French polish

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A high gloss finish applied to many European furniture pieces in the 19th century. French polish consists of a dilute solution of Shellac in ethanol. Some recipes contain small amounts of Sandarac, mastic, Dammar, and/or Benzoin resin. The varnish is applied in multiple thin coats. Often a few drops of oil are added as the polish is rubbed on. Each coat is hardened then polished prior to the addition of the next layer.

Synonyms and Related Terms

shellac polish (Br.); poli français (Fr.)

Resources and Citations

  • B.Baron, "French Polishing" in The Techniques of Traditional Woodfinishing, Batsford, London, 1987, p.46-58.
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Paint in America, Robert Moss (ed.), John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1994 Comment: Ian Bristow "House Painting in Britain"
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954

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