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French Polishing Helena MT

What is French polish? It’s simply shellac and a little oil applied with a pad. The oil acts as a lubricant when you apply the finish. French polish is available as commercially made products, also labeled as padding lacquer or friction polish.

The Home Depot
(406)442-7311
1801 E Custer Avenue
Helena, MT
Hours
Mon-Sat: 6:00am-9:00pm
Sun: 8:00am-8:00pm

Rock Hand Hardware
(406) 442-7770
2414 N Montana Ave
Helena, MT
 
Murdoch's Ranch & Home Supply
(406) 457-1700
3050 North Montana Ave
Helena, MT
 
Lowe's
(406) 495-9750
3291 North Sanders Street
Helena, MT
Hours
M-SA 6 am - 10 pm
SU 8 am - 8 pm

Power Townsend Company
(406) 442-2770
1387 E Custer Ave
Helena, MT
 
Kmart 7029 / Cross Merch
(406) 443-4745
1700 Cedar St
Helena, MT
Store Hours
Miscellaneous
Store Type
Miscellaneous
Hours
Monday To Friday Working Hours is :8-22 and for Sat:8-22
Sun:8-21
Store Features
Monday To Friday Working Hours is :8-22 and for Sat:8-22
Sun:8-21

Fastenal- Helena
406-443-1270
767 Nicole Street Helena, MT, 59601
Helena, MT
 
Lowe's of Helena
406-495-9750
3291 North Sanders St Helena, MT, 59602
Helena, MT
 
Helena - Auth Hometown
(406) 442-4212
3150 Dredge Dr
Helena, MT
Store Hours
Hometown Dealers
Store Type
Hometown Dealers
Hours
Mon:9-18
Tue:9-18
Wed:9-18
Thu:9-18
Fri:9-18
Sat:8-17
Sun:11-16
Store Features
Mon:9-18
Tue:9-18
Wed:9-18
Thu:9-18
Fri:9-18
Sat:8-17
Sun:11-16

Xtreme Property Maintenance
(406) 465-9334
2992 Herrin Rd #16
Helena, MT
Services Offered
Deck Staining and Sealing, Concrete Staining and Sealing
Hours
8-5
Prices and/or Promotions
Free Quotes

French Polishing

French Polishing

Six Easy Steps to a Beautiful Finish

by Alan Lacer

French polish adds extraordinary depth to gorgeous wood. This finish is perfect for bowls, vessels, lamps and other turnings that aren’t handled often or are exposed to moisture, alcohol or heat. It’s easy to apply: Just hold a cloth moistened with the finish directly to your project as it spins on the lathe. 

What is French polish? It’s simply shellac and a little oil applied with a pad. The oil acts as a lubricant when you apply the finish. French polish is available as commercially made products, also labeled as padding lacquer or friction polish, but I prefer to make my own from flakes, which guarantees freshness. You can achieve a variety of effects because shellac is available in a range of colors (see “Buying Shellac,” below). Here’s how you can mix your own French polish, choose different colors, apply it and rub it out. 

Sand with Fine Grits

Thoroughly sand all surfaces of your project to eliminate torn grain, spirals and ridges. Start with 120-grit and progress through 150-, 180- and 220-grit sandpaper (Photo 1). If sanding scratches still show, continue with 320- or 400-grit sandpaper. Maple and cherry often require these finer grits. After sanding, remove the dust using an alcohol-moistened paper towel.

Photo 1: Sand your piece to eliminate flaws and sanding rings. Remove sanding dust using a paper towel moistened with denatured alcohol held against the workpiece while it’s spinning.

Mix the French Polish

You can use shellac flakes or premixed liquid shellac to make French polish. Either way, your goal is to make a 1-1/2-lb. cut, which is the equivalent of mixing 1-1/2 lbs. of flakes with 1 gal. of denatured alcohol. That’s far too much finish for most projects, however. If you use flakes, dissolve 1-1/2 oz. of flakes with 1 cup of denatured alcohol. Premixed liquid shellac comes in a 3-lb. cut. To make approximately a 1-1/2 lb. cut, thin it with an equal amount of denatured alcohol.

The final ingredient of French polish is an oil, which acts a lubricant to prevent your applicator cloth from dragging or sticking. Add 1 tablespoon of mineral oil for every 3 liquid oz. of 1-1/2-lb.-cut shellac (Photo 2).

Photo 2: French polish is a mixture of shellac and oil. Little oil is needed; it acts as a lubricant for the shellac.

Apply the Finish

Adjust your lathe to run at a moderate speed, about 500 to 800 rpm, slower for large-diameter turnings. Make an applicator for applying the French polish from a densely woven, soft, white cotton cloth that has been washed many times to remove all lint. Soften the pad with alcohol before dipping it into the French polish.

Shake the French polish to suspend the oil, as though it were an oil-and-vinegar salad dressing. Turn on the lathe, saturate the cloth pad and flow on the finish (Photo 3). If the cloth grabs, add a half teaspoon of oil. Let thi...

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