Forgotten Furniture Polishes - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Forgotten Furniture Polishes

 In Feature Articles

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.”

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