Nitrocellulose lacquer has been used in the production of electric guitars since the early days of the instrument. In fact, it was the primary finish used on most electric guitars produced before the 1960s.
Nitrocellulose lacquer is a type of lacquer made by dissolving nitrocellulose in a solvent, typically a combination of alcohol and other volatile organic compounds. It dries quickly and produces a hard, durable finish that is resistant to water and most chemicals.
One of the earliest electric guitar manufacturers to use nitrocellulose lacquer was the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The company began using nitrocellulose lacquer on its instruments in the late 1920s, and it quickly became the industry standard.
Fender also began using nitrocellulose lacquer on its guitars in the 1950s, and the finish became an integral part of the company's signature style. Fender's use of nitrocellulose lacquer on its guitars helped to create the "relic" look that has become popular among guitar collectors and enthusiasts today.
One of the reasons nitrocellulose lacquer was so popular in the early days of electric guitars was its ability to produce a thin, even coat that allowed the wood to resonate freely, producing a warm, natural tone. It was also relatively easy to apply, and could be buffed and polished to a high gloss.
In the 1960s, however, new synthetic finishes began to emerge that were more durable and resistant to wear and tear than nitrocellulose lacquer. These finishes, such as polyester and polyurethane, quickly became the standard in the guitar industry, and nitrocellulose lacquer fell out of favor.
Despite its relative lack of popularity today, nitrocellulose lacquer remains an important part of the history of electric guitars. Many guitar enthusiasts still prefer the warm, natural tone and vintage feel of a nitrocellulose-finished guitar, and some guitar manufacturers like WhiteStork Guitars continue to use the finish on their high-end models.