French Polish Technique.

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Established Member
11 Jun 2012
Reaction score
This guy - Clickspring on YouTube - is an absolutely fantastic metalworker. He made this card press from plain stock using hand tools and a small lathe.


I'd love to know what people think of his french polishing technique. It obviously works, but this is the first time I've ever seen someone do it this way.

Hi Peri, apart from the final application of lighter fluid to remove any residual oil and him using olive oil as opposed to linseed oil this is exactly how I do it. I taught myself from numerous articles in my dad’s 1950s woodworker annuals.
So now you’ve made me think what is it I don’t know?
is pretty much how I was taught to do it apart from the type of oil
I've only ever tried french polishing once or twice. I remember watching my dad do it when I was a kid, and I've read a couple of articles over the years, and I dont remember anyone adding oil to the surface.

I might just have forgotten, or never noticed. I can remember the rubber being made, I remember the application, but I remember it as just being long strokes to cover the surface, letting it dry, then repeating - building up lots of thin, quick coats.

No wonder my attempts came out so bad if this is the way it's supposed to be done ! I may do some research and have another go :)

Thanks :)
The use of oil in French polishing is a bit contentious. Everyone uses some oil, but the problem is that you can easily get into the habit of using too much and too early, of adding oil the moment the rubber first grabs or stutters. There are other potential solutions at this stage, re-charging, more or less pressure, changing your speed, more spirit. But if you end up with too much oil you've got the problem of removing the oil, and the risk that oil gets trapped under subsequent shellac coats, compromising the finish in future years, When you see very experienced polishers work it's astonishing how sparing they are with oil, like moistening the bare tip of a matchstick with oil and then briefly dabbing that onto their rubber.
And you use linseed oil?

I'd have thought the lighter fluid would've destroyed the surface ...... obviously it doesn't really react.
Lighter fluid is great stuff for cleaning many finishes - it's safe for shellac and nitrocellulose and so is used by luthiers world-wide. White spirit is a slightly heavier distillate - it works well too but takes longer to flash off and is smellier.

I'd guess both are not so good on oil varnishes until they've cured. Should be safe for polyester (as opposed to polyurethane) and water-based finishes.

Acetone is the really bad guy - pre-catalysed polyester is immune, but most others dislike it.