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Old 17th Jul 2010, 12:23 pm   #41
McMurdo
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

I'm lucky enough to have had an uncle who was a trained french polisher when he worked as a bar fitter in the 1950's, so I was given a crash course a few years ago. I practised on a 1950's bush that had seriously delaminated due to being left outside, a radio that would have simply been sprayed on a production line when new; after all the hard work I managed to get a passable result and a radio that was visually much better than the average early 50's Bush or Pye mass product.

I used Bartoline ready mixed french polish with a cotton-covered sponge rubber and a dab of linseed oil on the rubber (ie a fingertip of it) after each recharge.

There's nothing as exciting as slotting a restored chassis into a restored cabinet for the first time and putting the knobs and back on, then standing back and switching on!

Your radio has a beautiful finish and I hope you're inspired to do more this way, I love these step by step pictorial accounts; good work.
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Old 17th Jul 2010, 5:12 pm   #42
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,
Many thanks Alan & Kevin for your kind comments. I totally agree with you Kevin regarding the sheer pleasure it gives to switch on and stand back to admire a newly fully restored wireless; the harder the restoration the greater the pleasure.

I've finally tried the Manista hand cleaner Ben and agree it is good stuff; it does feel strange in use as it's like rubbing rough grit between the hands but it beats washing up liquid so many thanks for recommending it as I'm now a convert.

My latest project is giving me a great deal of grief at the moment as I'm attempting to make a brand new wire wound pot track from scratch. It is proving to be a fascinating project and so far I've managed to heat form the Paxolin/Tufnol track.

Sorry moderators; I've drifted again but would like to take this opportunity to request additional categories to be added to this excellent forum as there are so many interesting projects indirectly connected to wireless restoration after all how many ways are there of changing caps and resistors?

For anyone interested I'm "retired 2000" on ARF

Kindest regards, Col.
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Old 18th Jul 2010, 10:47 am   #43
Mike Phelan
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi Col

Your wirewound restoration is very impressive, and we would love to see a thread on here about it, as there are many of us who have problems sourcing these.
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Old 18th Jul 2010, 12:30 pm   #44
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi Mike,

Many thanks for the invitation and I know you are following my progress with interest.

Unfortunately I must politely decline as the thread would be extensive and wander much too far "off topic" as the pot I'm working on belongs to a 1931 Lagonda 2 ltr tourer.

I will of course be delighted to add other threads covering any future projects acceptable by forum rules.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 18th Jul 2010, 3:34 pm   #45
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

The revival of this thread has spurred me to finish off my P45 practice set. Here's a few pictures. The logo was done with an undercoat of "antique gold" model paint and then a water slide transfer. I deliberately put a thumbprint on it and slightly missed the gold-spot to match the original! (Honest)

The finish on this set is by no means perfect but has a lovely lustre and shine. Not bad for a first go and looks miles better than my attemps on other cabinets with cellulose laquer, polyeurethane and teak oil. They all work ok but don't bring out the natural feel of the wood.

Anyway, thanks to Col for taking the time to show me how to start with French polishing. Once you get started it's far easier than it might first appear and is easier to get a nice finish than any other method I've seen. Also it's a doddle to make small repairs and touchups.

Next up is my Pye VT4 cabinet which looks like it had been chucked down several flights of stairs...

Dom
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Old 2nd Dec 2010, 2:59 pm   #46
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

col,
you are a credit to this forum,keep up the great work.
tony
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Old 2nd Dec 2010, 8:07 pm   #47
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi Tony,

Many thanks for your kindness and encouragement; please see the following for my latest project;

https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/...ad.php?t=62371

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 2nd May 2011, 11:33 pm   #48
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Just a reply to an earlier post. Shellac can be sprayed, brushed or padded (French Polished). Dependent on the level of expertise, all 3 can produce extremely good results. Brushing Shellac requires just as much skill as F'Polishing (perhaps more).

