Forgotten Furniture Polishes

As anyone who’s met me (or read some of my blog entries) likely knows, I’m rather enamored of obscure play references, archaic word usages and sesquipedalism. On my desk, I’ve a calendar of “Forgotten English,” and every morning I like to rip off the previous day’s page, peruse the new word of the day and see if I know (or can surmise) the meaning before reading the definition. (It aggrieves me to admit that more than half the time, I can’t.)

Monday’s entry was “treacle up.” I thought it might mean to take one’s medicine along with a generous helping of molasses to mask the taste. I was mistaken. The given definition is, “To rub, polish. Our parents and grandparents polished their furniture with a homemade mixture of beer, treacle, vinegar, & c.” It was extracted from Edward Gepp’s “A Contribution to an Essex Dialect Dictionary” (1923).

It sounds like a good way to create a sticky situation. Treacle is a syrup produced in sugarcane refining. And beer, well, I’d rather drink it. But a quick Google search reveals that many traditional furniture polishes call for beer, vinegar and some form of sugar. But my favorite find is in “Mackenzie’s five thousand receipts in all the useful and domestic arts.” That “receipt” calls for pumice stone and water, followed by powdered tripoli and boiled linseed oil. How does one powder a Libyan town?!

How about you , have you tried any old-fashioned “receipts” for polish , or like me, would you rather drink the beer?

– Megan Fitzpatrick, managing editor


To learn more about finishing techniques that don’t involve syrup and beer, check out “Flexner on Finishing.”

4 thoughts on “Forgotten Furniture Polishes

  1. Brady Seymore

    Methinks a Conway`s Irish Ale would be a better substitute for the Commodore`s brew……

    Or perhaps maybe a mix of beeswax & turpentine, that seems to work rather well!

  2. Keith Mealy

    A few years ago, I started reading all the books I could find on furniture restoration. At the library, there was a handful of books of British origin from the ’60s and ’70s. Almost all had a secret recipe for "furniture reviver" or some such. The standard ingredients were linseed oil, turpentine, vinegar, and ofter another one or two ingredients such as beeswax or "butter of antimony" (what ever that might be).

    Then I read this article,

    that likened it to evil in a jar (even more so than Pledge(R)) I’m glad I never got around to trying it.

Comments are closed.