French polishing and cellulose lacquer

The technique for French polishing was developed in France in the 18th century. It became popular in Sweden at the beginning of the nineteenth century and was for a long time one of the most important methods for treating the surface of veneered furniture.

Category: Craft

Geographical location: All of Sweden

Shellac mixed with the other ingredients is used as the polish, and the application method is based on the lacquer first being applied to the surface with a rubbing pad, which is kept in constant movement. The work is carried out in different ways depending on what is being polished. In the 1920s cellulose lacquer was introduced, which in turn was replaced in the 1950s with oil-based plastic lacquer.

The manufacture of furniture remained a craft in Sweden for a long time, due to the material's living properties, and the fact that furniture was expected to be of a quality that could only be achieved through solid craftsmanship. Having different professionals perform various steps in the production process has occurred at least since the 1600s. Production in the early 1900s was based on a variety of workshops where the work was conducted with the help of mechanical machinery on a relatively small scale.

Some machines have been preserved but the knowledge of how to use them is disappearing. A small number of workshops maintain knowledge of French polishing, and it is included as part of furniture production training. The general public are becoming increasingly interested in furniture restoration and upholstery care, in line with the ideas of sustainability and recycling.