French Polish Supplies

By Karl

List of Important Materials Needed for French Polishing

French polishing requires a few needed materials. The most important supplies that are required at the beginning of any project are:

  • Shellac Flakes
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Pure Lamb’s Wool
  • Cheesecloth or a Clean Cotton Cloth
  • Sandpaper
  • Pumice
  • Squeeze Bottles
  • Salt Shaker (for disbursing pumice)
  • Natural Oil
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Air-Tight Container (for storing the pad)
  • Cleaning and/or Polishing Agent
  • A Clean Work Area


The art of French polishing has been around for thousands of years, but it hit its height in popularity during the Victorian Era. When you think about it, this old-fashioned art requires only a handful of basic and natural materials. This is why a French polished finish is so simple.

In fact, French polishing is so basic, it is a project that can be completed for a minimal amount of money.

Let’s discuss some of the needed materials for French polishing in more detail:


Shellac is a material found in nature. It is a byproduct from an insect called the “Lac Beetle.” The substance was originally discovered on the bark and branches of trees. Today, shellac is produced in mass quantities and sold in stores. It can either be purchased in a flake form (which must be dissolved in denatured alcohol to produce a substance that can be applied to wood), or it can be purchased in a pre-mixed container. Most professional furniture refinishers recommend that anyone using shellac on antique furniture should purchase shellac in flakes rather than in pre-mixed containers. When a self-made flake-denatured alcohol mixture is used the result will be a stronger and nicer looking finish.

Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol that is not fit for consumption. It has either acetone or methanol added to it which makes it highly useful as a solvent. It is an important material used in the French polishing process. Denatured alcohol is not only used to dissolve shellac flakes but it is also used to thin the shellac as it is applied to the wood.


During the French polishing process you will used very fine pumice to help fill the wood’s pores.


The purpose of pure oil during the French polishing process is to help the pad that will be used to spread and “build” the shellac glide easily on the wood. It is applied directly to the cheese or cotton cloth. It is an excellent substance to help prevent the pad from sticking or dragging as it is rubbed in a circular motion. The most experienced French polishing experts recommend that pure oil – such as virgin olive oil be used. Oils that contain any type of fragrance or antioxidants are not recommended.


Many different grit sandpapers are necessary in French polishing. You will need various grits ranging from 220 through 600.

Cheese Cloth or Cotton and Wool

Another one of the needed materials for French polishing is a well-made rubbing pad. You will create the pad using wool and cheese cloth or a cotton cloth. The wool will make up the inside layer of the pad which will be wrapped inside of the cloth. The wool is necessary because it will soak up the shellac and disburse the substance evenly as you press down on the pad while rubbing it on the wood.

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