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WHEN IS FRENCH POLISH-- NOT FRENCH POLISHED.

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norman

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Hi.
Over the Xmas break, I had a chat with no. 3 son over the question of French polish. He wanted to know the difference’s between a French polish finish and French Polishing. He had it firmly in his head that they were the same, which of cause they are not. The confusion is caused over the use of the term French polish for shellac polish. Shellac polish can be applied in number of ways, brush / mop / rubber / fad / spray. Which will produce a finish called french polished, there are even test kits which tell you this. But in fact are testing for the use of shellac polish in the finish.

French Polishing on the other hand is the method using shellac polish, oil, meths, pumice and a rubber to produce the finish which to my mind is the finest that can be obtained using shellac.

When I first started to French polish in the workshop it was some three months of full time polishing before I managed to have a piece sent out of the workshop without the correcting hand of the master being required. It looks easy to do but as it is a balance between the elements that you use, it requires the right touch to be learnt. Also as each piece has it’s own little quirks, no one method on its own, does not always do the trick. .

Your comments welcome on this.

Norman
 

Chris Knight

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Norman,
You are right of course that French polishing is a method rather than a substance. Manufacturers of shellac based finishes love to confuse the issue by labelling them as "Polish" or "French Polish" etc.

However, I also feel that those who perpetuate the myth that it takes forever to learn to do French Polishing don't help the cause. I am not saying that someone who has been French polishing for years can't do a better job than folk with far less experience - I'd be on a hiding to nothing! But I do say that one can learn to do a fair French polishing job (on a flat surface) in about a week or so.

Also, that if you mix up fresh shellac, you can dispense with the oil which saves spiriting-off and all that malarkey.

I think the biggest problem for people trying to learn refined finishing methods is the time involved. Many things just can't be hurried and can take weeks just because that is the nature of the beast. No wonder woodworkers who mostly like making turn to Danish oil or similar!
 

Adam

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waterhead37":166u071f said:
No wonder woodworkers who mostly like making turn to Danish oil or similar!
Just like me! I've no time for time-consuming finishes. I just haven't the time.
It's a shame, but you have to make comprimises when you work full time.

Adam

PS, Norman, my Aunt is sending me down a small stool, which my grandma used to sit on as a child, which has a leg which has been broken and repaired (badly) several times. It has failed yet again. Any chance I could email you some photos (or if I pop over sometime get you to look in person) or get you to forward some suggestions on how to proceed with a repair. It has no value, other than sentimental and I can replace the entire leg if required, but it'd be nice to repair if my skill is up to it. I'll be picking it up in a week or two, so should get some idea of whats involved then.
 

Philly

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The great thing about Shellac is its quick drying time-nice thin coats that allow you put just the finish on that you want. No waiting 24 hours for it to dry!
Also doesn't yellow the wood like oils-a big plus.
Only my thoughts,
Philly :D
 

norman

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Hi Chris

Valid points made.
I did not intend to imply how hard it is to learn French polishing, merely the point that there is a knack to be learnt. The items that the workshop was doing at that time were for the Paris and Rome antique trade, so very bright clean finish required (very much in your face) with all traces of age / repairs hidden. Hence the quality control. Not at all like the UK trade requirements which are mostly a faded / aged / but well loved style of finish. Small faults then become part of its charm.

As you say a fair French polishing job can be learnt very quickly on simple flat surfaces, but how many times is that all, that’s required in a polishing job?

Fresh shellac is easier to work with. Covered, that in the comment on Shellac polish.

Stand two items side by side and the differences in the finish are very clear to see between Shellac polish and French polish. It is however as always horses for courses, with the requirement of the customer paramount.
Regards.

Adam
drop it round to the workshop when you can fit it in, be nice to see you again
Norman
 

The Restorer

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Sounds good to me Norman.

I think that French Polishing is more about learning the feel as opposed to technique. The technique can be taught relatively quickly but, it's that all important feel as the rubber glides across the surface putting down the very thinnest of coats, before it grabs and rips up the surface destroying your efforts! Of course, then being able to put it all right is part of the Masters art!

The trouble with finishing is that it as seen as a means to an end. It's the last part of the job and often has no thought given to it until the last minute.

Oil finishes are great, but who hasn't tried to rush the process and put on athick brushed coat trying to speed up the process only for it to become a sticky mess, full of bits?

Freshly made shellac is a must. I admit to using shop bought specials that are supposedly more heat resistant only for the job to come back due to a later problem. Workshop conditions also play a big part. The workshop has got to be as dust free as possible, with an even heat and humidity to achieve the best results.

Like everything finishing takes practice, you couldn't plane a piece to the required size and keep it square first time out!

Steve.
 

norman

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.Steve
I could not put that any better!!

I think that French Polishing is more about learning the feel as opposed to technique. The technique can be taught relatively quickly but, it's that all important feel as the rubber glides across the surface putting down the very thinnest of coats, before it grabs and rips up the surface destroying your efforts! Of course, then being able to put it all right is part of the Masters art!



That and the control of the smear are the most important things to get right. a bit like learning to ride a bike once mastered you wonder what all the fuss was about.

Norman
 

norman

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Hi



That and the control of the smear are the most important things to get right. a bit like learning to ride a bike once mastered you wonder what all the fuss was about.

Norman[/quote]

Thought I had better try to explain ( control of the smear ) as it could mean so many things depending on who reads it.

The smear is what you obtain after you have a few coats laid down and you are ready to start building up the body (depth ) of the polish this is when oil is first introduced , to lubercate the rubber this enables you to cover the serface without the fear of marking,damage etc. as you work the rubber there is a flash of a smear due to the spirit in the polish, if this happens you have the mix about right. If its not there not enough oil in the mix, If its there all the time and not just a flash you are using too much oil or not enough sprirt in the mix and you need to ajust the mix.

hope this helps
Norman
 

houtslager

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oh what memories you have brought back Norman :oops: , I did my three years apprenticeship in furniture making/restoration in Germany, where they did it slightly differently :?
I was then sent by my Dad to another workshop to "learn" the art of Restoring furniture for the trade LOL !
It was four MONTHS BEFORE I was even allowed to use a mop!
Then the first job I had to do , was the inside of a Double Doored wardrobe, whereapon, I fell out of the robe ! :roll: PMSL ! now, but then I was so embaressed :oops: ,well that was 20 odd years ago, now I am totally resistent to ALL forms of finishing even ACID ! :? I suppose between all those alcohols,ethanols,toluenes , paint strippers Dutch Coffee and rollies {tailor made ciggies :lol: } I am now a walking BIO hazard :shock:
Oh well thanks for a brief reminder of a previous life.

HS > Now back in Amsterdam hoping to find work !
 

norman

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houtslager":14dawyg5 said:
oh what memories you have brought back Norman :oops: , I did my three years apprenticeship in furniture making/restoration in Germany, where they did it slightly differently :?
I was then sent by my Dad to another workshop to "learn" the art of Restoring furniture for the trade LOL !
It was four MONTHS BEFORE I was even allowed to use a mop!
Then the first job I had to do , was the inside of a Double Doored wardrobe, whereapon, I fell out of the robe ! :roll: PMSL ! now, but then I was so embaressed :oops: ,well that was 20 odd years ago, now I am totally resistent to ALL forms of finishing even ACID ! :? I suppose between all those alchols,ethanols,toluenes , paint strippers Dutch Coffee and rollies I am now a walking BIO hazard :shock:
Oh well thanks for a brief reminder of a previous life.

HS > Now back in Amsterdam hoping to find work !
Hi HS

Glad to oblige. Best of luck with work search all the best for the new year.
Norman
 
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