A Wood Finish for Royalty: What is French Polish?
French polish is a traditional finishing technique used to enhance the natural beauty of fine woods, such as mahogany, rosewood, walnut, and cherrywood, which are commonly used in French and continental antique pieces. This technique has been employed for over three centuries to create the unique lustrous and glossy finish that characterizes museum-quality furniture.
In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as well as the Art Deco period quality pieces were finished with French polish. The technique that was used then, is the same one that we use in our workshop. It involves several steps, starting with cleaning the wood from its old finish, then staining it with the appropriate color of stain or ebonized with natural a powder made from ebony wood. The actual final finish coating is “shellac”. It is a natural resin harvested by the female insect in Indonesia ( she-lac ). To create the liquid finish, shellac flakes are mixed with denatured alcohol. Craftsmen then apply the mixture to the wood and hand-rub it multiple times to achieve the desired luster and shine. This is a traditional method that requires the expertise of craftsmen, the depth and gloss of the final finishes cannot be reproduced by synthetic varnishes.
What is interesting about the French polish finish is the natural origin of the materials used, particularly the shellac. The resin is obtained by scraping the secretions of female lac insects, which are native to India and Southeast Asia. The insects excrete a resin to create a cocoon around themselves, and this substance is harvested and processed into shellac.
Shellac Flakes before they are grounded to be mixed with denatured alcohol and obtain the magical finish
The name “lac” comes from the French word for “she,” referring to the female lac insect that produces the resin. The use of shellac as a finish for furniture has been popular for centuries due to its beautiful shine and durability. It is also a versatile substance that can be used to create shiny candies, which adds a touch of femininity to the technique. Overall, the French polish finish is a beautiful and natural way to bring out the best in fine woods and create a stunning look for antique pieces.
New Arrivals finished with french polish