WHY I USE PREMIUM MATERIALS
(AND WHY I AVOID WATERBORNE CLEAR COAT LIKE THE PLAGUE)
The SHORT VERSION:
Rickenbacker are PREMIUM guitars. They deserve the BEST in terms of MATERIALS and SKILLS when you--the customer--finally decide to part with your hard-earned cash and give your instrument to me to restore or refinish.
My paint system is better than any system used by any luthier or guitar manufacturer, period.
How can I make this claim? Simple--I know what the "others" use, and nobody else is obsessive enough to pay what I do for paint raw materials.
Of course you've heard the old platitude, "You get what you pay for!". Well, ever since I painted my second guitar, in April of 2003, I've been using a PREMIUM catalyzing, SOLVENT-BASED clear coat system. Waterborne clear coats cost $60.00-80.00 per gallon and the water to reduce it and clean the spray equipment is free. My solvent-based, infrared-cured catalyzing urethane clear coat costs $440.00 per gallon including catalyst, and the reducer to thin it and clean my spray equipment, costs $20.00 a gallon.
I pay extra because the cost of premium materials comes out to an additional $150.00 or so per guitar. For that $150.00, my customers get a finish with gloss and durability second to none, period. I have painted about 600 guitars since 2003, and NOT ONE has ever been returned because of a finish failure.
That's insurance for you, the customer, and also for me, the guy who restores your Rickenbacker.
The LONGER VERSION:
The first finishing job I ever did was to spray paint a 16' fiberglass boat for a friend, back in 1968, for $200.00. Not bad in 1968 dollars; maybe something like $800.00 today? It took me an afternoon, in a driveway, using a catalyzing polyester paint. Word got around, and that summer I painted four cars for $300.00 each, on weekends, in my spare time. I got into the car restoration thing pretty heavily, starting on my own cars (1955 Chevy Nomad and 1960 Chevy sedan delivery) and gradually doing more and more as my time permitted. Following 4 years at university, by the mid-1970s, I was running a restoration shop (as an adjunct to miniWOODIE), and we did full classics like an 810 Cord, a Darren Cadillac, a postwar Mercedes 170 cabriolet, and a '55 Thunderbird. This was my hands-on education in traditional automotive and industrial finishes, before toxicity became an issue, materials changed, and regulations got tighter and tighter. By 1978, I was out of that business and involved in vintage cars as a hobby only.
Professionally speaking, I have been finishing all kinds of non-automotive products (from medical instrument and computer prototypes to Hot Wheels prototypes to multiple full-sized cars to use as color proposals for manufacturers, to $15,000.00 paint jobs on vintage Rolls-Royces), since 1970, and learned my lessons early. One on these reads as follows: Don't use any bargain-basement materials, whether it's cheap masking tape, cheap paint thinner, or cheap clear coat. Yes, I've sprayed nitrocellulose for most of the projects mentioned above. The Rolls-Royce, and my Guards Red Sunbeam Alpine, were my introduction into the world and superior chemistry of catalyzing urethane clear coats; what in the trade are called "base coat/clear coat" polyurethane systems. It was a REVELATION.
Rickenbacker used a catalyzing urethane clear coat system from 1959 until 2008, when they switched to a UV-cured polyester system for reasons of production throughput and less hassle with the Air Quality Management District.