Revealing Beauty

So this is what it’s supposed to look like!

I know I’m a bad partner/ mother at times, but we all need a bit of me-time. This week I snuck off to practise the dark art of French polishingIMG_9794.JPG

Some people are naturally good teachers. Roy is one such person. He is also a real craftsman – an expert French polisher – so he and I worked on my beautiful but abused late Regency Ebay table, which had seen better days. Lots of better days, in fact

Before starting on such a huge project we talked about the materials, the techniques, the approach. We discussed how the table functions as a piece – there are two separate consoles, one with a simple drop-leaf to easily combine the two into a dining table. Roy really wanted me to make the right choices for the piece.

It has patina in bucket loads so we discussed how much we should retain. Pretty much all of it was the consensus. If I’d wanted an immaculate table I could have bought repro


It’s clear that this table stood as two separate side tables for almost all its life. Roy gave me an insight into the forgotten reality of making such a piece of furniture entirely by hand, showing me the plane marks visible underneath the table top

He had me working on practice boards, fine-tuning the sanding, sealing and de-nibbing etc. Then we hit the table, so to speak

First the prep: there were nearly 200 years worth of grime and old polish to remove. As we stripped it back the beauty of the Cuban mahogany revealed itself and the beautifully-crafted details started to jump out, such as the double row of inlay, probably ebony, on the lower edgeIMG_9795


Before and after stripping: I had barely noticed the inlay when we startedIMG_9797


Top, before and after strippingIMG_9810

The colour and depth increased as we worked. It was reassuring to know that if I did anything REALLY stupid Roy would show me how to fix it. Bringing something so beautifully handcrafted back to life after years of abuse is exciting and rewarding, though there is much left to do




(I still need to do the rest of it!)IMG_9924

Author: poshbirdy

Art deco/ art nouveau maniac enjoying a deep and meaningful relationship with alcohol

14 thoughts on “Revealing Beauty”

  1. You have inspired me. I bought a desk here in the US when I first arrived (I had no-where to write and was getting very whingey) It’s turn of the 20th Century (which is quite an age here!) but really needs to be stripped and polished. I think I will give it a go. I might get it done before it needs to be shipped to France ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s fantastic, Fiona. Be prepared for it to get worse before it gets better. But never give up! (Try to avoid using varnish as that’s the only thing that is really difficult to undo!) But where will you write in the meantime?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the truth is that the desk represented my need to have a corner that was just mine in a house that didn’t feel like mine (I’m working on restoring the house my husband bought with his ex-wife 25 years ago …. nuff said!) I’ve been there longer now and I think I can cope with the kitchen table or sitting on the deck (complete with mint julep to make my F Scott Fitz fantasy complete) for a little while!!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re on …. I’m away for a couple of weeks as a surprise for our anniversary (never let it be said that boffins are un-romantic!) but once I am back I will pop you a piccy and that will act as the spur to get me working on the restoration 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. We used a LOT of methylated spirits and fine steel wool to clean. French polishing is a very labour intensive process which requires a huge investment of time, but I found I felt ‘in the zone’ doing it and the hours passed quickly. Very therapeutic!


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