French Polish is one of the oldest furniture finishes, primarily used on high quality furniture. It is a process using shellac, a resin secreted by the females of the lac insect, indigenous to Thailand and India. Shellac is processed and sold as dry flakes (pictured at right), which are dissolved in ethyl alcohol to make liquid shellac. The shellac is applied in many thin coats resulting in a very high gloss surface, with a deep color and “pop-the-grain” vibrancy.
The finish is softer that modern varnishes and lacquers, and is particularly sensitive to spills of water and alcohol. However it is more easily repaired and blended into the existing finish.
French Polish has great environmentally friendly qualities: it lends itself well to sustainability as it allows us to restore many pieces of wooden furniture rather than throw them out, thereby saving valuable timber. It’s a natural product (shellac and alcohol) and through careful management, the whole process can be kept safe for the environment.
From the time it replaced oil and wax finishes in the 19th century, shellac was one of the dominant wood finishes in the western world until it was largely replaced by nitrocellulose lacquer in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, French Polish is highly valued when durability is not as issue and a painstaking finish can restore a valuable piece to its original luster.
Riquelme Restoration provides expert French polish application. Please contact Andres today for a free consultation.