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FRENCH POLISHING AND ENAMELLING

A Practical Work of Instruction

INCLUDING NUMEROUS RECIPES FOR MAKING POLISHES, VARNISHES, GLAZE-LACQUERS, REVIVERS, ETC.

By RICHARD BITMEAD

AUTHOR OF "THE CABINET-MAKER'S GUIDE," "THE UPHOLSTERER'S GUIDE," ETC.

Fourth Edition LONDON, CROSBY LOCKWOOD AND SON, 7, STATIONERS' HALL COURT, LUDGATE HILL, 1910

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.


CHAPTER I.

THE IMPROVING AND PREPARATION OF FURNITURE WOODS.

Be Safe. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection when French polishing and enamelling. Many of the chemicals used are toxic and corrosive.

Early in the present century the method generally adopted for polishing furniture was by rubbing with beeswax and turpentine or with linseed-oil. That process, however, was never considered to be very satisfactory, which fact probably led to experiments being made for the discovery of an improvement. The first intimation of success in this direction appeared in the Mechanic's Magazine of November 22, 1823, and ran as follows: "The Parisians have now introduced an entirely new mode of polishing, which is called plaque, and is to wood precisely what plating is to metal. The wood by some process is made to resemble marble, and has all the beauty of that article with much of its solidity. It is even asserted by persons who have made trial of the new mode that water may be spilled upon it without staining it." Such was the announcementvi of an invention which was destined ultimately to become a new industry.

The following pages commence with a description of the art of French Polishing in its earliest infancy, care having been taken by the Author, to the best of his ability, to note all the new processes and manipulations, as well as to concisely and perspicuously arrange and describe the various materials employed, not only for French polishing but for the improving and preparation of furniture woods, a matter of great importance to the polisher. The arts of Staining and Imitating, whereby inferior woods are made to resemble the most costly, are also fully treated, as well as the processes of Enamelling, both in oil-varnishes and French polish, together with the method of decorating the same. The condition of the art of polishing in America is dwelt upon, and various interesting articles written by practical polishers in the States, which appeared in their trade journal, The Cabinet-maker, have been revised and printed in this work.

A number of valuable recipes, and other instructive matter, useful alike to the amateur and to the practical workman, are also given.

For a French polisher to be considered a good workman he should, in addition to his ordinary ability to lay on a good polish, possess considerable knowledge of the various kinds of wood used for furniture, as well as the most approved method of bringing out to the fullest extent their natural tones or tints; he should also be able to improve the inferior kinds of wood, and to stain, bleach, or match any of the fancy materials to which his art is applied, in a manner that will produce the greatest perfection. The following information is given to facilitate a thorough knowledge of the above processes.

Improving.—Iron filings added to a decoction of gall-nuts and vinegar will give to ebony which has been discoloured an intense black, after brushing over once or twice. Walnut or poor-coloured rosewood can be improved by boiling half an ounce of walnut-shell extract and the same quantity of catechu in a quart of soft-water, and applying with a sponge. Half a pound of walnut husks and a like quantity of oak bark boiled in half a gallon of water will produce much the same result. Common mahogany can be improved by rubbing it with powdered red-chalk (ruddle) and a woollen rag, or by first wiping the surface with liquid ammonia, and red-oiling afterwards. For a rich mild red colour, rectified spirits of naphtha, dyed with camwood dust, or an oily decoction of alkanet-root. Methylated spirits and a small quantity of dragon's blood will also produce a mild red. Any yellow wood can be improved by an alcoholic solution of Persian berries, fustic, turmeric, or gamboge. An aqueous decoction of barberry-root will serve the same purpose. Birch when preferred a warm tint may be sponged with oil, very slightly tinted with rose-madder or Venetian red; the greatest care should be used, or it will be rendered unnatural in appearance by becoming too red. Maple which is of a dirty-brown colour, or of a cold grey tint, and mahogany, ash, oak, or any of the light-coloured woods, can be whitened by the bleaching fluid (see "Matching"). Numerous materials 3may be improved by the aid of raw linseed-oil mixed with a little spirits of turpentine. Artificial graining may be given to various woods by means of a camel-hair pencil and raw oil; two or three coats should be given, and after standing for some time the ground should have one coat of oil much diluted with spirits of turpentine, and then rubbed off.

