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Thread: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

  1. #1
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    Default Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    It looks like the manufacture of nitrocellulose products is winding down.

    Behlen has been absorbed by Mohawk. Mohawk is offering a modest selection of nitrocellulose products.

    Stewart MacDonald is now carrying only the ColorTone line. They are no longer offering Seagrave lacquer.

    LMI continues to offer nitro from Cardinal.

    The Sherwin-Williams page for Sherwood guitar lacquer is not loading tonight.

    Tennessee Technical Coatings Corporation appears to be making nitrocellulose products. I cannot tell if they offer small quantity retail sales to individuals.

    Carolina Solvents offers "1's, 5's, and drums."

    The list is getting thin.

    I also spent some time looking for an alternative to the now discontinued Pratt and Lambert "38" varnish, which was an old fashioned non-polyurethane alkyd based oil varnish. Lynn Dudenbostel used the P & L 38. So far, I have not found an alternative.

    I am wondering how much longer nitro will be available.

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    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Pratt & Lambert 38 Gloss has been discontinued according to the Sales Rep I contacted at the Sherwin-Williams call center rep for Pratt & Lambert brand products.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    It is about time that toxic products were no longer produced. I really enjoy using spirit shellac-based varnishes instead. Have done so for the last four years with great results. Steve Gilchrist has been using shellac-based varnishes for years.
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    Registered User Vernon Hughes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    I've been using Gemini coatings lacquer for years. I don't see any signs it might be going away, for those who still enjoy nitro.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    I've used nitro for decades on Tele and Strat partscasters, and can attest to what nasty stuff it is, but far superior to the thick poly on modern Fenders.

    But my one and only mandolin was done with a product LMI sells called Royal Lac, a modern take on shellac, and so far I'm thrilled with it. After watching both LMI and manufacturer's videos, they use some buzzwords that Tom Ellis used in an interview describing how he was horrified when he went into the building Pavas were being finished in. He didn't want to subject anyone to nitro fumes anymore, and he used those same buzzwords describing the new Pava finish. Might be the same stuff. Anyway, I treated it like shellac and had great results.

    Change is inevitable, but so is progress.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    I just got off the phone with a very nice tech person at Mohawk. I'm having a significant issue with my first mandolin build, which I shot with Mohawk lacquer. I've built several instruments before, and used their Behlen line of lacquer to great effect on those, however I switched to Mohawk when I found that my local supplier no longer had Behlen.

    The Mohawk rep confirmed that they will have just the Mohawk Stringed Instrument Lacquer going forward.

    To get to my problem- After several days, my instrument is no where near dry. The rep confirmed that they had a batch mixed with too much plasticizer in it and as a result, this finish will not ever cure.... That batch was supposed to have all been pulled from the shelves, but I somehow got a bad can. They are making the situation good from a product standpoint. I, on the other hand, have a significant hitch in this build.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    It is about time that toxic products were no longer produced. I really enjoy using spirit shellac-based varnishes instead. Have done so for the last four years with great results. Steve Gilchrist has been using shellac-based varnishes for years.
    That statement does not make good sense IMO. "Toxic products" are only TOXIC if you use them incorrectly and thus expose yourself to a toxic DOSE. Water is toxic if you drink 6 liters in an hour you'll probably go into a siezure and die as your blood electrolytes will be so diluted that you'll have inadquate functon at you neural synapses It happens. Nitrocellulose finishes are very useful products for coating many things including musical instruments but they have to be used properly with adquate inhallation protection. Because some individuals use them incorrectly everyone else should be deprived of a useful product?
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Chinn View Post
    I just got off the phone with a very nice tech person at Mohawk. I'm having a significant issue with my first mandolin build, which I shot with Mohawk lacquer. I've built several instruments before, and used their Behlen line of lacquer to great effect on those, however I switched to Mohawk when I found that my local supplier no longer had Behlen.

    The Mohawk rep confirmed that they will have just the Mohawk Stringed Instrument Lacquer going forward.

