Hints and Problems For French Polish


A finished french polished surface should be left at least a week to harden before you use it. Wax will protect it, but reduce the brilliance a little; if you want an eggshell or a flatter finish, apply pumice with a felt pad and oil or rottenstone powder dry with a dulling brush (furni¬ture rubbing brush). Be extremely gentle; if you use oil, wipe it off and buff the surface with a clean soft cloth.

For awkward corners, mouldings and carvings, you can apply polish with a soft bear-, squirrel- or sable-hair mop, or use glaze, which is easy to apply and quick-drying. In fact a spirit varnish (gum benzoin in meths), glaze can be bought from trade suppliers. It is, however, less durable than polish itself. Lay a body of polish, then finish off with two or three coats of glaze, allowing them to harden properly between applications.

For the insides of cabinets and desks, where you want to seal and protect the surface but do not need a full french polished finish, use dry shining. This is basic polishing, without the grain filling or the use of oil. Fad and body enough just to fill the grain, using straight then circular strokes; after three or four applica¬tions, charge the rubber slightly more fully than usual and finish off with long, even strokes. Oil would have to be spirited off, defeating the whole object of speed and ease, so do not use any, but be extra careful to prevent the rubber sticking 3 for this link.

‘Stiffing’ is a technique for cabinet interiors and other areas where you cannot glide on and off the edges. Start at the edges and work towards the middle, lifting the rubber as you get there to overlap a stroke you have made from the other side. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do this without building up ridges; if you do get some, they can be smoothed very delicately with a spirit rubber after about half an hour’s hardening time.

Lubricating a french polish rubber with oil can be less controlled than just lubricating one sticky area of the surface, which many professionals prefer to do. Always be sparing with oil, and do not use it unless you really have to. Do not keep worrying away at a problem area, it will only get worse. Leave it to harden a few minutes and then see whether a wipe with polish will smooth it out. If not, paper it back when it’s hard.

Make sure there is no dampness in the surface. When repolishing an old piece, dismantle it as far as possible, taking off removable mouldings and marking them so they go back in the same place. Mount them on a strip of hardboard and fix them to a board to work on them, so the edges are held away from the surface. If you have stained a repair to match in and it lightens under the polish, tint some polish and brush that over the area, let it harden and seal it with a thin coat, then continue over the whole surface. If you are making panelled doors, try to polish the panel before you glue up the frame – the glue will not adhere to the polish, and there will be no problem getting your rubber into the corners. Other¬wise you must use the pear-shaped point of the rubber.

Make up felt- or blanket-covered battens to protect a polished surface when you have to do the other side; pad vice (vise) jaws like this too. Do not trail your shirt-buttons, jewellery or a loose edge of rag from the rubber over the work; keep your hands as free from flaky dried shellac as possible; pour polish and oil well away from the work; and, above all, start on small, unimportant surfaces and move on to more ambitious projects as you get the feel of the rubber and the polish.

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