French Polishing Antique Furniture

The technique of French polishing has been used since around 300 A.D. but gained popularity in the late 18th century, when much fine furniture was finished this way. The process is very labour intensive so has now largely been replaced by spraying.

This method involves dissolving flakes of shellac polish in alcohol and applying the resulting liquid polish to a wooden surface, using a cotton pad. It is then successively built up in thin layers. The pad is moved in circles and figures of eight to create a highly polished surface. 

Although the process takes time to do well, a French polished surface on fine furniture cannot be bettered. It gives a depth and radiance or chatoyancy to the wood which is instantly recognisable. It is particularly good for accenting exotic wood grain. This is why we see it used on the flat surfaces of fine antique furniture.

French polishing takes time because a large number of applications must be made, with several hours drying time between. The polisher gradually builds the layers until there is sufficient body to allow the surface to be burnished to a high-gloss. The process is slow but provides one of the most attractive surfaces on wooden furniture.

We love seeing a client’s face when a flat drab table is transformed into a radiant jewel.


Estimates for French Polishing

We can polish smaller items like side tables and other petite furniture, or the legs and wooden surfaces of chairs we are restoring.

We have contacts who can help if your item is a large dining table or cabinet.

Ask for a no obligation free estimate​

Send us some photographs of your furniture with a few details of the damage or problem and we can usually provide an estimate.
For a detailed quote, contact us to arrange for us to visit your home or office.
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