    To get to my problem- After several days, my instrument is no where near dry. The rep confirmed that they had a batch mixed with too much plasticizer in it and as a result, this finish will not ever cure.... That batch was supposed to have all been pulled from the shelves, but I somehow got a bad can. They are making the situation good from a product standpoint. I, on the other hand, have a significant hitch in this build.
    Major downer. Can you wipe back it off with a rag dampend in lacquer thinner? Hopefully it is not a sunburst staining?
    Bernie
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  11. #9

    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    That statement does not make good sense IMO. "Toxic products" are only TOXIC if you use them incorrectly and thus expose yourself to a toxic DOSE. Water is toxic if you drink 6 liters in an hour you'll probably go into a siezure and die as your blood electrolytes will be so diluted that you'll have inadquate functon at you neural synapses It happens. Nitrocellulose finishes are very useful products for coating many things including musical instruments but they have to be used properly with adquate inhallation protection. Because some individuals use them incorrectly everyone else should be deprived of a useful product?
    Toxic in the sense of causing personal harm to yourself when using it is one thing, toxic to the environment is another. If we continue to take a small picture, this little bit isn't hurting anything so I should use it approach, cumulatively we cause significant damage. One 1960 Buick by itself wasn't doing much damage either.

    An investment of around $10,000 for filtration is necessary in this state to meet environmental standards for toxic gas emissions. Wouldn't want it any other way.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Not to quibble, but it was Bertrand Russell who wrote, 'Change is inevitable, but progress is problematic'.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I've used nitro for decades on Tele and Strat partscasters, and can attest to what nasty stuff it is, but far superior to the thick poly on modern Fenders.

    But my one and only mandolin was done with a product LMI sells called Royal Lac, a modern take on shellac, and so far I'm thrilled with it. After watching both LMI and manufacturer's videos, they use some buzzwords that Tom Ellis used in an interview describing how he was horrified when he went into the building Pavas were being finished in. He didn't want to subject anyone to nitro fumes anymore, and he used those same buzzwords describing the new Pava finish. Might be the same stuff. Anyway, I treated it like shellac and had great results.

    Change is inevitable, but so is progress.
    Not to quibble, but it was Bertrand Russell who wrote "Change is inevitable, but progress is problematic'.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Richard View Post
    Not to quibble, but it was Bertrand Russell who wrote "Change is inevitable, but progress is problematic'.
    And you would quote Bertrand Russel over me?
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Not a tremendous loss. Wasn’t it confirmed long ago that varnish sounds better?

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Non polyurethane varnishes are getting scarce also.
    Water based varnishes are varnish in name only.
    Violin varnish and raw shellac are still available.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Toxic in the sense of causing personal harm to yourself when using it is one thing, toxic to the environment is another. If we continue to take a small picture, this little bit isn't hurting anything so I should use it approach, cumulatively we cause significant damage. One 1960 Buick by itself wasn't doing much damage either.

    An investment of around $10,000 for filtration is necessary in this state to meet environmental standards for toxic gas emissions. Wouldn't want it any other way.
    Was anyone arguing against environmental protection? And yes, I believe nitrocellulose finish can be used safely for individuals and the environment.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by barry View Post
    Not a tremendous loss. Wasn’t it confirmed long ago that varnish sounds better?
    No, I would say that has not been "confirmed" at all. It has merely been suggested that varnish is better but there is zero objective evidence of that actually being the case? Just like there is zero objective evidence that hide glue is better than Titebond or that Red Spruce is a better top wood than Sitka.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I've used nitro for decades on Tele and Strat partscasters, and can attest to what nasty stuff it is, but far superior to the thick poly on modern Fenders.

    But my one and only mandolin was done with a product LMI sells called Royal Lac, a modern take on shellac, and so far I'm thrilled with it. After watching both LMI and manufacturer's videos, they use some buzzwords that Tom Ellis used in an interview describing how he was horrified when he went into the building Pavas were being finished in. He didn't want to subject anyone to nitro fumes anymore, and he used those same buzzwords describing the new Pava finish. Might be the same stuff. Anyway, I treated it like shellac and had great results.

