What Are the Benefits of French Polishing Antique Furniture?

French polishing is one of the most beautiful ways of finishing mahogany and oak antique furniture. It originates from times past when skill and craftsmanship were still important, and a time when furniture makers were more than willing to spend time creating the perfect finish to a quality piece of furniture.

French polishing is not a product as some people may think, but it is an actual technique of wood finishing. It became popular in the late 19th century and was used on the most expensive furniture at that time. Eventually, it lost favour because it's such a labour intensive process, and this meant that furniture manufacturers opted for finishes that could be easily mass produced.

By the 1930s, other finishing methods such as sprays became more popular and this cause a sever decline in the amount of French Polishing that was being done, in fact it practically died a death.

How To Bring A Quality Piece Of Antique Furniture To Life

But when refinishing a piece of antique furniture, French Polishing is one of the best and most effective methods for restoring the pieces to their original luster. It can create a mirror-like finish that adds to the appearance and quality of any piece of antique furniture.

This is true for antique dining room furniture which may have to endure every day use, as well as living room furniture and bedroom furniture. The finish that French Polish gives the furniture enhances the colour and provides a warmer look than a spray on finish.

What Exactly Is French Polish?

French polish is made by adding denatured alcohol to something called shellac. The shade can be varied to match the type of wood that is being refinished. A rubbing pad, often made of cotton wool wrapped in a square of white cotton is used to apply the polish to the piece of furniture.

The polish is applied in circular motions and is extremely time intensive. The coats are built up slowing by using many applications of polish. This process can take several days and many coats to complete, depending on the piece and the number of applications.

French polishing can be sensitive to heat, so you should be careful to never set hot mugs, or dishes on its surface. The good news is it is also one of the few finishes that can be repaired, which is why antique furniture can be rejuvenated with a little work and attention.

The aesthetic value of French Polishing can't be matched either. Using cheaper, easier finishes does not give the same quality, nor does it do your piece of antique furniture the justice that it deserves.

French polishing was considered a lost art for many years, but today, there are a few of us industrious craftsmen that are reviving the art.

If, for example you have a piece of antique oak furniture that is looking a little tired, you should perhaps try to find someone who's an expert at furniture restoration and French Polishing. When you see the results of your restored antique furniture, you'll be glad you took the time to find a true craftsman.

Dave Hicks is the founder and owner of D J Hicks Antique Furniture based in the Cotswolds in the UK. You can see the quality of his antique reproduction furniture, cabinet making, upholstery and restoration services by visiting his site at djhicksantiquefurniture.co.uk

Share Article

Related Articles