French Polishing

French-PolishingMany people throughout the world confusingly refer to any type of wood finishing as “French polishing”. This has given rise to many myths and misconceptions.

In fact, almost all wooden furniture made over the last 70 years has been polished with cellulose lacquer using spray technology. Unlike French Polishing in the traditional way, these finishes do not lend themselves to recoating and, to do the job properly, will need to be stripped from the wood completely.

When this is not done, the finish will often flake and discolour after a matter of weeks. This practice has given rise to many people’s distrust of spray polishing.

French Polishing is the technique developed during the 19th century of applying shellac to wood. The technique involves dissolving the shellac flakes in methylated spirit and “working” the polish by hand using a rubber.

It is a long, painstaking and highly skilled method which results in a thin but grain-filled finish. Although we can French Polish most woods, this finish is usually reserved for the more valuable antique furniture pieces, stair cases in older properties, panelling and many other hand crafted items.

The French Polisher
What does the title French Polisher convey to you? Perhaps a vision of times past, a Victorian workshop with maybe a kindly old Craftsman peering over half glasses, nodding knowingly.

Maybe he exists somewhere, but he is now more than likely to be working in a modern place, aided by machinery and suffering noise from compressors supplying air operated equipment. Extraction fans running, with the hiss of spray guns applying modern finishing materials that bear little resemblance to French Polishing Techniques.

In our workshop, we believe in traditional methods of Restoration and French Polishing, making sure your piece is Restored to its exact specifications from when it was built.