French polishing is a traditional wood finishing technique that for centuries has enhanced the beauty and durability of wooden surfaces. While French Polish can create exquisite results, it has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages.


Pros of French Polishing:

French polishing is renowned for its ability to create a stunning glossy finish that brings out the natural beauty of wood such as mahogany, walnut and rosewood. It brings out a deep lustrous sheen, adding elegance and sophistication to any wooden surface. The technique enhances the grain of the wood resulting in a visually appealing, rich, warm appearance that other finishes often struggle to replicate. 


French polishing can revive worn-out or damaged wooden surfaces. It can be used to restore antique furniture, remove scratches, watermarks, and other signs of wear. The layering process enables it to fill in minor imperfections and create a smooth flawless finish, making it an excellent choice for refurbishing cherished wooden items.


Unlike other finishes that sit on the surface of the wood, French Polishing penetrates deep into the grain, creating a bond that enhances the wood’s durability and longevity.  


French Polishing’s primary component is shellac, a resin derived from the secretions of the lac beetle. Shellac is a natural and renewable material meaning that it is a more environmentally friendly choice compared to other synthetic finishes that may contain harmful chemicals. It is a relatively low-VOC (volatile organic compound) option, reducing the release of harmful fumes in the environment. 


Cons of French Polishing:

French polishing is a laboursome process that demands skill, patience and grave attention to detail. The flawless finish can be time-consuming as it involves applying numerous coats and sufficient drying time between each layer. French Polishing requires expertise from handling the rubbing pad and achieving the desired level of pressure to create an even finish which amateurs may find challenging to master the technique effectively. 


Whilst French Polishing offers a beautiful finish, it is not as resistant to certain forms of damage as some more modern finishes. The shellac used in French Polishing can be susceptible to water rings, heat marks, and alcohol spills, which may necessitate periodic maintenance and care. However, prompt application of protective measures can minimise the risk of damage.


French Polishing provides a relatively thin protective layer compared to some modern finishes such as polyurethane lacquer. Despite the enhancements to the wood’s beauty, French Polish usually doesn’t offer the same level of durability or resistance to wear and tear as thicker, more resilient finishes. Frequently used areas of the wood may require more frequent maintenance and reapplication. 


French Polishing is a time-honoured wood finishing technique that offers a range of benefits and considerations. Its ability to create a stunning, natural finish that accentuates the beauty of wood makes it a preferred choice for those who appreciate traditional craftsmanship. However, it requires patience, skill, and periodic maintenance to keep it looking its best. Consider your specific needs and weigh the pros and cons before embarking on a French Polishing project.