"French Polish"

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mshel

New User
Michael Shelley
I am experimenting with the "French Polish" technique and was wondering if anyone else has done this. And if so, what did you use as a pad? A customer who does finishing work gave me some 100% cotton batting today and it worked well but I believe it is going to be hard to come by around here. I did a search on Google but didn't find what I was looking for. He said his brother got it for him in Fla. It is called "Pink Cross Superior" 100% cotton. It comes in a roll of sorts with the cotton separated with paper. It is sold by the Goyescas Corp of Fla. in Miami.

Mike
 

mshel

New User
Michael Shelley
Jeff,

With my last Mohawk order I got some of the Blendal powders, Lacover, and French Lac. I couldn't see 40 bucks for the cloth though. Maybe I should have?????? If you don't mind, how about a short tutorial on how you use the powders with the padding finishes.

Mike
 
J

jeff...

mshel, send me a PM and I'll send you some trace cloth we have tons of it.

As for the tutorial, can you give me a few days and I'll take step by step pictures of the techniques I use. All my stuff is at work along with the damaged furniture.

I’ll try and explain, but I know a picture is worth a 1000 words.

One technique for using the blendal powders, I mix them up in the palm of my left hand to the desired tone, pour a little Lacover in the pad and thump the pad hard in my left palm a few times to distribute the powder into the pad.

Take the pad and French with a pendulum motion, don't stop or drag the pad on the surface or you'll lift the finish right off. It’s the friction of the pad when it hits the surface that pulls the blendal powder dissolved in the pad of Lacover on to the surface and creates the smooth as a babies butt finish.

Another technique is to mix a little dry blendal powder and apply dry with your finger to the wood, then french with plain Lacover over the blendal to dissolve the blendal and apply the finish.

Each technique has it's own application. Table tops, flat surfaces the first technique, hard to reach places like joints the second technique.

With a little practice and you'll be frenching like a pro... trust me it's very easy to learn. The hardest part that seems to scare people off is learning to mix various blendal powders to create the right color tone. But frankly for most furniture repair and refinishing I mainly only use 3 or 4 colors. Unless it's some strange finish like a blue, white or black glaze, then I have to pull out some of the other colors to blend the right tones.

One other thing you can keep your used pads in zip lock baggies. If they get hard just reactive them with a little Lacover. This way you can keep a collection of different color tone frenching pads for later use.
 
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mshel

New User
Michael Shelley
jeff... said:
mshel, send me a PM and I'll send you some trace cloth we have tons of it.

As for the tutorial, can you give me a few days and I'll take step by step pictures of the techniques I use. All my stuff is at work along with the damaged furniture.

I’ll try and explain, but I know a picture is worth a 1000 words.

One technique for using the blendal powders, I mix them up in the palm of my left hand to the desired tone, pour a little Lacover in the pad and thump the pad hard in my left palm a few times to distribute the powder into the pad.

Take the pad and French with a pendulum motion, don't stop or drag the pad on the surface or you'll lift the finish right off. It’s the friction of the pad when it hits the surface that pulls the blendal powder dissolved in the pad of Lacover on to the surface and creates the smooth as a babies butt finish.

Another technique is to mix a little dry blendal powder and apply dry with your finger to the wood, then french with plain Lacover over the blendal to dissolve the blendal and apply the finish.

Each technique has it's own application. Table tops, flat surfaces the first technique, hard to reach places like joints the second technique.

With a little practice and you'll be frenching like a pro... trust me it's very easy to learn. The hardest part that seems to scare people off is learning to mix various blendal powders to create the right color tone. But frankly for most furniture repair and refinishing I mainly only use 3 or 4 colors. Unless it's some strange finish like a blue, white or black glaze, then I have to pull out some of the other colors to blend the right tones.

One other thing you can keep your used pads in zip lock baggies. If they get hard just reactive them with a little Lacover. This way you can keep a collection of different color tone frenching pads for later use.

Jeff,

Tried to send you a pm but got a msg. saying that you have exceeded your limit and need to delete some before you can get new ones.

