Zen of French Polish with John Coffey
French polish is a technique for putting shellac on wood as a finish. Shellac is perhaps the most versatile finish that can be used to finish furniture–it is hard and durable, it is restorable without having to remove it, and best of all it may be the most beautiful finish you could put on a piece of furniture!
One main benefit of French polish is it can be applied in less than ideal finishing conditions. Dust is not an issue as the polish dries almost as soon as it is rubbed on. The polisher can stop at any time in the process and pick it up at a later date. Best of all, the technique puts very little material on a surface, even irregular ones.
As an antique restorer, I am often required to put on a finish that preserves the color and texture of their surface–I cannot sand the surface. French polishing is uniquely suited for this task. The technique follows the undulating character of old surfaces, or handplaned surfaces, filling the grain until the surface is lustrous and polished.
In a two-day class I will show my technique for French polishing by assisting the student in their own project. The student can expect to be well on his way to finishing a small table or chest but, more importantly, will learn the skill of applying shellac using a pad in such a way that only the thinnest of coatings will be between the observer and the object, allowing the natural beauty of the wood to show through.
The woodworker spends so much time selecting just the right board, perfecting his or her technique on cutting dovetails and tenons, why not make sure the work receives what it deserves–the best finish possible. The old saw is never truer: while a good finish might be able to hide poor woodworking, a bad finish will take away from even the best work.
John Coffey is an antique restorer in Locust Valley, NY. John has taken conservation classes at the Smithsonian Institute and at Dakota County Technical College (MN) with senior conservator at the Smithsonian, Donald C. Williams. He has assisted with the "Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion" exhibit for the Smithsonian Institute in both Washington, D.C. and when it was in Flushing, Queens, N.Y. John holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Hobart College (NY). Sign up today!
Tuition: $325.00 plus materials
Section 022721B: Saturday & Sunday, February 27 & 28, 9:30am—5:00pm