Where mass-produced furniture dominates, there is a growing appreciation for the artistry, craftsmanship and timeless beauty of antique and vintage pieces. French polishing lies at the heart of Schryver’s restoration process. With a deep understanding of the intricacies and techniques of French polishing, Schryver has honed its craft to offer unparalleled expertise and quality. The time-honoured technique, with its meticulous application of multiple layers of shellac, creates a luxurious and durable finish that showcases the natural beauty of the wood whilst adding a touch of sophistication and timeless elegance.


The Origins of French Polishing

French polishing, the method as we know it, originated in France in the 18th century and quickly gained popularity among artisans and cabinetmakers. Its name could be deemed somewhat misleading as it is believed to have been perfected by British craftsmen who learned the technique during their travels to France. Prior to the refinement of the technique in the 1700s varying methods of French polishing can be traced back as far as 250 AD.


What is French Polishing?

The key ingredient is Shellac – a natural resin derived from the secretion collected from an aphid-like insect called the lac beetle (Kerria lacca) – is primarily found in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and India. Lac beetles secrete ‘lac’ to protect their larvae as it forms a protective shell. This ‘lac’ is collected and refined with an end process that results in a thin film of shellac resin being formed. This is then dried into flakes and then reconstituted into a liquid with a solvent base to make the polish form of the liquid for use as French polish. 


Shellac offers several desirable properties suitable for wood finishing including excellent adhesive properties, quick drying and it creates a hard-glossy finish when applied in thin layers. French polishing enhances the natural beauty of darker fine-grained woods, such as mahogany, walnut and rosewood, by highlighting their grain patterns and deep rich colours.


The Process of French Polishing 

French polishing in areas like London is a labour-intensive time-consuming process that involves building up a high-gloss, glass-like surface through the application of multiple thin layers of shellac. 


The process begins with the preparation of the wood, which includes sanding and filling any imperfections or pores. A polish mop or pad, typically made of cotton (Fad) or wool, is used to apply the solution of shellac dissolved in alcohol to the wood surfaces in a circular motion. Each layer is meticulously applied, allowed to dry, and then gently rubbed with fine abrasive materials such as pumice stone or rottenstone. This abrasive action gradually levels the surface and creates a smooth and reflective finish. Each layer is applied with slightly more pressure than the last. The process is repeated several times until the desired depth and sheen are achieved.


Why Choose French Polishing?

French polish enhances each piece of wood’s unique grain patterns and colours through the painstaking application of thin layers of shellac to create a deep, lustrous finish that exudes warmth and elegance. Not only does it add a touch of historical charm to your furniture but also presents the legacy of a time-honoured craft. The dedication and skill required to achieve a flawless French polish is part of what makes it so revered among artisans and connoisseurs. 


French polishing is often the preferred choice for restoring antique furniture due to its ability to replicate the original finish. The process can revive worn-out surfaces, conceal scratches and breathe new life into old pieces while maintaining their authenticity and value. 


The primary component – shellac – is a natural and renewable material which is non-toxic and biodegradable, making it an eco-friendly and sustainable choice. 


French polishing offers a high degree of customisation through the adjustments of colour and sheen of the finish. There are many shades of French polish available: Button (yellowish), Garnet (brown), Orange (golden brown), White (clear, sometimes with a milky appearance on some high-gloss work) and Transparent.  Customisation to meet your specific preferences can create a truly personalised, one-of-a-kind piece of furniture that perfectly matches your aesthetic vision. 


One of the unique advantages of French polishing is its repairability. Over time, if the surface becomes worn or damaged, it can be easily restored by adding fresh layers of shellac and re-polishing the area making French polishing a practical choice for long-term maintenance and preservation of furniture.


With a passion for preserving the past and a dedication to the artistry of French polishing, Schryver has skilled artisans who blend long-established techniques with modern expertise, creating masterpieces that capture the essence of history whilst bringing a touch of elegance to any space. 


So if you have a cherished piece of furniture that deserves a second lease on life or are seeking to add a touch of refinement to your space with carefully restored and French polished pieces, look no further than Schryver. Schryver looks to transform any piece of furniture into a stunning work of art to be treasured for generations to come with their exceptional craftsmanship, attention to detail and commitment to preserving the integrity of each piece.