French Polishing Tips - 1



It must be borne in mind when restoring old pieces of furniture that the whole object of the exercise is to preserve the "look" of the job.

The beauty of old furniture lies in the fact that the wood and the polish have faded and matured over a long period of years and have developed a patina which is very hard to match up to once the surface film is broken through. Great care should be taken when attempting to clean up an old surface ready for restoring.

Removing Dirt

It is a good thing to remember that all you are trying to do is remove all the dirt and usual household pollution, cigarette smoke, coal fire smoke etc; which has settled on the piece over the years. There is no need to take drastic steps to remove it; after all the only thing that you are trying to achieve is to clean up a very thin film of polish, without actually breaking through the film. In most cases a perfectly clean surface can be achieved by simply washing the piece with warm water and soap. If this is carefully done, all that may be necessary to produce a finished surface would be a thorough rubbing with a dry cloth and then rewaxing with a good quality beeswax based wax, making sure that the wax is thoroughly wiped off.

For the more stubborn areas of dirt, it is a good practice to use a solution of white spirit and oil in a 10:1 ratio. Apply this solution liberally to the job and allow a couple of minutes contact time before removing it, then take a piece of very fine steel wool and very gently rub over the surface, following the grain. This method should remove any of the remaining dirt.

Dealing with Paint Spots

One of the problems facing the restorer is paint spots. These take the form of little hard spots of paint or emulsion flicked on to the job over the years by successive toshers. The temptation here is to remove these spots using sandpaper. If this is carelessly done, a great deal of damage can be caused in the surrounding areas. The using of too coarse a grade of sandpaper will immediately break through the film and also possibly through the stain as well, which would then create another problem of having to colour the affected area.

Attempting to soften these spots with hot water or white spirit and then wiping them off may result in some of the paint being run into the grain and settling there again, creating problems. The simplest way to remove these spots is by using the fingernails; most can be flicked off this way.

The more stubborn spots can be successfully removed with the aid of a penknife carefully used. Place the penknife firmly against the spot and gently prise upwards; this should break the adhesion of the paint to the polish without damaging the polish in any way.

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