Currently viable crafts


French polishing


The application of layers of shellac and oils to provide a high gloss finish to wood.


Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 201-500
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 30+
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



French polishing became prominent in the 18th century. In the Victorian era, French polishing was commonly used on mahogany and other expensive timbers. It was considered the best finish for fine furniture and string instruments such as pianos and guitars.





Local forms




Allied crafts:


Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Throwaway furniture is more common nowadays and less timber panelling is used within larger buildings.
  • Banks and other public that required the skills of the French polisher have closed.
  • Modern alternative products have become more common – why pay a French polisher when a decorator can put on a coat of interior stain?
  • The price of antiques has dropped so people are more likely to replace an item rather that restore it.
  • Dichloromethane (paint stripper) has been banned, meaning removing old finishes takes longer and costs more. The use of water-based products, which are less flammable to apply and do not give off organic solvents, has increased.


Support organisations

  • British Antique Furniture Restorers’ Association


Craftspeople currently known

Crafts businesses:

  • Terry Waters French Polishing
  • SJM French Polishing
  • McQuade French Polishing
  • Martin Allen French Polishing
  • Barwood
  • Alan Farr French Polishing

Individual craftspeople:

  • Andy Stonebridge
  • Tom Moss
  • Andy Morrison
  • Lloyd Morrison
  • Chris Oshea
  • Stuart Munn
  • Kevin Munn
  • Amanda Champion
  • Ian Stephens
  • Chris Chinnery
  • Nigel Curtis


Other information