Liberon Burnishing Cream is perhaps the best UK substitute for the Maguires. Having said that many French Polishers do not use an abrasive for the final gloss but use a technique of dilute applications of the Shellac mix - known as glazing.
There is no one 'correct' method of French Polishing, the techniques and ingredients vary from person to person. I guess the final result is all that matters.
The nice thing regarding Shellac is that it is known for sticking to virtually any surface. It's also relatively easy to remove should the need arise. It is available in many types, from the darkest Garnet to the very pale types. 'Button Polish' has a reputation for being the most durable, although it's probably best to dewax it first. It does add an Orange/Brown hue to the wood. A liighter shade of Button is available but I've yet to see it available in the UK.
I have never been happy with creating a matte finish using the wirewool technique. From a distance it looks fine. For the more discerning it looks unconvincing, largely because you are relying on tiny scratches to scatter the light. A matting agent will do a better job.
I'm uncertain if it has been mentioned but Meths isn't the nicest form of alcohol to be in contact with one's skin. Wear a glove or find a safer solvent.

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Old 3rd May 2011, 10:09 am   #49
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

I think Methylated Spirits is the only solvent suited to Shellac although Toluene is used in Sanding Sealer, which is a simpler form of shellacing. Toluene ain't human-friendly either!

Bleached (White Shellac) avoids the golden hue and is superb on light-coloured woods.

Shellac's versatility is such that it 'waterproofs' copper wire and electronics in tropical climes, but repairing shellac coated automotive wire joints is a pain the posterior.

I always get a very satisfactory commerical finish with 0000 furniture grade wire wool and Briwax for a lovely sheen but at the end of the day, if comes down to consumer choice. Personally I hate seeing mirror finished lacquered wood - it looks soooo artificial... and makes me soooo envious of the French polisher's patience in his fine preparation! One day....

Barry
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Old 3rd May 2011, 10:45 am   #50
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

I'm really referring to the type of Alcohol. The commonly found purple dyed Methylated spirits usually contains Ethanol, Methanol and Pyradine. There are known health risks with the stuff. Either wear gloves or use something like Fiddes finishing spirit, which AFAIK is Ethanol with a touch of Shellac added. The small amount of Shellac probably allows them to retail the stuff as a clear spirit.
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Old 4th Sep 2011, 4:36 pm   #51
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,

Begging the moderator’s indulgence I would like to add additional information regarding finishing with French polish.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been restoring a clock case for a very good friend and think the method I used for finishing might encourage others to have a go at French polishing because this method cuts out the use of the traditional polishing rubber relying only on brush work that anyone could do.

I did the usual repairs including extensive re-veneering then brought the case to the staining stage adding Vandyke brown water based stain I mixed at home. Once the stain had dried the case was lightly gone over with fine abrasive paper and dusted off.

Using a No.2 fan brush thick Garnet shellac was applied taking a lot of care to put this on quickly and as evenly as possible; two such coats were added on the first day. After drying overnight the shellac was gently flatted with fine abrasive paper (800 grit) to remove nibs then another three heavy brush coats of shellac were added during the day.

The shellac was allowed to dry for a full two days in a warm place then I changed my method of work. I had been watching an excellent “you tube” video showing how a guy brushed on shellac then flatted as I had done but then he went directly on to using wire wool (0000 grade) lubricated with wax polish to give a hand rubbed finish which looked superb.

This of course is a very old method and I tried it many years ago failing miserably ending up with deep scratches in the surface imparted by the wire wool which I found uncontrollable and have not tried it again until now.

On the main case I brought the shellac to a mirror finish by using a traditional polishing rubber. As I looked at the gleaming surface I thought how out of place it appeared and it was shouting at me that this was way over the top for a genuine antique clock case; it was saying look at me I’ve just been french polished!!

After my previous failure in hand rubbing a finish but encouraged by the video I thought I would try once again after all I could always flat the case and add more shellac if I failed again. I had used the wax previously but thought I would experiment and decided to use liquid paraffin as a lubricant. I used the wire wool directly in my fingers adding the liquid paraffin and was amazed by the result.

Finally to the important part that should help other members who are afraid of using a polishing rubber in fact to achieve a beautiful hand rubbed finish is incredibly easy as follows.

