French Polishing, Repair & Restoration

Finishing & Stripping Options…

At the 3 restorers workshop we can provide a wide range of traditional and modern hand finishes including; Shellac based finishes such as ‘french polishing’, Danish oil and other oil / wax based finishes, water based varnishes, paint finishes and ebonizing.

We also provide a full hand-stripping and prepping service, so if you have a tired piece in need of a ground-up restoration from bare wood – No problem. Please note; We do not use ‘dipping’ to strip furniture so you don’t need to worry about the damage / devaluation associated with that process – We only ever strip furniture by hand.

Repair & Restoration

We carry out pretty much all kinds of repairs to wooden furniture of all periods, there are too many to list. Whatever it is you need – we probably do it. Please ask us and we can discuss options.

Carved foot repaired by 3 restorers
Mid Restoration – New, Hand-Carved Toes Attached…
Carved desk leg repaired by 3 restorers
The Finished and ‘French Polished’ Foot.
Antique furniture - replacement carved bracket carved by 3 restorers London
Hand-Carved Replacement Bracket.

What is French Polishing and What is it For?

“French Polish” is a term wrongly used to describe shellac. Shellac is a substance secreted by the Lac Beetle which is used for many purposes including painting finger nails and finishing furniture. We use many furniture finishing products containing shellac, which have various colours, viscosities, sheen levels and filling properties depending on the process they’re needed for. One such finishing process – The most well known one – Is ‘French Polishing’. A French Polished finish is an extremely high-sheen finish used on certain styles of furniture mainly from the 19th Century, for many other antique pieces it is not appropriate.

Where a French Polished surface is required, we apply shellac to flat surfaces using the traditional process of layering up polish many, many, many times with a cloth & wadding applicator known (confusingly) as ‘a rubber’. We have to wait for each layer of shellac to dry throughout the process. The first few layers of polish actually sink into the wood considerably and therefore must be left for a day or more before we can continue. As we go along, the polish is gradually thinned down using alcohol. We must also periodically cut back the layers of polish with increasingly fine abrasives. Next we go over the surface with pure alcohol, then with an extremely fine cutting compound, and finally with a finishing wax. Needless to say, this is not a quick process(!) but the resulting, incredibly beautiful, deep, mellow shine simply isn’t achievable by any other means.

For items which have some irregularly shaped components – A table with a flat top and heavily carved legs for example; we can match the French polished top to it’s legs even though it’s not possible for any French polisher to use a polishing rubber on heavily carved legs. To do this we use the correct traditional tools called ‘polishing mops’, which are extremely fine brushes of various sizes, made from squirrel hair. These are used in much the same way as the rubber to gradually apply, then cut back very, very thin layers of shellac which fill the wood grain until the desired level of sheen is achieved.

High gloss shellac or French Polish finish on a coffee table restored at the 3 restorers workshop
An extremely high sheen French Polished finish. Though this type of finish is generally used on much older furniture, it can sometimes look great on contemporary pieces too, particularly where unusual timbers are used, as is the case here with this beautiful, hand-made coffee table from New Zealand that we re-finished recently.

What is Danish Oil and What is it For?

Danish Oil is the name used for a finishing product made by many different manufacturers to varying ‘recipes’. They’re generally pretty similar products though quality varies significantly. They contain a blend of oils, typically; Tung Oil and Linseed Oil plus drying agents etc.

Danish Oil is widely used to finish/re-finish ‘Mid Century Modern’ furniture, I.e; 20th Century furniture, typically made during the period from around 1950 to 1978. Many of the original and most iconic examples of this style of furniture came from Denmark and Scandinavia in general, hence the name ‘Danish Oil’.
This stylish, post WWII furniture soon caught on elsewhere and cabinet makers and architects in the UK, North America and other parts of Europe began to take heavy stylistic and constructional cues from the Scandi’ originators.
If you have a piece of furniture in this style; Simple, modern lines, lack of applied ‘fussy’ decoration, prominent use of Teak or Rosewood etc. Then it is quite likely to be finished in Danish oil, even if it is an English piece (Gplan, Nathan for example). If you’re in any doubt, you can always send us some photos of your furniture and we’ll be happy to discuss.

Danish oil finish on a mid century sideboard, all repairs by 3 restorers
A Danish Oil finish seen here on a Mid Century, Teak sideboard that we restored a few months ago. This finish is typical on furniture of this style and period, particularly on Scandinavian furniture.

Site Guide:

For an overview of what services we provide and FAQs, please click here.

For more on who we are, please click here.

Photos of previous projects are on our Gallery page here, and on our Instagram here,

Reupholstery, please click here.

For a quote or enquiry, our contact page is here.

You can find out about our TV appearances here.

More restoration and things we like are on our blog here.