Matching.—Old mahogany furniture which has been repaired may be easily matched by wiping over the new portions with water in which a nodule of lime has been dissolved, or by common soda and water. The darkeners for general use are dyed oils, logwood, aquafortis, sulphate of iron, and nitrate of silver, with exposure to the sun's rays. For new furniture in oak, ash, maple, etc., the process of matching requires care and skill. When it is desirable to render all the parts in a piece of furniture of one uniform tone or tint, bleach the dark parts with a solution of oxalic acid dissolved in hot water (about two-pennyworth of acid to half a pint of water is a powerful solution); when dry, if this should not be sufficient, apply the white stain (see pp. 11, 12) delicately toned down, or the light parts may be oiled. For preserving the intermediate tones, coat them with white polish by means of a camel-hair pencil. On numerous woods, carbonate of soda and bichromate of potash are very effective as darkeners, as are also other preparations of an 4acid or alkaline nature, but the two given above are the best.

A good way of preparing these darkeners, says the "French Polisher's Manual," an excellent little work published in Perth some years since, is to procure twopennyworth of carbonate of soda in powder, and dissolve it in half a pint of boiling water; then have ready three bottles, and label them one, two, three. Into one put half the solution, and into the other two half a gill each; to number two add an additional gill of water, and to number three two gills. Then get the same quantity of bichromate of potash, and prepare it in a like manner; you will then have six staining fluids for procuring a series of brown and dark tints suitable for nearly all classes of wood.

The bichromate of potash is useful to darken oak, walnut, beech, or mahogany, but if applied to ash it renders it of a greenish cast. If a sappy piece of walnut should be used either in the solid or veneer, darken it to match the ground colour, and then fill in the dark markings with a feather and the black stain (see pp. 10, 11). The carbonate solutions are generally used for dark surfaces, such as rosewood represents, and a still darker shade can be given to any one by oiling over after the stain is dry. The better way of using these chemical stains is to pour out into a saucer as much as will serve the purpose, and to apply it quickly with a sponge rubbed rapidly and evenly over the surface, and rubbed off dry 5immediately with old rags. Dark and light portions, between which the contrast is slight, may be made to match by varnishing the former and darkening the latter with oil, which should remain on it sufficiently long; by this means the different portions may frequently be made to match without having recourse to bleaching or staining.

Painting.—The next process is painting. It frequently happens in cabinet work that a faulty place is not discovered until after the work is cleaned off; the skill of the polisher is then required to paint it to match the other. A box containing the following colours in powder will be found of great utility, and when required for use they should be mixed with French polish and applied with a brush. The pigments most suitable are: drop black, raw sienna, raw and burnt umber, Vandyke brown, French Naples yellow (bear in mind that this is a very opaque pigment), cadmium yellow, madder carmine (these are expensive), flake white, and light or Venetian red; before mixing, the colours should be finely pounded. The above method of painting, however, has this objection for the best class of furniture, that the effects of time will darken the body of the piece of furniture, whilst the painted portion will remain very nearly its original colour. In first-class work, therefore, stained polishes or varnishes should be applied instead of these pigments. 6

Dyed Polishes.—The methods of dyeing polish or varnish are as follows: for a red, put a little alkanet-root or camwood dust into a bottle containing polish or varnish; for a bright yellow, a small piece of aloes; for a yellow, ground turmeric or gamboge; for a brown, carbonate of soda and a very small quantity of dragon's blood; and for a black, a few logwood chips, gall-nuts, and copperas, or by the addition of gas-black.

The aniline dyes (black excepted) are very valuable for dyeing polishes, the most useful being Turkey-red, sultan red, purple, and brown. A small portion is put into the polish, which soon dissolves it, and no straining is required. The cheapest way to purchase these dyes is by the ounce or half-ounce. The penny packets sold by chemists are too expensive, although a little goes a long way.


FRENCH POLISHING AND ENAMELLING

CHAPTER I. THE IMPROVING AND PREPARATION OF FURNITURE WOODS.

CHAPTER II. STAINS AND IMITATIONS.

CHAPTER III. FRENCH POLISHING.

CHAPTER IV. CHEAP WORK.

CHAPTER V. RE-POLISHING OLD WORK

CHAPTER VI. SPIRIT VARNISHING.

CHAPTER VII. GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS.

CHAPTER VIII. ENAMELLING.

CHAPTER IX. AMERICAN POLISHING PROCESSES.

CHAPTER X. MISCELLANEOUS RECIPES.

CHAPTER XI. MATERIALS USED.

LIST OF WORKS ON TRADES and MANUFACTURES, THE INDUSTRIAL ARTS, CHEMICAL MANUFACTURES, COUNTING HOUSE WORK, Etc.







                                                                



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Written and maintained by
Ronald Hunter
           
  All images and text are copyright Ronald Hunter 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009.
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