Do the usual basic work bringing the case to the point of adding shellac. Apply a number of coats of shellac taking care to get it on evenly without runs and allowing it to harden for at least two days once the final coat has been added.

Now go straight on to flatting and using wire wool and liquid paraffin; I added an overhead spot lamp and for the first time ever I could actually see what I was doing whilst working on the door. I was seated in comfort at the bench and took my time to very gently flat one of the door rails using 1200 grit wet or dry abrasive paper holding the paper in my fingers and working with it dry. As the paper became coated new paper was used; all the while much care was being exercised not to cut through to bare timber on edges. Next I went over with wire wool lubricated with liquid paraffin. At first I was very timid and kept wiping with a clean soft cloth to check progress but after a short while the stile had been rubbed to a beautiful satin finish; the rest of the door was completed in like manner. Where angles and corners were encountered I used my finger nails whilst flatting with the paper and rubbing with the wire wool taking care not to press too hard.

To finish; the door was buffed with a dry soft cloth revealing a surface that just asked to be stroked. This door was completed without having to use a french polishing rubber and the finish was so easy to achieve.

This finish would suit many radio or TV cabinets and is a joy to behold. Please look at the images because you too could achieve such a result by having a go.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 4th Sep 2011, 9:15 pm   #52
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

You have done a real good job there Col.

Good luck with the next project whaterver it may be.

Lawrence.
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 12:05 pm   #53
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Col, that is an absolutely exemplary finish, you really do go from strength to strength!

Kind regards,
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 4:17 pm   #54
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,

Many thanks for the kind comments Lawrence and Dave; I hope my notes encourage others to have a go.

Many radio or TV cabinets will only have a tired finish and not require veneer work. Such a cabinet would make an ideal first French polishing project and if finished using the rubbing method would not take too long to accomplish.

The skills are not difficult to learn but once the first French polishing job is completed the process becomes addictive.

This clock case is made of solid softwood with a walnut veneered face. The front top panel was badly cupped and the softwood backing had many splits; when the veneer was removed the panel broke into two parts. In order to make a proper job of the restoration I replaced the entire top panel but used very old 1/2" thick plywood. Both case sides and front top panel were then re-veneered; hide glue was used throughout.

To do French polishing in a home workshop is very cheap regarding materials. Take this clock case as an example; the most expensive item was the new walnut veneer and even this was cheap enough at 11.20 inc. VAT for two sheets of Australian Walnut 900mm x 200mm. The water based Vandyke stain was made at home; the hide glue and the shellac was left over from other jobs; throw in three sheets of abrasive paper and I bet the lot didn't cost over 20. I always have hide glue; stain and shellac in stock and I just top up as required.

As Dave kindly says I do go from strength to strength because I keep learning a bit more and pick up new techniques with every cabinet restoration I do; yes I've had a great deal of frustration along the way but it has always been enjoyable; I did not have the skills when I first started but I have a lot of patience. I never thought I would reach the level of competence to attack a friends antique clock case the way I attacked this one and succeed in restoring it; please see the picture below; this is the front panel that I replaced with plywood and compare with the restored case; practice and patience will also work for you too enabling you to pull off similar restorations.

My next big project is to re-veneer a large Murphy TV cabinet for another friend and I hope to add the story in another thread in due course.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 6:14 pm   #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael.N. View Post
I'm really referring to the type of Alcohol. The commonly found purple dyed Methylated spirits usually contains Ethanol, Methanol and Pyradine. There are known health risks with the stuff. Either wear gloves or use something like Fiddes finishing spirit, which AFAIK is Ethanol with a touch of Shellac added. The small amount of Shellac probably allows them to retail the stuff as a clear spirit.
Well of course it contains ethanol - that's the point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These day's IMS depends on Bitrex to give it it's unpalatability. Methanol is present in ppm quanitities, pyrridine likewise because as we all know, IMS is an industrial by-product - I won't go into it's production method far too chemical and boring.

