Modern Gretsch Guitars

Poly vs. lacquer on a modern Gretsch. Yes, I searched…

1

Spend another couple hundred bucks for the lacquer version of the same guitar? I'm guessing most will say yes, so I guess my real question is why?

Thanks!

2

I don't say yes.

I notice the spec, and if lacquer happens to come on a guitar I otherwise like, I consider it a nice perk. But I wouldn't pay extra just for lacquer, nor does poly put me off at all.

On modern Gretschs, I just haven't been convinced it makes any difference. A little in appearance (lacquer does have a different, softer sheen), but none in performance.

The main thing I notice is that lacquer really smells great when I open the case - even 8 or 10 years later.

It's also marginally easier than poly to polish (and equally easier to scuff or discolor).

3

i have guitars in both finishes. Poly is absolutely fine. Other aspects of a guitar's construction have a significantly greater impact on the sound of the guitar than the poly/lacquer choice.

4

It makes a difference to me me. I definitely prefer lacquer, at least old lacquer (not sure about new, as I have very little experience with it). YMMV.

5

I've owned quite a few examples of similar models with different finishes and I think I can hear the difference - but it's quite minimal. Definitely not something which would sway to or from a guitar. Lacquer finish to me helps the guitar sound a bit brighter. That's it. The difference between 9.5 and 10 on a tone pot. If that.

The biggest difference is how the different finishes age. If you are diligent and somehow manage to avoid dinging you guitar a poly finish will look new almost forever. Over time it will show the little rubs and wear marks but it can be tough stuff. Lacquer can craze, dull, wear more easily, and in the process it can also look amazing. For the first 20-30 years it smells great when you open the case, but older guitars can get a bit irritating with an acrid odour if you are unlucky. Most folks probably never notice but I do as I am cursed with a hyper-sensitive nose!

The key with either finish is how well it is applied. Some of the Terada poly finishes look almost like lacquer these days - they are very, very good.

6

I could not care less for many a year, but lately, I have become quite enamored with satin necks. not that it's an option with gretsch

at any rate, I am a little curious about the lacquer finish, but I was born and raised on poly and I'm just fine with it.

it just so happens the gretsch in most interested in has a lacquer finish, so maybe I'll find out one day. oddly enough, all my poly guitars are electric. most of my acoustics aren't. so my opinion isn't super valid.

7

I just want a finish that is as THIN as possible. My Country Club is poly, but it is so thin you can actually see the texture of the wood grain itself in the finish reflections. I can't imagine that finish is impeding the instruments vibrations on any perceivable level.

As far as nitro-lacquer finishes, I have an older AVRI Telecaster with a lacquer finish that I swear is a 16th of an inch thick, probably even thicker in some spots. When a flake of finish came off, it was STILL not even completely "hardened". It had a stiff but rubbery hardness and flexed well past 90 degrees before it broke in half. I've had to talk myself out of stripping that finish off on more than a few occasions. Heck, that guitar would probably shed a full pound if I did.

Cosmetically, I do like how (some) lacquer finishes age though.

8

The benefits of lacquer is that it is porous to a degree and doesn't knit like either of the poly's. This allows the wood to gain and release moisture so that the wood isn't frozen in time with a sheet of impenetrable plastic over it. Not a big deal on a solid body but it does affect both acoustic and arch tops. The poly_ being sprayed on one side of the wood not allowing any moisture transfer and the inside having raw wood allows cupping. I've seen this on the F holes where they come to a point and they move around seasonally.

I'm not sure what it does acoustically if anything.

9

I agree with the idea that finish type isn't a deal breaker as long as it is applied as thin as possible. And don't forget that many "nitro" finishes have a poly undercoat so that factors into the equation.

10

I haven't come across any of the Terada built guitars that have any many mere sealers or primer. They have all been a form of vinyl that is easily removed with lacquer thinner.

11

I prefer lacquer but it's not a deal breaker. I refinished a Squier Tele once with ReRanch nitro and I could hear a difference in the sound. The guitar resonated more and more high end came through. The original poly finish was very thick on that guitar though. If it was a thin poly finish I'm not sure I would have been able to hear a difference.

I've had my DSV Duo Jet for 5 years now and it still smells like chocolate when I open the case.

