Stanley Drills


Workshop Recipes

  Polishes and Stains for Wood by David Denning, 1903    


The polishing and making furniture and other articles of interior wood-work are so intimately associated that many people are apparently under the impression that both are done by the same craftsman, who is assumed to be the cabinet-maker.

This, however, is not so, for polishing is a distinct branch of work altogether from the construction of furniture, and the polisher and cabinet-maker are different individuals. Polishing must be learned like any other craft, and the novice should neither be surprised nor feel disappointed if the polish he first attempts to put on any piece of wood is not as good as he would like, as the work is by no means so simple as it at first appears to be.

The importance of good polishing, including the preliminary and essential operations to ensure a satisfactory result, can hardly be over-estimated, for, however beautiful the design and excellent in construction the work may be, it is quite possible to spoil its appearance by unskillful or unsuitable methods of finishing.

It must not, however, from this be assumed that good polishing will compensate for defective work, because, unlike painting, it does not hide blemishes, indeed it renders them rather more conspicuous, so that good polish on good work should be the motto of those concerned.

It has been said that both knowledge and skill are essential before anyone can become a good polisher. It is hoped that a sufficient amount of the former can be obtained from these pages, but the worker must rely on himself for the latter. It cannot be given, and can only be acquired by practice and observation.

Professional polishers differ in their methods, or modify the details of the various operations in order to get a desired result. Many of them also have their favorite preparations as well as methods, so that a great diversity of opinion may exist on minor details. In the main, however, the processes followed by all good polishers are identical.

A good polisher gets his results more by instinct than by rule—that is, his experience shows him when it will be more advantageous to depart from customary usage than to follow it. Instead, therefore, of laying down hard and fast lines of procedure, to the exclusion of other methods perhaps equally good, the desire in these pages is to explain the principles of polishing so fully that as skill is acquired the learner will be able to work with freedom and follow those methods which he finds most convenient.


General Remarks on Polishing
French Polishing and Bodying in
Spiriting off in French Polishing
Glazing as a Means of Finishing
The Workroom and its Fittings
Fillers for Wood to be French Polished
Wax Polishing
Oil Polishing
Dry Shining, and Polishing Turned Work, Fretwork, Marquetry, and Inlaid Work
Staining and Darkening Woods
Ebonizing Woods, and Dull Polishing
Preparation of Polishes
Preparation of Stains

December, 2011

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