French-polishing & Shellac Finishes
French polishing is a wood finishing technique that results in a very high gloss surface, with a deep colour and chatoyancy. French polishing consists of applying many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil. The rubbing pad is made of absorbent cotton or wool cloth wadding inside a square piece of fabric (usually soft cotton cloth)
French polishing is a process, not a material. The main material is shellac, although there are several other shellac-based finishes, not all of which class as french polishing.
The finish is considered by many to be a beautiful way to finish highly figured wood, but it is also recognised to be fragile. It is softer than modern varnishes and lacquers and is particularly sensitive to spills of water or alcohol, which often produce white cloudy marks. However, it is also simpler to repair a damaged varnish finish, as patch repairs to french polishing may be easily blended into an existing finish.