As already mentioned many different woods are used in the construction of guitars. There are also various lacquers used to finish of the construction of a guitar. The lacquers job is to protect the finish and adds to the overall look of the guitar. There have been various lacquers used since the 1950’s. An often used lacquer is Nitrocellulose which has been used by many guitar manufacturers including Gibson and Fender.
Fender used nitrocellulose (often abbreviated to ‘nitro’) in their first guitars in the 1950’s and 1960’s and is the lacquer Gibson often use for their guitars. One drawback of ‘nitro’ is that it is prone to crack and turn yellow over time. Hairline cracks are also common due to changes in temperature or just over time. However these things are the main appeal so some people who prefer the look of aged instruments over the look of a pristine instruments.
Another common lacquer is Polyurethane. This lacquer is often called urethane and is very versatile. There are different variants of urethane such as gloss urethane and satin urethane (often used on necks). This lacquer offers a more even and glossier finish by only using two layers of urethane rather than the multiple coats that is used by nitro. Fender American standard and Deluxe guitars along with Gibson, PRS and Jackson guitars use polyurethane.
A third lacquer is Polyester. This lacquer has sometimes been used by Fender since the 1970’s. Polyester is often used by companies including Ibanez, Polyester ages well, is very durable and adds very good protection to a guitar being difficult to scratch and damage.