    Change is inevitable, but so is progress.
    I have never used Royal Lac but I don't think I would call it a modern take on shellac.

    Shellac is an evaporative finish (like nitrocellulose) meaning if you ever add back solvent it will dissolve again.

    Royal Lac is a curative finish right? It is described in product literature as "... a post-catalyzed proprietary formulation formed by cross-linking shellac with carefully selected synthetic resins to form new polyester chains that combine the look and feel of shellac with exceptional durability and can be used on all indoor furniture, cabinets and musical instruments..."

    In plain English that means Royal Lac is essentially a varnish which uses shellac as the resin.

    Is the solvent for the resin an alcohol? Also does anyone have any info on the polymerizaton catalyst that is used for it?
    Bernie
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    The MSDS is here: http://www.shellacfinishes.com/msds-2/

    Most assuredly NOT non-toxic, though with the high solids content it's an improvement over nitro from an environmental and health perspective. I'm not sure what percentage is shellac vs. polyester, and you can call it varnish in the same sense that you can call waterbase (or nitro, for that matter) varnish. In other words, varnish is such a broad term as to have become largely meaningless , IMHO.
    Last edited by amowry; Aug-30-2019 at 11:33am.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    I see absolutely no evidence that nitro production is winding down. Yes, there are some consolidations but that is expected in any industry. Stewmac simply decided to carry their own line of lacquer and Sherwin Williams continues to have a very robust market in lacquer. It may be that there aren't very many companies selling an "instrument" lacquer but that simply is a way to label a product. A lot of builders use lacquer products that aren't designated as an instrument lacquer. Pratt and Lambert #38 stills shows available on their website.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    This is the way it's been for my entire existence as a luthier:

    Learn to use a finish product, it leaves the market.
    Learn to use alternate product, it leaves the market.
    Learn another, gone again.

    It applies to lacquer and to varnish. We might as well get used to the idea... things change.

    So far, the only constant has been shellac.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    OK, here's my 3 cents worth (Canadian exchange rate), First, I know this started as a thread about the possible phasing out of "traditional" lacquer products and so my apologies for going a little off topic.

    As far as I know, the term varnish has never been specific to one formulation. Anything that creates a clear film when dry can be correctly termed varnish. I even get varnish build up on my cylinder heads. Just look up the definition of varnish and you'll see. So for me it's kind of irksome when I hear statements such as 'is varnish better than X' or, when someone asks, is that varnish or lacquer? To me that question really just says, 'is that lacquer or some other finish?'

    It appears to me that certain manufactures have deliberately used misleading ad copy because there is a general perception among some musicians, that "varnish" (whatever that is) is better than lacquer (whatever that is). Even lacquer is not a well defined term) I find this has put a lot of confusion and disinformation into the minds of some buyers and I sometimes find myself having to spend a bunch of time deprogramming someone. Anyway, I'll leave my rant about the term "varnish" there.

    I, myself have not used nitro for over 15 years now. I wanted to find something that I thought sounded better and ended up using a spirit varnish that not only sounds much better to my ear but is also very environmentally friendly. I could actually drink a shot of my varnish and it would not harm me. (although I'm sure I would get quite the rush!) The solvent is a "pure", anhydrous, food grade alcohol and the resins are all natural and renewable.

    Before settling on the formulation that I use now, I tried many kinds of varnishes, spirit, oil and combinations of the two. One of those varnishes that I tried was "Royal Lac". I found it to be able to produce a good finish but I just didn't like the fumes. The solvents and resins were just too strong and toxic smelling for me personally.
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    I've used Waterlox, violin varnish, French polished shellac, and nitro lacquer (mostly nitro lacquer).

    My instruments have never looked or sounded better than after I switched to waterbased poly products. I think that is mostly just due to a natural progression of my ability to make a good instrument that also looks good.

    I will say that I can mostly interchange different waterbased products without making huge changes. The products are much more similar in application than, say, switching from violin varnish to Waterlox.

    IMHO, there has never been a better time to be making shiny stuff out of wood.

