Quoted from kvan99:
Ok, I have a theory on this clearcoat issue ( hold your punches), a few years ago I repaired the sanctum area on my shadow. I had read a few instructional posts and went at it, I did the repair per all expert advice, I then clearcoated with a spray can of Krylon or something similar I bought from The Home Depot...it took only about 20 plays or so for the area above the magnet to give in a bit and form a slight divot, which kept the ball from rolling into the sanctum. Another Pinsider did the same repair as me (used my instructions) but used automotive clearcoat and he didn't have any issues hundreds of plays later. So my theory is that someone is using cheap clearcoat that is not in the same league as the automotive clear such as Spray Max 2k stuff. This is just my hunch, I have no proof. I don't think the environmental reformulation has anything to do with that. I just think it's lower grade stuff.
So the trick is in the details here. What is meant by cheap? Usually, "cheap" refers to using a lacquer with less solids and more solvent. The solvent is cheaper. Quart to quart, a cheap lacquer will produce thinner finishes. Which sometimes is desired. Higher solid lacquers are generally more costly.
But the real story is in the formulation and application process.
Regarding formulation, a high grade instrument laquer will generally contain a larger amount of plasticizers. These small molecules surround the long polymer chains and prevent them from wrapping into each other to form crystalities that can make the surface brittle. Usually, having a subpar formula isn't really a cheap thing so much as it is the wrong formula. For example, one could easily use an expensive formula that is so hard, it will produce spider web cracking over time. This isn't necessarily cheap, just wrong!
The last real factor is in the category of application (which also includes prep and cure). For example, if a guitar shop wouldn't even buff out a guitar in less than 10 days because the finish is still too soft, it makes me wonder if anyone is bolting parts to a PF within that time. And are suppliers correctly communicating the hold times they used so the assembly people can time it right? And even if they are, the wrong spray schedule could trap solvents and produce a host of other issues that change cure times. I honestly don't think it's an issue of Stern being cheap with the paint. I think it's more in the category of a costly manufacturing issue that they would like to resolve.
Bottom line for me is that even with cheap laquers and formulas that could stand to be tweaked, movement in a clear coat after application, lifting, peeling... I'd look to my application/cure process first. It's almost definitional... If it's still moving and hardening it's not really cured yet because that's all "cured" really means: it's stopped moving and has hardened up.
Like I said before, I don't know PFs. But on a guitar, if I sprayed some heavy coats, and let the surface tack up in a few days, I could install a guitar tuner over the gloss. It'd look great. Over the next 2 weeks, the soft clear would migrate (creep) out around that guitar tuner and puddle. It would get harder too as it continued to cure, but trapped solvents would soften the paint under it. The soft clear might stick to the underside of the guitar tuner too. As a string put tension around the post, it would slightly angle it up and away from the headstock surface opposite the string. The laquer, stuck to the bottom of the tuner, would lift in a moon shape along with the post it was attached to and likely chip where the thicker part of the puddle met the thinner part of the lacquer. On the other side, the post would move slightly into the bubble where the lacquer creeped. That bubble, now hardened, would likely crack or chip away. I know this because I've done it. On a banjo. Not a PF. So maybe that's different.
And just for transparency, I am just a hobbiest. I defer to the experts in this field.