Collectors of antique furniture are well aware of the need to protect and preserve it in order to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Thus, in addition to the regular dusting and cleaning, polishing woodwork is a regular feature of its maintenance regimen. Not only for antique furniture, but other woodwork as well a shiny coat of polish makes it stand out beautifully at the same time increasing its resistance against damage.
Most furniture craftsmen and experts bet their money on a polishing technique called French polishing. The lacquer used contains an important component, shellac. This resin is secreted by the female lac beetle and is deposited on the trees it occupies in the form of tube formations. The lac beetle is commonly spotted India and Thailand. The lac deposits are scraped from the bark of the trees and are further melted either into brittle pieces or thin sheets. It is combined with alcohol to form liquid shellac. Although it comes across as a modern innovation, French polishing for furniture is not new. It was first used during the Victorian Era french polishers in westminster.
The Advantages of Using French Polish
There are several advantages of using French polish. The first one among them is its availability in different shades and colors. The color of the shellac variety depends on the tree the lac beetle lives on. It comes in a deep reddish-brown shade best suited for mahogany, deep garnet, shades of orange, shades of yellow and translucent white shades for light-colored woods.
Shellac greatly enhances the appearance of timber. Wood coated with shellac develops a tough surface and a glossy mirror-like finish. Not only this, the rich color and luster of the polish can be used to conceal natural flaws in the wood and highlight its attributes. Another advantage of using French polishing is that it is easy to repair.
Like every other lacquer used to coat wood, French polish seals the wood. It makes it less porous and thereby protects it from damage by environmental elements such as water, humidity and sunlight. It also does not allow water marks and other stains to become deep set.
Despite the benefits of French Polishing, we cannot deny that it a tedious and labor intensive job. It follows a series of steps to complete the woodworking project successfully. It involves working the alcohol thinned shellac in layers on the wood.
It starts with sanding the surface of the furniture piece that needs to be coated with the French polish. Creating a smooth surface enables the polish to spread out evenly. Thereafter, it is wiped with a damp cloth to get rid of the sawdust. The polish is applied either using a polish mop or a pad. The polish is applied in the direction of the grain. Shellac is sticky and hence, needs to be spread out as soon as it applied. The polish is reapplied after the first coat has dried completely.
Why get it done professionally?
Expensive wood varieties such as Walnut, Mahogany and Rosewood respond best to French polishing. A quality polish is largely determined by the skill and techniques used. An unsteady and unskilled hand creates for a shoddy job. Professionals trained in the task are able to complete it in the minimum time possible requiring fewer materials. Shellac is commercially available. However, a few wood craftsmen also make their own blends.