When dealing with an antique, sanding or scraping a piece of furniture to remove its finish is only done as a very last resort (it is called “stripping”). When finishes can be renewed, they are not removed at all. That is the case for probably half of the pieces that are restored in our shop (it is called “refinishing”). Some pieces are lightly cleaned and renewed, and if we absolutely need to remove the finish on other pieces, we avoid touching the original surface so that they are not fundamentally altered.
French polish is a finish which is little known in the United States. It is part of a French tradition that is over 200 years old. A great deal of experience is needed to acquire this know-how. The wood is hand rubbed with a paddle moistened with alcohol and pumice. Then the shellac is applied with another paddle. This finish is most beautiful, because during the process, the wood pores are filled with a blend of pumice and with the wood of the piece itself which gives the finish a definite transparency. But this technique is not recommended for refinishing heavily used pieces such as dining tables, for which modern varnishes are more suitable.
Choosing the veneer
Carving the legs
Applying the varnish
Christian only uses non-toxic finishes (important for clients with young children, or subject to allergies). He mixes different types of shellac (natural resin) to make a varnish specific to each piece.