Oct 182011
French polishing in Surrey


French polishing is an almost daily part of our furniture repair in Surrey and it is, of course, an essential skill for anyone involved in antique restoration in Surrey – or elsewhere!

French polishing is a ‘dying’ art and a skill that is particularly difficult to master.  It became popular in the 19th Century together with mahogany furniture and was used extensively for a long time.  However, it is very labour intensive and requires extensive training to achieve a satisfactory finish.  This meant that French polishing became uneconomic as furniture making moved into the mass production age.

Certainly, by the 1930s French polishing was being replaced by all the major furniture manufacturers by sprays and lacquers.  These were much quicker to apply, required less skill and, generally, were more robust.

However, few people would deny that wood that has been sprayed or lacquered looks as beautiful as a piece that has been French polished.  This is because French polishing results in an effect called Chatoyancy.

Chatoyancy describes the appearance of wood when it has an almost three dimensional look – as though it has been left wet, with the natural grain of the wood appearing ‘raised’ and more obvious.  This, of course, is a test for any piece of fine furniture as the magnifying effect of French polishing will show up any defects in the timber used!

Needless to say, French polishing wood means that the piece concerned has to be treated with some care because French polish is relatively soft and marks easily.  However, unlike lacquers and sprays, damaged French polish can be repaired relatively easily by someone skilled in furniture repair.

That is not to say that the process of furniture repair, when it comes to damaged French polish, is simple and quick.  It is not – if for no better reason than the number of coats of French polish required to match the depth and colour of the French polish elsewhere on the piece of furniture concerned.  To do this can involve the careful application of 15 or 20 coats!

Of course, as I have written elsewhere, the patina of a piece of furniture or an antique object is of great importance.  Indeed, it can be an essential part of the innate value of the piece concerned.  So, any new French polishing undertaken has to be very carefully performed so as to blend in with the existing patina of the rest of the piece.  This is skillful work indeed and often the proof of a fine craftsman.

At our workshops in Shere we are constantly involved in French polishing.  It really is a daily part of our furniture repair in Surrey and the standard of our French polishing is something about which we are very proud!

So, if you need French polishing in Surrey then do contact us!