Around the Woods

A Course in Woodturning
by Milton and Wohlers; 1919



The second method, or French polishing, is rather difficult to apply and requires a little skill. A close grained wood, like maple, will be found more satisfactory for the beginner. An open grained wood may be filled in the ordinary way, or the grain may be filled by rubbing into the pores of the wood a combination of shellac, rotten stone or pumice, oil and alcohol. Rotten stone is used for dark wood and pumice is used for light wood. The wood may be left in the natural or stained as in the first method. The mixture of shellac, rotten stone, oil and alcohol, is applied to the work with a pad made of cotton waste, wrapped in cheese cloth to keep it from sticking to the work. It should be about 1½" in

diameter and ½" thick. Hold the pad over the mouth of a bottle of shellac and tip the bottle so that the shellac comes in contact with the pad. The shellac will remain clean in a bottle and will be handy. The mouth of the shellac bottle should be about 1" in diameter and should be dipped once. Do likewise with a bottle, having a mouth ½" in diameter, containing alcohol. This should be dipped twice allowing the alcohol to dilute the shellac. Then drop on a couple of drops of oil and rub over the pad evenly; this aids in distributing the shellac properly and keeps the pad from sticking to the work. A bottle may also be used for this. For the rotten stone use a pepper shaker so that it may be sifted on the work as needed.

When the mixture has been applied to the pad, hold the pad against the work lightly at first, until most of the moisture has been worked out of it, and then gradually increase the pressure until the pad is almost dry. In putting on the first coat, use more shellac and alcohol and just enough oil at all times to prevent the pad from sticking to the work. However, the pad should not contain as much shellac that it can be squeezed out with the fingers. When the pad is dry, another mixture is applied, and where open grained wood is used, rotten stone, or pumice stone, is sprinkled on the work to gradually fill up the pores and to build up a smooth surface. Run the lathe at a low speed, depending on the size of the piece that is being polished. Allow the first coat to dry before applying a second coat for, if too much is put on at any one time, the heat generated in the rubbing will cause the shellac to pull, and it will form rings by piling up. These rings may be worked out in two ways, either by a slight pressure of the pad on the rings or by cutting them with alcohol applied to the pad. If too much alcohol is used it will cut through the shellac and remove what has already been rubbed on. If at any time too much shellac is used it will pile up and form rings. Too much rotten stone will cut down the polish and by absorbing the mixture will leave the pad dry. If too much oil is used the polish will become dull after a day or two.

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