Fender Custom Colors: Color Confusion.|
09/01/2012, Copyright 1998-2012.
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Few things in the vintage guitar market are as confusing
as Fender and Gibson custom color guitars. The number of colors offered and
lack of good, clean, documented specimens today makes identifying the
original colors difficult. Many authors of some excellent guitar books
have shed light on Fender and Gibson custom colors. Though I
greatly appreciate this current research on custom colors, I feel they may
have created some general confusion as to what color is what. Also, as a
guitar refinisher, being able to duplicate the original custom colors
accurately is important to me. And the information I've seen to date isn't
complete or accurate enough to allow this. So I've done my own research and
have found quite a few things that differ from the accepted custom color
knowledge base. For example, takes these quotes from several popular
vintage guitar books:
"1958 Strat in Shoreline Gold with gold parts".
(this caption is actually describing a "true" one-off custom color,
not Shoreline Gold.
Shoreline Gold is very bronze in color and wasn't even available till 1959).
"1961 non-tremolo model in Coral Pink, a subtle variant of the
world famous Fiesta Red finish". (Fender never had a color in
its pallet called "Coral Pink" or "Salmon Pink". This color is mostly
likely Fiesta Red,
which has a very pink hue).
"Some colors changed in 1963,
but the total stayed at 14. Some, such as Shoreline Gold and Inca Silver,
changed in name only." (Shoreline Gold and Inca Silver were
dropped in 1965 and replaced by Firemist Gold and Silver, completely
"Foam Green is related to Surf Green but is a bit lighter".
(actually Surf Green is lighter in color than Foam Green).
"Enamel lacquers were marketed by DuPont under the Duco brand;
acrylic lacquers bore the Lucite brand".
(Duco is DuPont's brand name for nitrocellulose lacquer.
There’s no such animal as an "enamel lacquer").
As you can see,
custom colors may be one of the most mis-understood aspect of the
vintage guitar market. The following research can provide more accurate
information on the custom color paints and finishing techniques used.
This may help you better identify a true factory custom color, and should
clear up the many fallacies about them.
Cars, Cars, Cars.
To understand Fender custom colors you have to know what the colors are
based on. The answer, of course, is automobiles. Cars in the United
States had more social influence than just about anything at the time
(even more than Elvis). Fender's only in-house paint mixes during the
50's and 60's were Sunburst and Blond (and Candy Apple Red to a point:
more on this color later). All other colors originated directly from the
cars of the time, and most of these colors were from General Motor's cars.
Let me back up and tell you exactly how I researched this. I've been doing
car and guitar finishes since I was in high school. And I constantly get
guitar clients asking for the wide array of Fender colors that were offered
during the 1960's. But I always turned them away from doing all colors
except those I could accurately reproduce: white, black, and blond. After
all, white is white and black is black, and everyone has seen a million
blond Teles. It's pretty hard to screw up those colors. Finally I decided
to do some research on the other colors.
The first step was to look at the original Fender custom color charts. If
you don't have originals to examine, use "the Fender Stratocaster" book
(new edition) by A.R. Duchossoir, page 31. Thanks to the 1960 color chart,
Fender provided us with the manufacturer, type and paint code for every
color on this chart (though it's not obvious).
Take the first color, Lake Placid Blue, for example. The paint type is
"Lucite", which is DuPont's brand name for acrylic lacquer. The number,
2876L next to "Lucite", is the DuPont paint code identifying the paint
formula for Lake Placid Blue (note some colors are "Duco", which is DuPont's
brand name for their nitrocellulose lacquer).
If you bring the paint code 2876L to your local DuPont automotive paint
dealer, you can identify which car originally used this color. In Lake
Placid Blue's case, that would be a 1958 Cadillac color available in
acrylic lacquer (Lucite).
But you say, "acrylic lacquer? I thought Fender used nitrocellulose
lacquer?". Fender used both acrylic and nitrocellulose lacquer in the
color coat. To understand why, we have to understand what the
difference is between acrylic and nitrocellulose lacquer.
What is Lacquer?
Paint is made of three major components: pigment, binder (also known as
resin), and solvent. Pigment is the what makes the color. Pigments can be
organic or inorganic. Organic pigments, though more expensive, offer a
wider range of shades. Inorganic pigments are derived from various
metallic ores. For example, white is made from titanium dioxide, black is
carbon, zinc is yellow, orange is molybdate, and red is made from iron
Pigments are dispersed in binders, often called resins, which provide the
protective and mechanical properties of the paint film. As paint dries,
the binder forms a film that allows the paint to adhere to the surface.
Early binders were made from natural materials such as linseed and
soybean oil. These are still used in many oil-based house paints today.
But natural binders quickly gave way to synthetic binders, which comprise
90% of the market today. These synthetic binders include alkyd (made from
acids), celluloid, acrylic, epoxy, and urethane to name a few.
The pigment and binder dispersion is dissolved in a solvent, which controls
the consistency of the paint and evaporates after the paint is applied.
Without the solvent, the pigment-binder mixture would be too thick to
spread easily and uniformly.
Nitrocellulose lacquer uses a celluloid-based binder. Acrylic lacquer uses
a acrylic-based binder. Both use acetone as their solvent, which is what
defines these products as lacquer. Acetone is an extremely fast evaporating
solvent. That's why lacquer became so popular. It dries very fast and
gives excellent gloss. Quick drying time is important for production
environments such as car and guitar manufacturing because time is money.
Since nitrocellulose lacquer uses celluloid as its binder, there are some
problems. Celluloid is the same material used for tortoise shell
pickguards on D'Angelicos, Gibsons, Epiphones, Gretsches and other guitars
from 1900 to present. And we all know what happens to those old pickguards
made of celluloid - they turn to dust with time.
The Automotive Paint Industry in the mid 1950's
Nineteen fifty six was a big year for the automotive paint industry.
Prior to 1956, all General Motors (GM) cars were painted with
nitrocellulose lacquer (all other car manufacturers used enamels except
GM). GM liked lacquer. It dried fast, looked great, could be rubbed-out
to remove minor scratches and dullness, and it spot repaired easily.
Enamels looked dull in about the same time as lacquers, but you couldn't
easily rub them out to get the shine back. And the dealers and body shops
loved lacquer for the ease of application and drying time.
- MORE HERE: http://www.guitarhq.com/fenderc.html