French Polishing Tips - 2


Although to finish a job "in the white", in a natural fashion appears easy, there can be some pitfalls for the beginner, these mainly concern colouring. First wet up sections of the job with methylated spirits to determine if any staining has to be done: this will apply particularly where the job is part solid and part veneered. Slight adjustments may be needed to bring the surfaces to a general colour. Usually a weak water stain will achieve this; it may be necessary to "stop" a dark section first. "Stopping" means applying a coat of polish on the dark sections to prevent the water stain penetrating, this makes the staining of the lighter parts easier as the polish tends to reveal the colour more.

Having balanced the base colour of the job, allow the stain to dry then apply a suitable woodfiller if this is needed and allow to dry. Now proceed to apply french polish to the job. Several terms are used to describe this procedure such as "skinning-in", "washing-in" and "fadding-in".

Having applied a thin skin of polish to the job allow to dry, then fill up any holes that may still be there, minor holes can be filled with japan wax or beeswax, both of these are hard waxes, remove the excess wax by carefully papering with a fine grade of sandpaper, most of excess can be removed by using the back of the paper, remove the rest by using the cutting side, this is good practise when working on stained surfaces as it reduces the possibility of breaking through the stain which would then necessitate an unwanted colouring problem.

Major defects may be filled with brummer stopper, hard stick stopper, or hard shellac, making sure that the stopper blends with the general background colour of the job, again great care should be taken when using these hard stoppers that they do not get spread out over an unnecessarily wide area as this will cause more cleaning off to be done and will increase the chances of breaking through the stain; remove the excess with a sharp chisel followed by a light papering with a fine grade sandpaper.

Having completed this stage lightly sandpaper the job down with a fine grade sandpaper, dust the job off with a clean rag and apply a couple of fads of polish completely around the job.

Do not get too big a build of polish on at this stage as it tends to reflect too much and can make the colouring process a little more difficult, a very thin sheen is all that is necessary, the job is now ready for colouring.