What is nitro cellulose finish

Nitrocellulose finish, also known as nitro finish or nitro lacquer, is a type of coating used to finish and protect various wooden surfaces. It is a popular choice in the world of instrument making, particularly for guitars, as well as in furniture manufacturing and restoration. Nitrocellulose finish is known for its unique characteristics and the desirable aesthetic it imparts to the treated surface.

Composition and Application:

Nitrocellulose finish is composed of nitrocellulose resin, a combination of cellulose fibers and nitric acid. This resin is dissolved in a solvent, commonly a mixture of acetone and other organic solvents, to create a liquid lacquer. The lacquer is then applied to the wooden surface through spraying or brushing, forming a thin and protective film.

Characteristics and Benefits:

  1. Natural Look and Feel: Nitrocellulose finish is revered for its ability to showcase the natural beauty of the wood. It enhances the wood’s grain and color while providing a transparent or slightly amber tint. The finish allows the wood to “breathe,” resulting in a more organic and resonant feel, particularly in musical instruments.
  2. Fast Drying: One of the notable advantages of nitrocellulose finish is its fast drying time. The solvent evaporates quickly, allowing for rapid application and subsequent layers if desired. This feature reduces production time and enables a smoother and more efficient finishing process.
  3. Repairability and Aging: Nitrocellulose finish is known for its ease of repair. It can be touched up or repaired using a variety of techniques, such as polishing or spot refinishing. Additionally, as the finish ages, it develops a desirable patina, further enhancing the instrument or furniture’s aesthetic appeal.
  4. Thin and Protective Coating: Nitrocellulose finish forms a thin yet durable layer on the wood surface. It provides protection against minor scratches, moisture, and environmental factors, preserving the integrity and longevity of the finished product.


  1. Musical Instruments: It is widely used in the manufacturing of guitars, both acoustic and electric, as well as other stringed instruments. Nitrocellulose finish is valued for its impact on the instrument’s resonance and tonal qualities.
  2. Furniture and Cabinetry: Nitrocellulose finish is employed in the production and restoration of fine furniture, cabinetry, and woodworking projects. Its ability to enhance the natural beauty of wood makes it a preferred choice for creating elegant and timeless pieces.
  3. Vintage Restoration: Nitrocellulose finish is essential in restoring vintage instruments and furniture to their original condition. It allows for accurate reproductions and the preservation of historical authenticity.

Choosing Nitrocellulose Finish:

When considering the use of nitrocellulose finish, it is essential to ensure the compatibility of the finish with the type of wood and the specific requirements of the project. It is advisable to consult with experienced finishers or experts in the field who can provide guidance on the appropriate application techniques and recommend compatible products.

In summary, nitrocellulose finish is a popular choice for enhancing the beauty of wooden surfaces, particularly in musical instruments and furniture. Its natural look, fast drying time, repairability, and protective qualities make it a preferred option for craftsmen and artisans.