French Polishing is the perfect solution when you want to reveal the beauty of natural wood. It provides a high end, durable finish that is both simple to clean and easy to maintain.
There are many wooden surfaces that can benefit from French Polishing. Musical instruments, such as pianos, look stunning when they have been treated, the French Polish giving them a classic and expensive appearance.
French Polishing can also be used to restore wooden floors and staircases. The treatment creates a classy, warm feel, and thanks to the durability of French polish, areas of heavy footfall are well protected.
Antique or period furniture is perhaps the most obvious use for French Polishing. Restoring older pieces of classic furniture back to their former glory is one of the most satisfying aspects of French polishing.
What is French Polishing?
French Polishing has been used since the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that its popularity grew. Wealthy Victorians used the treatment to enhance and protect their expensive furniture, typically at the time, made from Mahogany.
It is a process that creates a very high gloss finish on a wooden surface giving it a rich and deep colour. French polishers are highly skilled, to become fully proficient in the field takes a number of years, and as with many trades, the numbers of experts is slowly declining.
French Polishing is an intricate procedure. A polisher will apply very thin coats of Shellac, a hard wearing resin, in the same direction as the wood grain using a specialist tool called a polishing mop. The resin surface is allowed to harden and is then lightly sanded using a fine abrasive paper.
Further layers or Shellac are then applied using another tool, the polish rubber. These layers are also applied in the direction of wood grain by the polisher using a figure of eight movement.
Many thin layers of shellac are applied on top of one another, and each time an alcohol solvent is used on the hardened layer to melt the topmost part very slightly. This allows the new layer being applied to bond itself to the previous layer, thus creating a highly durable finish.
Once completed, the finished surface will have numerous very thin layers of shellac that provide a rich, deep and perfectly flat film.
Which Woods Benefit From French Polishing?
French Polishing is best suited to darker woods that have a fine grain. The woods that will benefit most from French polish are Walnut, Rosewood and Mahogany.
For lighter woods such as Pine or Teak, specialist waxes and oils are available that are perfect for restoring and protecting these types of surfaces.
What are the Benefits of French Polishing?
Although it is a process that is over 500 years old, it still has many benefits over more modern techniques.
- Shellac is none toxic and is a naturally occurring resin. Its use has less of an environmental impact than many modern-day
- The finish that can be achieved by an expert French polisher is unmatched by any modern varnish or lacquers.
- Shellac can be more fragile than the modern day alternatives, but it is much easier to repair and maintain.
- The process of French Polishing creates very little mess or dust, so furniture does not need to be moved for the treatment to be applied.
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