Mike
 

erasmussen

RAS
Corporate Member
I have had good results just stuffing the toe of an old cotton sock, and using 1/2 # cut shallec.:eusa_thin
 
J

jeff...

erasmussen said:
I have had good results just stuffing the toe of an old cotton sock, and using 1/2 # cut shallec.:eusa_thin

Hey this might just work, I was going to try and sell my old socks on ebay.
 

frigator

New User
Robin Frierson
I have videos from Jeff Jewitt and one, "Hand Applied finishes", show how to do a french polish. Its a very involved process filling the grain, building it up and the final friction application with figure 8 motions. He shows the traditonal method using shellac, pumice, etc... There is another one," Coloring Wood" that is also good.

Videos are really good for teaching woodworking, finishing etc if you can't make it to a real live class. You can buy them, watch them, and then resell them on ebay or keep them for future reference.
 
J

jeff...

Man your bringing up hand rubed finishes with pumice and rottenstone. And I thought I was the only one crazy enough to do that anymore. 8-O I have to remember I'm part of a minwax generation, the days of mixing your own tints, applying your own finishes and creating your own sheens have almost been forgotten and they sure are not done by hand anymore, least not in any production setting.

Personally, I think it's a dying art and has almost been replaced with pre-packaging and power tools. When I say art I mean art too. It really excites me to see someone who wants to revive the old ways of finishing, because it's an entry way into expanding abilities into antique restoration. If the person who taught me how to touch-up, repair and finshing could see some of the things I use now, I'm sure he would roll over in his grave. In no way am I throwing any stones or pointing any fingers. I'm 100% guilty myself, I use pre-packaged finishes when I know I shouldn't. Why? lazy I guess, there's really no other reason... I mean it's so easy to just load up the spray gun and shoot, the results aren't half bad either.

Ok so new pieces of furniture use new finishing techniques. But on the other hand I can comfortably say, if I refinished an antique with modern finshes, I would degrade the value of that piece, no matter how well the finish turned out.
There's a time and place for the old ways too...
 
J

jeff...

Here’s a quick tutorial on blending tone and applying finish in one step by using frenching method.

This piece of furniture had some silicon contamination in the finish on or the wood itself, which resulted in a gummy finish that never dried and bubbled. I used a little acetone soaked in a rag to remove the finish and silicon contamination present on the bare wood surface. (not pictured)

Pictured here is the unfinished wood here in contrast to the finished wood. My goal is to match the color tone and replace the finish. This will be done with French polishing method. (052)

I mainly only use 3 or 4 colors when doing touchup, pictured here are Mohawk blendal powders raw sienna (yellow), burnt umber (brown) and burnt sienna (red). These will be used in the right proportion to blend in with the existing finish. These are not really yellow, brown and red, but earth tone or artist colors. (053)

Here is a trace cloth fashioned into a frenching pad, this one has been used before, which is ok they can be reused. Also pictured is graining liquid, Although mainly used for graining, I couldn’t find the lacover or rapid pad normally used for frenching, Come to find out the service man took it with him and left it in his truck. So I frenched with graining liquid instead, it’s about the same as lacover just dries a little faster, so no real problem just had to work a little faster is all. (054)

Here are the blendal powders with the lids off so you can see the actual earth tone colors. (055)
 

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J

jeff...

I wetted the frenching pad with the graining liquid and dumped a little of the blendal powders into my left hand, red and yellow make orange and a little brown to darken a few shades. I don’t use a color wheel or anything like that, just been doing this for a long time and have pretty good success matching colors first go around. (065)

I then thump and twist the frenhing pad several times with my right hand into my left, this dissolves and mixes the blendal powders into the frenching pad. Pictured here is the wet frenching pad and color produced by combining the three powders. (057)

