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Old 10th Jan 2012, 8:58 am   #61
brenellic2000
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

The old, proven methods are always the best!!

Many forget to apply a dab of Linseed oil, or apply it too early, as this is really intended for the final 'polishing stages' when it acts as both a lubricant and drying oil before the meths is used to finally dry off any residue... but it's still easy to get it wrong and you never stop learning!

The wad's innards need to be asborbant but slowly release the shellac - so any wool or cotton waste is fine; the critical material is the 'rubber' which must be lint free, else you'll for ever be leaving debris!

Barry
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Old 10th Jan 2012, 2:03 pm   #62
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,

Thanks Kevin; I've never heard of "baled cotton thread" before although I worked for many years in the mill but I'm always willing to learn and to try something new. Could you please expand on what this material is and is it readily available? I agree that Button Polish is a good general polish and gives a nice colour but if the cabinet is less than perfect then Garnet polish will hide a multitude of sins although Garnet gives a rather colder and darker brown colour.

When it comes to cabinet finishing Barry I fully agree with you that the old methods are best. Many take the soft option having spent ages bringing the cabinet to the final stage of applying finish then simply applying Danish Oil. The owner of the cabinet obviously has the right to do whatever he/she wishes to do with it but I feel it to be a shame having spent a lot of time preparing the cabinet for finishing only to apply Danish Oil; learning to apply shellac (French polishing) isn't too difficult but certainly worth the extra effort hence I try to encourage others to have a go with shellac.

As you say Barry the choice of rubber outer cover is critical and must be totally lint free; a well washed worn out gents hanky is ideal. The inner of the rubber also requires careful consideration. The traditional material is "Skin wadding" unfortunately this is becoming rare to get hold of; it was used in large quantities by upholsterers but these days upholsterers are now using synthetic material which is useless for applying shellac. Ordinary cotton wool compresses into a solid mass rendering it useless for use in a rubber. I've heard of people using an old woollen sock but I've never tried this; the correct wadding is still available from places such as Restoration Materials in Bury and it isn't expensive.

Using a dab of linseed oil to lubricate the sole of the rubber is a very old trick which does work although I've never tried it. My very old book on French polishing covers every stage as it was done many years ago and if linseed oil is used on the rubber then it causes another stage called "spiriting off". This is where the oil has to be removed in order to give the mirror finish. The book also states that using oil on the rubber can allow the oil to become trapped only to appear at a later date through the finish. Bearing this in mind I've never used oil on the rubber but I would do so if I experienced difficulties in using the rubber.

For a novice to French polishing I think it pays to experiment a bit at first to find what works and what doesn't work until a comfortable technique is learned; we are all different and what works for one might not work for another; it's the end result that counts not the method of application of the shellac; my method works well for me giving me consistent good results and the notes I've added are not fixed in stone but merely to encourage others to have a go at French polishing whilst giving some basic information. Cabinetwork is my favourite part in any of my restorations and I never rush the job.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 10th Jan 2012, 4:08 pm   #63
brenellic2000
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Well said Col.

I often use old wool socks - once they can no longer be darned of course; they act as a very good reservoir. Cotton wool is complete waste of time and effort and compresses far too quickly.

The Linseed oil brings a superb sheen all of its own. I've never been interested in 'mirror polishing' (too much preparation needed!) - a nice sheen is all I require... and of course, the factory applied 'mirror finish' is more usually cellulose lacquer, not shellac as applied by a horn-rim goggled French polisher from 'ackney-sur-Mer.

TTFN
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Old 10th Jan 2012, 8:22 pm   #64
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

First of all I seem to have already posted about my bush back in 2008! Ah well

This is baled cotton, we had a load given to us by a friend of my dad when he realized we used alot of rags etc for polishing the old cars etc. My french polisher uncle was cock-a-whoop when he saw we had some.
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Old 11th Jan 2012, 11:21 am   #65
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,

Many thanks Kevin for adding the picture of the baled cotton waste. It never fails to amaze me what useful information and tips turn up in these threads.

I did a quick web search for baled cotton waste and the results covered; cotton fibre processing waste into mulch; top dressing or potting mix and briquetting or pelletizing on one site with cotton cleaning rags and cotton baling machines on others making me wonder if baled cotton waste is going the same way as skin wadding in becoming difficult to obtain.

As a total novice to French polishing a few years ago I had great difficulty in tracking down the correct "skin wadding". I spent days surfing the web and tried lots of local companies; eventually I phoned a local upholsterer only to find that he had recently retired but that he would be happy to give me the bit of skin wadding he had left which he kindly did; at least having this bit of skin wadding I now knew what it looked like.

The picture below shows the roll of skin wadding I bought from restoration Materials in Bury. The material is made up of a sandwich with an inner thick layer of what looks like cotton wool but not the kind of cotton wool that can be bought anywhere; this as the name implies is covered both sides with a skin of extremely fine fabric. This roll when bought was very cheap and for my use will last a lifetime. Each cabinet restoration only requires a single piece of wadding about 9" square so this roll will do many restorations.

Another wadding supplier is John Penny at the following website;

http://www.jpennyltd.co.uk/shopping/...ion.php?id=104

Out of interest I buy my hide glue from John Penny's which I use for veneering and can highly recommend it.

Unfortunately many of the materials which were commonly available only a few years ago are now hard to obtain. Not on topic but a good example is the trouble and frustration I've just had in buying a strip of leather to make a honing belt from. I spent many hours surfing the web and phoned a number of local companies but suddenly I found such a piece of leather to be rarer than gold. It measures 2" x 36" x 1/8" thick so it was not anything special. It cost a lot of money but eventually I bought the leather made up to my specifications and jointed to form a continuous belt from a company in Frisco USA.

For me the hardest part about French polishing was not actually learning the technique but in buying the correct materials which I found most frustrating at the time.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 11th Jan 2012, 4:25 pm   #66
brenellic2000
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Leather is getting difficult as it is all tanned abroad (there is only one UK tanner left) so replacing leather flat and round belts, Belatta belts and dressing for old woodwork machinery is a pain the posterior. And as for proper cast-steel/carbon-steel chisels... forget it! Even the dear old EU is hell bent on stopping us using shellac and anything which contains 'volatile' substances which don't bring in a healthy tax return!!

Old and cynical - me?!

Barry
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Old 9th Aug 2014, 6:03 pm   #67
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Don't know why you had such problems buying the materials for French Polishing. All you need is the filling, the outer covering, Shellac and a form of strong alcohol.
I use cheesecloth (supermarket dish cloth) for the inner wadding. Some use pure Wool, others upholsterers wadding. It really doesn't matter. Any 100% cotton (T shirt) is fine for the outer covering, although I prefer heavy duty used cotton chair covers. I buy 99% Isopropanol by the 5 liters from Ebay. Various Shellacs can be had from a number of UK suppliers although I do import some very specialist types.
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