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recipio

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Chaps,
I'm about to get into French polishing my jewellery boxes. Up to this I have used Chestnut lacquer sprays but have been convinced by Andrew Crawford's books that French polishing is the way to go.
All the literature suggests filling the grain prior to polishing - but with what ? Pumice is mentioned as well as off the shelf filler products. Will any of the numerous 'Wood' fillers do as opposed to 'Grain' fillers which are harder to find ? For a blond wood appearance I use birds eye or fiddle back maple veneers. Is it even necessary to fill the grain of maple ?
Its a difficult topic to get firm answers on !
 

Phil Pascoe

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This was recommended by someone, as I marked it for future reference.
 

Cabinetman

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I French polished a pair of interior doors in my house and after reading copious 1950s accounts on how to do it in my Dad’s old Woodworker annuals I opted to fill the grain with putty, Labourious but on a small box it would be ok, it was a few years ago but I seem to remember I left it to dry for a couple of weeks, it was just the grain I was filling so the amount in each place was very small.
It worked well and blended in with the oak very well. Just been and had a look and I can’t see whats putty and whats oak. Ian
 

sihollies

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I create alot of parquetry items and have the problem of filling the grain of numerous shades/colurs of timber. I have used Aqua coat clear wood grain filler prior to finishing with alot of success.
It's not the cheapest product, but it does go a long way.
It isn't easy to find in the UK, but i normally buy from:

Aqua Coat Clear Wood Grain Filler

Good luck and I hope this is of some help.
 
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mrpercysnodgrass

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Hi Recipio.
There are many ways to fill the grain. It can be filled with whatever you are going to use to polish it with. So if you are going to polish with SPB you could first apply some thinned down SPB with a rag pushing it hard into the grain, let it harden off and repeat as necessary depending on the depth of the grain. This method can also be used if finishing with varnish or lacquer. Commercial fillers like Jenkins thixotropic (my favourite) are clay based ( cabinetman's suggestion of using putty is not so bonkers as it first seems :) these are expensive fillers and they go rock hard in the tin if not used in a fairly short space of time.
One of the cheapest and in my opinion the best grain filler is pumice powder. It has to be a fine grade like FFF 360 mesh.
This is my method.
Make up a solution of 90% alcohol 10% shellac. Make a shaker (small container with holes drilled in the lid) mine is a Jamaican Jerk spice tin! Fill with pumice and shake a fine dusting over the surface to be filled. Get a cotton dish cloth (the sort you see in the pound shop with red or blue stitching to the edges) Fold one or two dish cloths into a ball giving a smooth round surface when it is in your hand. Load it quite generously with you alcohol/shellac mix then rub the pumice into the grain using a circular motion with quite a lot of pressure, when it dries out straighten with the grain and repeat. It will look like nothing is happening for quite a while but persevere and you will suddenly have a dull sheen on the surface. Leave to harden off (overnight is best) Cut back with 400grit then polish with a rubber. Because the amount of shellac used is minimal it will give a very tough finish.
You mentioned using maple and sycamore. If you are using these timbers you must use a white polish or you will get an amber tint to your finished surface like Patrice Lejeune in the video that Brian linked to. White polish is very brittle as all of the natural waxes have been taken out so using white polish with pumice greatly improves the toughness.
 

Cabinetman

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Hi Percy, yes that’s right I had forgotten what the name of the powder was, pumice, hadn’t the faintest idea where to get it at the time, this was 15 years ago, ( pre me and computers), they recommended keeping it in a bag called a ponce? The idea was that you sort of plonked the bag down and the powder was deposited on the board and then as you said with the shellac, I do remember though that they were most insistent that the outer covering of the wad should be fine cotton – they used cotton wool in the centre of the wad, The dishcloths you describe do you just use them at this grain filling stage or generally for French polishing? Ian
 

recipio

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Thanks all -- some interesting answers there ! It seem that there is no universally accepted way to pre fill the grain. Everybody has their own formula. I have to say grinding volcanic ash ( pumice ) into the surface seems a bit strange. I think I will start with the proprietary fillers and see how I get on. They are tricky to find as your average DIY store will not stock them Any further suggestions welcome.
 