Pictured here is the actual frenching method. Pretty slick, replace the color and finish in one step. Back and forth like a pendulum on a grand father clock. As the frenching pad hits the bare wood, friction pulls the contents of the frenching pad onto the wood. A light stroke is all that’s needed, don’t stop or drag the pad on the wood or you’ll pull the finish off the wood and back into the pad. A little practice and you’ll get the hang of it in no time. (058)

Here’s the finished product mission accomplished, on to repair the next piece of furniture. (059)
 

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mshel

New User
Michael Shelley
Excellent post. You make it look soooooo easy and I know it really isn't. I will have to pick up some more blendal powders, the ones I got are: red mahogany, brown mahogany, light walnut, dark walnut, medium walnut. When I got them, I wasn't aware that you could get just the regular ones, ie burnt umber, burnt sienna, etc. Do you get all your mohawk supplies directly from mohawk. I don't like their minimum order of $80.00. But if you want the product, you must pay the piper.

MIke
 
J

jeff...

Mshel, I hoped the pics helped you.

Mohawk blendal powders are the color foundation. The colors you have serve their purpose, depending on the wood, I’ll reach for dark walnut to paint in grain over a burn in or bondo fill repair such as a busted corner. But with the earth tones / artist colors, you can mix up just about any color in any shade under the sun.

Try and go for the main tone first, then use a little brown or black to darken or white to lighten. Most furniture is some shade of red anyways, so start with burnt sienna if that’s to dark warm it up a bit with a little yellow (raw sienna) to make a shade of orange. If it’s to warm tone it down a bit with some brown (burnt umber or dark burnt umber).

Once you get your base tone close, it’s a walk in the park because you’re not trying to paint your wood one color, like you do with stain. You’re trying to create many different shades that are in close proximity to the base tone. That’s the beauty of wood, it’s not like a piece of plastic, it has variation and uniqueness and character take advantage of it’s characteristics and you’ll be off and running. Just keep it thin and transparent as possible so it’s not to muddy and the natural beauty of the wood will clearly show through.

This is why I don’t stain wood, staining makes the wood’s variation less obvious by applying a single color to the wood and not only that the wood drinks it up. I don’t understand why companies that sell stain don’t get it. It’s not the wood we want to change; it’s that we want to see the wood through a different color.

As far as the Mohawk $80.00 min, I’ve never viewed that as a problem. Mohawk sells premium product that consistently performs and it has for many years. In my mind when you use Mohawk you’re using the best there is, so it’s well worth the money. And no I’m not a Mohawk salesman, I am just very pleased with their product and service.:-D
 

jglord

New User
John
Thanks for the excellent post!
Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm confused :-?
What you've shown is a beautiful way to add or re-color wood, but, you say you achieve color and finish in one step. Does the graining liquid have a finishing component included?
For a French Polish wouldn't you need something like shellac?
I thought french polishing was building and polishing layers of finish.
Sorry if these are dumb questions, and I don't mean to disparage the great info you've provided - maybe this is why French Polishing remains such a mystery to folks like me.
 
J

jeff...

jglord, Thanks for the questions. This piece of furniture was not very expensive; it had a flat, very thin finish. Yes the gaining liquid does contain a little flat lacquer, so it matched pretty well. If it didn't match I would have hit the repair area with a little flat lacquer in a spray can, but didn't need too.

Your right one could build up multiple layers of finish by frenching. Although you would want to apply clear coats after the tone coat. This will give the finish depth, which is characteristic of fine furniture.

To be honest, the only time I use shellac is when I have too, like for antique furniture. Shellac is a easy finish to apply, but doesn't seem to hold up very well with age, there are other things I don't like about shellac too but that’s besides the point. Personally I prefer lacquer over any other finish, but that's my personal preference. If it's my own furniture I'll just load up the spray gun with gloss poly and shoot. Modern store bought furniture is mostly a lacquer finish.

BTW blendal powders work great in a spray gun too. They dissolve in poly, lacquer, shellac and just about anything including water. Instead of staining your wood, mix up a tone coat, you'll be surprised just how easy it is and the results are well worth the effort, plus you can get an exact match for existing furniture, create any color and shade you like.



Thanks
 
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