Always amusing to see urban myths like this parroted ad verbatim and even ad nauseum. Sure, pyrridine isn't nice and allegedly could cause male sterilisation - old wives tale! Sure methanol can cause liver failure and blindness. But hey, there's so little of both in IMS it's safe to take a bath in it so sorption through the hands is minimal and let's face it, is anyone capable of drinking more than a pint of IMS anyway will die of ethanol poisoning long before methanol becomes a problem!

I don't know many French polishers but the two I do know have been 'at it' since being lads and both are in their 70's - though one has a pacemaker fitted. I am sure they would find this 'elf and safety' scaremongering hilarious, me, I just find it plain annoying!

Apollo
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 6:40 pm   #56
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Thanks for that Apollo, I, for one, have got the point!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quietly,

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Old 5th Sep 2011, 9:31 pm   #57
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Love reading your 'notes' Col, they are always interesting. I did have a go at French polishing using a rubber a couple of months ago but it seems to stick.

As well as your next big project may I be so bold as to mention the words Ekco, chassis, T and 311?

Cheers - Andrew
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Old 5th Sep 2011, 10:26 pm   #58
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Hi,

Many thanks Andrew.

I'm pleased to hear you've had a go at using a rubber. If the rubber sticks; let the surface dry out before going any further. The rubber should be kept moving all the time it is in contact with the surface but the tendency to stick is a warning.

The rubber needs charging correctly as applying too much shellac at once builds up a sticky surface which must be left alone until the surface has dried or the sticking will become worse and the rubber will possibly rip up the layers of shellac already applied.

Don't worry Andrew because I still have problems from time to time using the rubber; it's just a case of trying something slightly different; change the cloth; charge the rubber less or even thin the shellac a bit with meths; it will come if you keep practising; this is where patience usually works as it pays to leave the job alone for an hour or so after all French polishing isn't a fast process. As long as you don't disturb the stain the job can always be recovered easily by applying more brush coats of shellac and flatting again; shellac is very forgiving in this respect.

Trying to carry on using the rubber if the surface is becoming sticky will only make it worse and when everything is going well I find after working on a panel it will eventually reach the stage when the rubber begins to stick and this is the warning to leave well alone and work on another section; on a largish cabinet it is possible to work continuously by moving from panel to panel this allows the new shellac time to harden. I've even occasionally removed shellac with the rubber when I should have been adding it by having the shellac thinned too much with meths; I'm still learning but now I know what to watch out for and try to avoid.

On my Ekco TV cabinet I could use the rubber without problem working from panel to panel but my Pilot Little Maestro radio was totally different as it could only be worked with the rubber for short periods. I hope you keep trying as it would be a shame to give up when you are so near to success.

Regarding my Ekco T311 chassis; a very good point and I was only mentioning this to my friend Mike Phelan a couple of days ago; with the onset of summer this year I just could not tackle the restoration as too many other jobs around the bungalow demanded my time but I do intend to make a start on the restoration in the near future and Mike has kindly offered to help if I get stuck as others already have offered on this forum. I did actually have the chassis on the bench at one point and made a start but I ended up frustrated as I could not concentrate on it due to other jobs on my mind.

Kind regards, Col.
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Old 6th Sep 2011, 8:49 pm   #59
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

I look forward to hearing of your new adventures, Col.

Well said, Apollo!

- Joe
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Old 10th Jan 2012, 1:47 am   #60
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Default Re: French polishing for beginners.

Can't argue with the results there!
I also did my first attempt at French Polishing on an old fire-damaged 50's Bush that had delaminated badly and I'd glued together using sash cramps.
Luckily I had the instruction of my (now late) Uncle who'd been a professional french polisher.
For the rubber innards I used baled cotton thread, a waste product of yarn making.
I used standard Langlow ready-mixed french polish, my uncle said he preferred Button Polish as its natural colour is lighter.
Once I'd nitromorsed the laquer off and flatted with wet & dry, I just applied the polish via the rubber dipped straight into a saucer of the polish then squeezed. A finger dipped into the linseed oil was patted onto the rubber before application. The walnut veneer which was quite close grained needed about 8 coats and no flatting or stopping after laquer removal; just a gradual dilution of the french polish with meths with each coat until the final rubber load was just meths.
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