French Polishing

Nursing your furniture back to health…

Noel Chow – 28/8/17

Definitely the place to go if you need proper furniture restoration. I brought in a well used, well loved butler table which obviously had seen better days. It had water marks, uneven staining and varnish, deep scratch marks and a broken stand. The quote for reconditioning was very reasonable considering how much work needed to be done. I also appreciated the honesty on when work would commence and the duration it would take. It was definitely worth the wait. The final product was immaculate. The replacement part to fix the broken stand was barely distinguishable from the original piece. All scratches and nicks were smoothed out. Very even finish across all wood panels and polished to high gloss shine. Very happy with the result! Matthew, it was an exemplary job. Thank you very much!

French polishing; a time-honoured technique

French polishing is a wood finishing technique which originated in the late 1700s and which results in a surface with a beautiful sheen and a deep, rich

colour. French polishing is extremely labour intensive and takes many days (sometimes weeks) to achieve a satisfactory finish. It consists of applying
many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad, lubricated with oil. The rubbing pad is made up of absorbent cotton or wool cloth
wadding inside a square piece of fabric (usually soft cotton cloth) and is commonly referred to as a fad or rubber.

"French polish" is a process, not a material. The main material is shellac (a secretion from the Lac beetle), although there are several other
shellac-based finishes, not all of which class as French polishing.

It is considered to be one of the most beautiful ways to finish highly figured wood, but it is also recognised to be less durable than some other finishes.
It is softer than modern varnishes and lacquers and is quite sensitive to spills of water or alcohol, which often produce white cloudy marks. However, it
is more forgiving to work with and worn polish may sometimes be cleaned and improved, rather than stripped - which most modern finishes require if
aged or damaged.

Before and after…

The process of cleaning, reviving, polishing and waxing timber is one of the more satisfying elements of the work we carry out. Something that for so many years may have been neglected, mistreated or ignored by its former owner can be brought back to life with a little care and attention. With sensitive handling, the process enhances the grain, highlights and deepens the natural colour of the wood and preserves the natural patination that has accumulated over time and is frequently the aspect of restoration that has the most impressive before-and-after effect.

Workshop Opening Hours


If you want to pop-in to discuss a potential repair, rather than emailing with photos or telephoning, then please stick to weekdays as our restorers only work Monday to Friday and our general shop staff are not restoration experts.


If we've already given you an estimate for the repair or restoration of your furniture and asked you to bring it into the workshop, you can do so from our Islington workshop, 7 days a week, Monday - Saturday 10-6 and Sundays 11-5. Similarly, if we've completed the restoration and told you it's ready, you can also collect during these times, without appointment.

IMPORTANT - You can't leave items without our having already given you a price and scheduled your work, as our workshop has limited storage space - so please don't bring things in on spec and hope to be able to leave them. You'll get turned away and then be cross with us - and we don't want that ;)

Got a question about French polishing or refinishing a piece of furniture?

We can help - ask for a free estimate now!

Start off by emailing us some photos, as we can usually provide an estimate from them - and after that, if you would prefer to arrange for us to visit your home or office you can contact us; Click below or send photos to • [email protected], by 'phone on • +44 (0) 20 7359 4281, or in person by visiting our workshop at • 121-122 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QP

Email Us

Still unsure?

Not sure if it's something we would restore? Don't feel embarrassed to ask. If you're not sure what you've got, can't identify the wood, don't recognise the age or period - don’t worry, that's our job, not yours and we're very good at it too! We're here to provide you with free, honest advice. We'll tell you what it is, where it's from and whether or not it's worth restoring. We really can restore most things - you'd be surprised at the state of things we've been able to rescue. Click the Email Us button on the left for a free estimate or read more by clicking the button below.

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