French Polish Simplified

french polishPlus: Add a touch of glaze to create a century (or more!) of wear.

by Alfred Sharp
pages 33-37

Shellac forms the basis for one of the finest wood finishes ever devised – French polish. The soft, smooth luster appears to be more like highly polished wood than a thick, plasticy coating. Add some judicious glazing, and you can create a finish that rivals the patina of a fine old antique. Much has been written about French polishing, and a lot of that material makes the process seem more difficult than it really is. Some nontraditional procedures I’ll introduce can make the process go a lot faster. I’ll try to cut through the mystique and convince you to give it a try.

First you must obtain shellac – and here’s where some of the confusion begins. There are a dozen or more varieties of shellac, ranging from not very refined to highly refined. If you’re just starting out, it’s better to go with the more highly refined varieties. These range from orange shellac, which imparts a distinct amber cast to your finish and can be very nice on darker woods, to super platinum, which is nearly clear and suitable for lighter woods (or any situation where you don’t want the finishing material to impart any color).

Website: Visit the author’s website at alfredsharp.com for a look at his museum-quality work in both traditional and contemporary styles.
Interview: Read our interview with Alf Sharp.
In Our Store: “Create a Newport Tea Table with Alf Sharp,” available as a video download or on DVD.
To Buy:Router Tricks for the Period Woodworker with Alf Sharp,” available as a video download or on DVD.

From the June 2017 issue, #232