High Gloss French Polishing

brian forbes westfarthing woodworks author biography about me experience

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Mahogany with French Polished Shellac.

This board was one of my very first test pieces for the French Polishing process, and it has an extremely high gloss.  The reflection on the wood is from the desk lamp that is positioned above it, and you can see the shape of the light bulb easily.  This was after several coats.

French polishing is just a method for applying shellac to wood.  It is a far more involved method than brushing or rag applying the finish, however it can create an incredible gloss that will look far more beautiful than applying it using other methods.

The basic version of the technique is that shellac and alcohol are applied to a rubbing pad with a little mineral oil for lubrication.  The pad is rubbed on the surface of the wood in many different directions and patterns, and the shellac is transferred to the surface.

These sessions are repeated with drying time in between them and the result is an extremely glossy finish that has an older look than lacquer or polyurethane.  The surface will not be as durable as a modern finish, but can still be handled gently and last a long time.

The best shellac to use is de-waxed shellac flakes that are mixed with alcohol before using.  These last almost forever when kept dry, and the advantage is you only need to mix up what you need each time, which saves product.

I wanted to share this for the beauty aspect more than the instruction aspect.  I have a few videos on my youtube site for French Polishing if you are looking for a method.  However, there are better ways to finish wood that are more durable and less time consuming than French Polishing.

Check out my article on How to Finish with Tru-Oil for a little less involved method of finishing that will look beautiful as well.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

  • 20 Years Experience in Woodworking
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