeg 8195486D-D521-4DC0-84B8-C06FC0F3A151.jpeg

My 20 year old custom shop broadcaster NOS now aged to perfection, looks and feels great 724AAF3F-198B-4457-A9C6-8605501DF9DA.jpeg 0EBD91A1-EA0A-47DA-90EA-9FCCEAA6C0A3.jpeg 447DBB19-C3AE-43C3-9025-549D66A8550B.jpeg

My 40 or so year old 57 reissue, nitro and polyurethane. 85E77EF5-B222-4C94-9F4C-946C98E64A47.jpeg CBC2575A-9E6E-4B97-B868-041FAA0F129A.jpeg A08FE6CE-7F11-4173-8268-2AD314B5C657.jpeg

No bare wood visible on this 57 minus the tiny spot in the forearm. Not bad for 40 old polyurethane. It holds up well. Now if you can’t see the difference between these you probably need a eye exam.

So this should be a reference to all the people out there that are after a guitar finished in nitro. These are 3 different examples of wear. Which do you prefer? Fullerplast, custom shop finish or polyurethane/nitro combo. For me it’s the feel of the sunken grain of the first two. Just feels way more natural.
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,456
Edmonton, Alberta
Nobody has been able to tell me what my strat was finished with...

Your 70’s strat? Those have all sorts of different finishes! Polyurethane or polyester and nitro. Face of the headstock is nitro with the rest either polyester or polyurethane. The body I was never sure. Polyester sealer with nitro top coat is my guess. Later on the polyurethane was applied as a sealer, maybe. Was never really sure.
 

Ongo Gablogian

Strat-Talker
Feb 18, 2019
209
Chicago, IL
Nitro is just to impress people on internet forums. My 17-year-old poly strat still looks brand new.
Strong disagree about the "impress internet people" thing. It is very much a "to each their own" thing. The LAST thing I would want is a guitar that I've put 17 years of playing on to look/feel brand new. For that reason, poly is the #1 deal-breaker for me.
 

knh555

Most Honored Senior Member
Dec 6, 2016
6,346
Massachusetts
sure.. if they cheated and looked or felt it... :p

My 40 year-old urethane-finished guitars don't sink into the grain like my much newer lacquer-finished guitar. They don't check the same either. Neither is better than the other - there's a reason I have these guitars after all. They're just different, and I think you can tell just from the different sort of aging.
 

Cerb

Anti conformist reformist
Jan 22, 2016
14,926
Sweden
Your 70’s strat? Those have all sorts of different finishes! Polyurethane or polyester and nitro. Face of the headstock is nitro with the rest either polyester or polyurethane. The body I was never sure. Polyester sealer with nitro top coat is my guess. Later on the polyurethane was applied as a sealer, maybe. Was never really sure.
That's the thing. The body is finished in neither nitro, nor poly. When I sweat on it, like where my arm rests on the body, the finish turns milky white and soft, like wax. I can then scrape it off with my finger. When it's dry, it's hard. I first thought someone had coated it in wax sealer but when it gets soft, the softness goes too deep. Around the egdes there are small finish cracks that run all the way down to the wood. I have no idea what kind of crazy concoction they put on.

The finish on the neck is thin, matte and flakes off. The fretboard appears to have two layers of different finishes that come off, I assume that might be from a refinish after a refret.

I guess the whole thing could have been refinished at some point, but nothing else points to that. It doesn't realy matter, I'm mostly just curious.
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,456
Edmonton, Alberta
That's the thing. The body is finished in neither nitro, nor poly. When I sweat on it, like where my arm rests on the body, the finish turns milky white and soft, like wax. I can then scrape it off with my finger. When it's dry, it's hard. I first thought someone had coated it in wax sealer but when it gets soft, the softness goes too deep. Around the egdes there are small finish cracks that run all the way down to the wood. I have no idea what kind of crazy concoction they put on.

The finish on the neck is thin, matte and flakes off. The fretboard appears to have two layers of different finishes that come off, I assume that might be from a refinish after a refret.

I guess the whole thing could have been refinished at some point, but nothing else points to that. It doesn't realy matter, I'm mostly just curious.

Yeah I could never find any solid info for 70’s finishes. It was like transition period to test out all sorts of finishes. All I know for sure was the headstock was finished in nitro, that’s why it yellowed over time.

Here’s a 75 jazz bass for sale locally. Looks awesome but you’d swear it’s smoked out polyurethane or polyester. I can’t tell without a chemical break down 😜 but man it looks cool. AABAD99A-CAA1-4BC2-AEB6-07FCB205F06E.jpeg CB2FDD78-6018-4B21-9FA4-D245FC678571.jpeg C5B37A67-32EC-4511-996F-59FECE1E3C6C.jpeg
 

Ronnie Fn D

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 1, 2022
1,147
Valrico FL
I'm all about anything but nitro. I like my guitars to stay looking like I bought them. Guitars are the only thing I can think of where people will pay more money for a super outdated finish so it will look like crap quicker. Does anyone do this with their cars, motorcycles, houses, etc?
 

Tremdaddy

Strat-Talker
Sep 18, 2020
134
North Hollywood, California
Nitro feels better and seems to sound better, although a thin nitro and a thin poly may not sound all that different. I have a couple of strats with poly finishes, a Suhr and a G&L and both have satin necks and sound great. My 4 Fender Strats are all nitro, one is sanded down to satin, all 4 sound great also.
 

Intune

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 14, 2021
4,456
Edmonton, Alberta
I'm all about anything but nitro. I like my guitars to stay looking like I bought them. Guitars are the only thing I can think of where people will pay more money for a super outdated finish so it will look like crap quicker. Does anyone do this with their cars, motorcycles, houses, etc?

For me it’s not about a out dated finish. Fender improved its durability so much over the years and pretty much perfected it. You’re guitars will stay looking brand new until the end of time. Imagine a fender standard strat that’s finished in nitro and worn, that’s just weird.

Guitars to me are tools and should look worn the more you use them. No difference between a guitar and actual tools. The house, car and motorcycle references I don’t get. They will age too and cost a lot more to up keep.
 

Mr Jagsquire

Strat-O-Master
Sep 26, 2020
665
Berkshire
I'm all about anything but nitro. I like my guitars to stay looking like I bought them. Guitars are the only thing I can think of where people will pay more money for a super outdated finish so it will look like crap quicker. Does anyone do this with their cars, motorcycles, houses, etc?

Funny thing is I used to be like this about my guitars and want them looking like new: That's why I stripped my JV Squier in the late 80s and resprayed it with a rattle can. I do regret that in hindsight though and wish I'd left the original (poly) finish alone and let the chips and mark alone.

I ended up having it refinished in the original two tone finish, but in nitro (as that's all the guy used) about 8 years ago and it has aged a bit with playing and now looks like it 'belongs' on the near 40 year old neck and other parts that have worn/dulled with age.

I'm restoring a 1979 car that has been in our family almost from new. I will not be making it look 'perfect' and some of the small marks/patina will be left as I feel that is part of it's history. I've come to dislike 'over restored' cars.

I do like my house to look neat and try to keep it looking good, so I still have some level of OCD I suppose. :)
 


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