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French Polishing Furniture, NYC

French Polishing is the name given to the process of coating wood with a solution of shellac dissolved in alcohol, using a "rubber" made of rag and cotton wool instead of with a brush. The alcohol evaporates, leaving the shellac deposited upon the wood. When applied correctly it produces what is possibly the finest looking finish for the furniture.


Shellac was first introduced into Europe about the 16th Century, but the term FRENCH POLISH was not used until about 1820, when the process was developed by a French cabinet maker.


Dining Table Frechpolishing

Dining Table French polishing

Leather Top Desk French polishing
Italian Directoire Period Chest Drawers French Polishing

Leather Top Desk French Polishing
Italian Directoire Period Chest Drawers French Polishing

A reproduction Chippendale-style writing desk is French polished to perfection to protect its glistening surface.

French polishing 18th century Italian furniture

French polishing 18th century Marquetry Dressing Table
Italian Chestdrawers

French polishing 18th century Marquetry Dressing Table
Italian Chestdrawers

This 1920's piano retained it's original French polished finish. The finish was damaged by the sun, and oxidation, and was dull and semi-opaque.
French polishing removed the damaged finish without changing the patina acquired by the sun-bleached veneer and revived the original luster.

Grand Piano French Polishing

Grand Piano French Polishing

Conservation of French Polish and Other Clear Finishes

  • •  Table or other furniture finishes that are damaged should be conserved to appear original, conserving the patina consistent with the clients goals

  • •  French Polishing should match original for furniture of the period. High-style French Empire or Rococo pieces will have a mirror polish, much glossier and perfect than is appropriate for most English George I, George II, or George III furniture

  • •  Dark rings from water-related bacterial discoloration should be removed as non-invasively as possible, chemically bleaching, without altering the adjacent wood, or requiring sanding which would destroy the original patina that is present when the dark ring is removed

  • •  Other finishes should also be kept consistent with the original, with the use of oil or copal varnishes, and wax. We custom produce varnishes to match as needed

French Polishing Gallery

Italian marquetry chest, ca. 18th century                              Millholland & Olson - piano restoration

                   Bank Boardroom                                           Princeton College American Empire Sideboard