Lately, I have been obsessed with furniture finishes. I have always been very particular about patinas on beautiful antiques, but how to restore that patina without compromising the value of the piece is very important. I know repairs are necessary on old pieces, but my pet peeve is when furniture is refinished; stripped, stained and polyurethaned! In my opinion, refinishing often leaves the piece characterless! My sister asked me the other day, "who refinished my furniture?". I told her, "I don't refinish any of my furniture," so I guess I don't have a refinisher.
I have been reading about the tedious method of french polishing. This practice became very popular during the Victorian Era. French polishing is a method using a "fad" or rubbing cloth derived from cotton and wool filled with shellac dissolved in denatured alcohol. With this method the end result is a magnificent high gloss finish with a deep rich color. I have ordered all my materials for this and can't wait to work on my first piece, which will be a burled walnut coffee table that my kids have destroyed.
After I conquer or abandon the french polish, I am going to go for another old european method called burnishing. This method uses a very tightly bound broom straw concoction 4-5" in length and a couple of inches in diameter called the Roubo 'Polissoir' after its creator frenchman A.J. Roubo. To cure the Roubo burnisher and get it ready to polish you first let it sit in molten beeswax. With this method paste wax or a block of beeswax is rubbed into the wood. This is for smaller pieces as you can guess because it is so tedious. The burnisher is used working with the grain rubbing the wax back and forth. This slowly works the wax into the grooves of the wood. After this step, just buff with a rag. This method works particularly well on old raw woods such as rough cut pine.
I have only found two companies carrying this broom burnisher, www.thebroombrothers.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. The Broom Brothers were completely out when I wrote this blog, and Don was not the easiest to track down. So, good luck with the broom burnisher and if you find another source, please let me know.
Happy Polishing and Burnishing,
Chestnut Lane Antiques