12

Thanks for all the helpful comments!

13

I seriously doubt lacquer has much of tonal quality difference when the guitar is hollow to begin with and the inside is free of any finish to dampen it. And, I've heard great sounding vintage sparkle tops that are topped with a plastic drum wrap. Okay that's my 2 centavos:)

14

Given a choice, I prefer lacquer. It looks and feels and wears better.

15

No sound difference but nitro ages nicer. Poly ages like old plastic.

16

Don’t care at all. I sound shit on both finishes. Just ask my neighbors.

17

Don’t care at all. I sound shit on both finishes. Just ask my neighbors.

– jetbunny

Best response!!

18

i have guitars in both finishes. Poly is absolutely fine. Other aspects of a guitar's construction have a significantly greater impact on the sound of the guitar than the poly/lacquer choice.

– Zigracer

Same situation here, I own both, and other features are more important to me... especially since with FMIC-made Lacquer models, there's still a poly coat involved in the process anyway.

19

I agree with the thinner is better crowd. With a nitro finish, after level sanding and buffing, you generally end up with a quite thin finish. The poly's are the opposite, they build quickly,and are not generally cut back. There is a tool that electronically measures finish thickness. If they weren't so dang expensive I would love to try an experiment to slowly cut back a poly finish to the bare minimum to see if the difference is noticeable.I believe that unplugged you would hear it open up some. On the plus side,if you gig in hot weather and sweat alot,your guitar will love the poly.

20

I have two film thickness gauges, one's cheap and the other isn't. They both work off resistance and the coating needs to be painted on metal for the gauge to work. I'm not sure if there are any that don't require metal.

Poly = many. I understand that most people are thinking polyester but there are poly more choices out there. You start with a monomer, dimer, trimer and then polymer. It's the word that follows poly that tells you what the finish really is.

Modern day guitar polyesters are applied in one or two very thin layers that dry hard. Polyurethane finishes which translate into pretty much every car finish out there are designed not to dry hard so they resist chipping.

My problem with either poly listed above is they trap the open pores of the wood which causes internal stress.

21

I have two film thickness gauges, one's cheap and the other isn't. They both work off resistance and the coating needs to be painted on metal for the gauge to work. I'm not sure if there are any that don't require metal.

Poly = many. I understand that most people are thinking polyester but there are poly more choices out there. You start with a monomer, dimer, trimer and then polymer. It's the word that follows poly that tells you what the finish really is.

Modern day guitar polyesters are applied in one or two very thin layers that dry hard. Polyurethane finishes which translate into pretty much every car finish out there are designed not to dry hard so they resist chipping.

My problem with either poly listed above is they trap the open pores of the wood which causes internal stress.

– Curt Wilson

They do make a gauge for non-metal surfaces.Link Runs around $2,800.00, which is why I ain't got one. I'm not in the guitar business, but in cabinets I would never sweat the unbalanced effect of less than 1/8'' of plywood being coated on one side,short of an extreme and rapid change of relative humidity. Seems like it would recoup pretty quickly at that thickness, but I'll take your word for it,I know you have lots of experience.

22

Curt said: "My problem with either poly listed above is they trap the open pores of the wood which causes internal stress." I spoke to the owner of a furniture repair store close to my house and he said the same thing. I am going to guess that this is much more of a concern with an acoustic or hollow-body (even closed in) as the guitar is a structure vs. a solid body.

I have to say that I am surprised the volume I get playing my SRV Strat unplugged since it appears to have a very thick Poly coat. My '14 LP traditional's specs say lacquer but it also has a thick coat of whatever it is. My Edwards goldtop? It's painted with a coating of something so I could care less and my Tokai LP also has a glossy coat of lacquer although it appears to be thinner than my Gibson LP.

Both my acoustics are lacquer and it appears very thin on my Taylor. I love that guitar but it's great resonance is probably mostly from it's construction. My Sigma (from Martin) acoustic appears to have a thicker coat but it is also not as deep of a body. I get great balance and mid-range from it though.

As mentioned in a post above, I believe it doesn't make a difference on solid bodies.....be it a plank of alder or non weight-relieved mahogany with a maple cap.


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