Ask a Luthier Codabows Instruments Links Pi Guitar String Band Contact
Return to questions listing:

Using acrylic lacquer?

Hello, I restored my 69 Les Paul custom,( long story ) last summer. I used acrylic lacquer, paint and clear coat, its been drying for at least 3 or more months. But still gets smudge marks on it when held for a while or marks? I can play it now but not for long, because of the marks it leaves, from my arm resting on it while playing it and on the bottom on my lap. I can buff them out with wax cleaner and the next day the smudge marks or lines on it are gone.

What can I do to help speeding up the drying process?

A fan on it, or maybe a hair dryer using the heat? Or does it just take a year for it to dry.

Any help would be grateful.


You refinished a 1969 Les Paul Custom? There must be a long story. As you now know, the only reason to refinish a collector guitar is if someone has already refinished it. And then the re-refinishing should only be done using the correct finish and factory techniques. A collector will have no interest in a guitar that has been refinished, and even master refinishers can rarely fool a collector. And collectors are the only ones that will pay collector prices.

Acrylic lacquer should be very dry in three months. It will keep outgassing and shrinking for six months, so it might be wise to wait a few more months before you declare it FUBAR, but I think that you have some mystical chemical failure of the finish. Wood is quick and easy, finish is a pain in the butt. You find a finishing system that works great and you use it for years, mixing it the same every time,
and then one day it fails you completely. It always helps to read the fine, print on the can and follow the manufacturers recommendations exactly, but sometimes nothing works.

You could possibly have silicone contamination. Commercial polishes, like Pledge, have silicone in them. It works well for shining, but it dives right through the finish into the wood and then new finish won't stick to the wood. You have mentioned a wax cleaner. Check the
ingredients for silicone. Or, you may have gotten a bad batch of finish. Who knows how long it sat at the store before you bought it.

Did you use an aerosol spray can? Spray can finishes have lots of blush retarder to keep them soft so that they don't clog up the nozzle. We only use three finishes: nitrocellulose lacquer, oil violin varnish, and shellac (French polish). I have used acrylics on art projects but I have never used it on a musical instrument. I used it on a Pine Wood Derby car once. Color in a spray can. Coated it the night before the race. It was still very soft on race day. After that we were done with it, so I don't know when, or if, it ever hardened.

My guess is that you are going to have to start over, using nitrocellulose lacquer, colored with aniline dye. Over spray the bindings and then scrape them back to clean white. Then end with a clear top coat.
Good Luck.

Steve Mason