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Thread: Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2019

    Default Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

    I've got a few vintage Fender and Gibson guitars, and two in particular have a very cloudy look to the finish. One is a '79 Gibson ES-347 in ebony that I can't seem to get rid of the haze in the finish. The other is a 1968 Fender Mustang Bass in competiton red that has the same sort of hazy look to it. The Fender in particular is covered top to bottom in deep finish checking.
    Is it possible to return a decent shine to these two guitars? I've heard good things about Virtuoso Premium Cleaner, but I worry that it would sink into the finish checking and make the bass look worse than it does now. The haziness doesn't bother me a whole lot, but I want the guitars to look the best they can.
    Any help is appreciated!

  2. #2
    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA

    Default Re: Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

    I don't have any nitro guitars, but I have had hazy appearance happen due to dye fade. No guitar polish or solvent will fix needs to be stripped and re-finished at some point.
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  3. #3
    Mojo's Minions
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

    Haze is either a surface imperfection......which automotive polishing products will remove. Or it is something that has been drawn into the clear itself.....which no amount of polishing will solve.

    If you polish the surface then you will know whether the issue lies there in a definitive way.

  4. #4
    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011

    Default Re: Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

    I wouldn't do a thing to either beyond standard cleaning and polishing.

    The Mustang Bass has an early aliphatic urethane finish, not lacquer. They degrade as well, including major checking being very possible. They just degrade in a slightly different manner.

    Haze in the the finish is likely under the top layers of finish, and you can't do anything about it, apart from possibly leaving the instruments out in decent weather (on nitro safe stands, of course).

    Generally, car paint products can be used on guitars, e.g. white polishes and red compounds. There are very, very few finishing systems that were engineered specifically for guitars, and the ones that were are usually "weird" finishes that are proprietary to one manufacturer for a limited run or special finish. Guitar finishing systems are usually adapted from automotive finishing systems. As auto finishes have changed over the years, guitar finishes have followed. The progression from nitro lacquer to acrylic lacquer to old-style urethane (AUC) to more modern forms of catalyzed finishes was automotive and industrial paint industry engineering that the guitar companies adopted because it was the best option at the time. So again, it's generally OK to source your guitar finish care products from the auto paint world.

    It's hard to say what to do without seeing the instruments in person. But in general, some white auto polish can't hurt much, unless you apply it with a coarse or gritty/dirty polishing cloth.

    Don't ever apply polish to, or rub, an original Fender decal that is on top of the finish. If it's buried under finish, you're fine.
    Last edited by ItsaBass; 03-29-2020 at 07:45 PM.
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  5. #5
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Dave Locher's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Joplin, MO, smack dab in the middle of the U.S.

    Default Re: Help: Cleaning a Vintage Nitro Finish

    You can try some "swirl mark remover" on a small spot on the Gibson. It is a super-fine polishing/cleaning compound. It is what you use after polishing compound when buffing out a lacquer paint job on a car. It makes my Mother's "ultra fine polishing compound" seem rough by comparison. If the haze is on the surface it will take ut off.
    Unfortunately I don't know if you can buy it in small sizes. I have a 1.5 quart bottle that my dad bought in 1985. We used it on two or three car paint jobs and since then I have used it now and then when I need to buff out a scratch or something. It's still half full!

    Where do you live? I could send you a tiny bottle full that would be enough to do your guitar every 10 years for the rest of your life.

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