J-G

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I've been disappointed with Rustin's - quite expensive - little tins, which has been mentioned, go hard in the tin if not used and plied with white spirit every week, but found

Morrells Multi Purpose Wood Filler Tub Various Colours 500g

back in February and although I use it infrequently it has remained 'workable' without the need to add white spirit. They also do a 250g tub.
 

custard

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I have to say grinding volcanic ash ( pumice ) into the surface seems a bit strange.
The proprietary tins are the easiest solution, like others I prefer Jenkins but any large brand will probably turn out okay. But if you decide you want something a little more sophisticated then the pumice route is the way to go.

A pumice grain fill is actually the backbone of French Polishing, and the amalgam of ground wood dust, pumice, and shellac delivers a translucent and incredibly tough grain filler that's generally judged to be the most natural and beautiful grain filler available. Sure, it's hard work, time consuming, and requires some skill. But if only the best will do then pumice is the preferred option.
 

bjm

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Any idea what is the 'non-hardening mineral oil please?
I don't know precisely (I haven't watched that video for a few years now) but it may just be olive oil, which other polishers use. I think he has an Instagram account so you could try contacting him. He is also a partner with this chap who would probably be able to help.
 

bjm

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Thanks Brian.

Any guesses as to the purpose of the oil? Nothing obvious from the video.
It's just to act as a lubricant. I rarely use French Polish now, although I have been tempted to give it another try. Everything I've read says it's the one thing that novices use too much of as you have to get rid of it towards the latter stages of polishing. More experienced polishers will no doubt add more valuable information to this........
 

Cabinetman

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Yes as Brian said it’s used as a lubricant to stop the shellac filled wad sticking and juddering across the surface.
All the old books said to use linseed oil which is what I’ve always used, but whatever floats your boat I’m sure olive oil will do the trick. Ian
PS predictive texting spells Olive Oyl like this, by that takes me back! Popeye ha ha.
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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I create alot of parquetry items and have the problem of filling the grain of numerous shades/colurs of timber. I have used Aqua coat clear wood grain filler prior to finishing with alot of success.
It's not the cheapest product, but it does go a long way.
It isn't easy to find in the UK, but i normally buy from:

Aqua Coat Clear Wood Grain Filler

Good luck and I hope this is of some help.
I have not heard of this filler before, at £30 for one pint it is probably the most expensive too! Do you find it will fill grains equally on your parquetry? so if you have a rosewood next to a maple will just one application fill both grains ready for finishing or would you have to put more into the rosewood? Also, it is water based so do you have any problems with the grain raising? And what are you using over the top to finish? Answers on a postcard please :)
 

mrpercysnodgrass

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Hi Percy, yes that’s right I had forgotten what the name of the powder was, pumice, hadn’t the faintest idea where to get it at the time, this was 15 years ago, ( pre me and computers), they recommended keeping it in a bag called a ponce? The idea was that you sort of plonked the bag down and the powder was deposited on the board and then as you said with the shellac, I do remember though that they were most insistent that the outer covering of the wad should be fine cotton – they used cotton wool in the centre of the wad, The dishcloths you describe do you just use them at this grain filling stage or generally for French polishing? Ian
I do use a ponce too but I have not heard of anyone plonking the bag onto the surface, I would have thought this would deposit an uneven amount in areas. The 'normal' way is to have the ponce bag on a stick, I hold the ponce over the table and tap the stick which releases the pumice in a fine cloud. the ponce bag must be of a reasonably open mesh cloth such as mutton cloth.
The dishcloths I use are for working the pumice into the grain, the open weave stops clogging as it picks up excess pumice and because there is so little shellac in the mix the detached fibres from the cloth do not stick or if they do can be rubbed off with the hand. When the grain is full I then go on to polish with a rubber made of cotton wool and covered with fine cotton or linen which has been well washed over many years (old bed sheets that are at the end of their useful life are the best)
 
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mrpercysnodgrass

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Any idea what is the 'non-hardening mineral oil please?
What he said in the video is, some people use non drying mineral oil but he does not like it, (and nor do I) He did say what oil he used but I could not catch what it was as the sound was not good but I suspect it is raw linseed although it did look pretty clear in his tub so may have been something else! The non drying oil used in French polishing is White oil, this is not an oil for amateurs, it requires many years of practice to use it as it has to be taken out completely using the 'spiriting off' method before the final rubber.
 

Peri

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The short video I posted in this thread French Polish Technique. is what inspired me to have a go at polishing.

He doesn't cover grain filling unfortunately, but he covers the application of the polish in a concise manner.
 
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