    We'll still need a bit of lacquer for repairs for the next couple hundred years, if we are blessed with the peace to keep these instruments going that long.

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    This is the result of refinishing my Irish bouzouki using olive oil and shellac 'spirit varnish'. I have not even polished it yet.

    The more I use it, the more I like shellac.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by O. Apitius View Post
    OK, here's my 3 cents worth (Canadian exchange rate), First, I know this started as a thread about the possible phasing out of "traditional" lacquer products and so my apologies for going a little off topic.

    As far as I know, the term varnish has never been specific to one formulation. Anything that creates a clear film when dry can be correctly termed varnish. I even get varnish build up on my cylinder heads. Just look up the definition of varnish and you'll see. So for me it's kind of irksome when I hear statements such as 'is varnish better than X' or, when someone asks, is that varnish or lacquer? To me that question really just says, 'is that lacquer or some other finish?'

    It appears to me that certain manufactures have deliberately used misleading ad copy because there is a general perception among some musicians, that "varnish" (whatever that is) is better than lacquer (whatever that is). Even lacquer is not a well defined term) I find this has put a lot of confusion and disinformation into the minds of some buyers and I sometimes find myself having to spend a bunch of time deprogramming someone. Anyway, I'll leave my rant about the term "varnish" there.

    I, myself have not used nitro for over 15 years now. I wanted to find something that I thought sounded better and ended up using a spirit varnish that not only sounds much better to my ear but is also very environmentally friendly. I could actually drink a shot of my varnish and it would not harm me. (although I'm sure I would get quite the rush!) The solvent is a "pure", anhydrous, food grade alcohol and the resins are all natural and renewable.

    Before settling on the formulation that I use now, I tried many kinds of varnishes, spirit, oil and combinations of the two. One of those varnishes that I tried was "Royal Lac". I found it to be able to produce a good finish but I just didn't like the fumes. The solvents and resins were just too strong and toxic smelling for me personally.
    The destinction I have always used: varnish is a finish that cures via a chemical reaction (e.g., cross-linking) that is usually irreversible or essentially irreversible -- so adding the solvent back will not redissolve it? A lacquer is an evaporative finish that cures as the solvent evaporates - adding the solvent back reverses the process.

    I have not heard anyone refer to "varnish" in their engine for a long time! Modern engines run so much more efficiently that incomplete combustion is almost a thing of the past? The varnish those cylinder heads and pistons came from the oxidation of hydrocarbons resulting in a large number of decomposition procucts in including acids, ketones and aldehydes that further react with each other leading to carboniferous polymers and condensation products that deposit as an abrasive film -- I have no idea if these are really varnishes or just something that mechanics named because it forms a film?

    As to drinking your varnish because it contains anhydrous ethanol and "resins are all natural and renewable" -- you could be right in that particular case but from my experience (38 years as an environmental toxicologist) I'm here to tell you that a lot of natural, renewable chemicals in nature are very toxic and would be fatal if ingested. There are many examples of fruit and other plants will ruin your day and your life for sure. Just saying.
    Bernie
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    Default Re: Heads up! Nitrocellulose products dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    The destinction I have always used: varnish is a finish that cures via a chemical reaction (e.g., cross-linking) that is usually irreversible or essentially irreversible -- so adding the solvent back will not redissolve it? A lacquer is an evaporative finish that cures as the solvent evaporates - adding the solvent back reverses the process.
    That seems like a logical definition for oil varnishes, of course it would also include waterbase, polyesters, urethanes, etc. And it would make shellac and "spirit varnish" lacquers. Which is probably perfectly reasonable, as shellac is similar to nitro lacquer in many ways, it just highlights how the term "varnish" gets thrown around without much meaning, largely, in our little circle, to sell mandolins (I've been as guilty of it as the next). My view is still that film thickness is the dominant factor affecting sound, and the rest of the differences come down largely to things that affect the builder much more than the player, i.e. availability, ease of application, toxicity, sand-ability, etc. I've always thought it funny how much we builders discuss and stress over finishes, when the vast majority of my customers have never asked what my instruments are finished with, nor seem to care

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