French Polishing, Doors, Stairs, Furniture

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” Leonardo da Vinci

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French polishing and restoration of stairs

Stairs, bannisters, handrails, newel posts, aprons, acorns, stringing and all associated woodwork stripped, restored, stained and finished. Whether it is a painted pine staircase in a terraced London house, a new hardwood staircase or a period staircase in a country home, cottage or manor house all can be finished, refinished and restored using either modern durable lacquers or traditional oils, shellacs and waxes.

We are used to working in finished properties on new carpets or stonework, carry our own protection, portable collapsible dust bins with industrial refuse sacks and clean as we go with our efficient dust extraction machinery. We aim to leave areas we work in cleaner than when we arrived for peace of mind and a lower stress job.

Stairs cloakrooms reception and banqueting rooms finished

We have the the dust and fume extraction equipment and the high efficiency LED lighting systems to work around the clock, out of hours to complete commercial wood finishing to hotels, bars, restaurants, offices and institutions in high durability lacquers with minimum downtime and disruption to you and your customers and staff leaving the area cleaner than when we arrived.

Handrails and Newel posts French polished or lacquered

Stripping, staining and polishing either with durable lacquer or traditional shellac and carnauba / beeswax finishes. Whether your handrails, newel posts and banisters are new or several hundred years old, we can bring the best out of them.

In many London houses up until the Edwardian era the stairs were fitted with beautiful Honduran (Spanish) virgin rainforest grown mahogany handrails of a quality that quite rightly is rarely available today due to environmental concerns. This is the same species of mahogany used in high class furniture and musical instruments. Instead of stripping whole pine staircases it can look more impressive to paint or fit a runner to the treads and risers and make a statement by showing off the beautiful handrails, if you are lucky enough to have them.

If you have just moved in or are undertaking a renovation you might want to scratch off some of that thick paint build up and see if you are a winner.

We are used to working in carpeted and stone areas that are already fit and finished and can completely mask up the area, we can even undertake the minor touch ups to the finished painted banister sticks which are often inevitable when undertaking a full strip and repolish.

Doors stripped by hand stained colour matched and refinished

Whether you want your pine doors shellacked and waxed, or your new oak or mahogany doors stained and French polished or lacquered or your front door stripped, cleaned and refinished in hard wearing weather resistant lacquer we can do that for you. All work carried out with care and with minimum of mess and dust.

Fireplace surrounds panelled rooms skirtings

Panelled rooms, fireplace surrounds, mantles, skirtings and indeed any interior architectural items stripped, stained, colour matched and restored using traditional button shellac and beeswax or a modern hand rubbed but hard wearing lacquer.

From stately homes, schools and colleges, hotels, bars, restaurants and offices to ordinary houses, all wood stripped, stained and restored to the same high standard by trained French polishers and restorers.

Window cills sanded stained and finished with water resistant lacquer

Window cills stripped either chemically or by hand scraping and sanding, clear finished or stained and colour matched to a hue and shade of your choice, to match an item of furniture, floor, furnishing or colour scheme. Due to the probability of condensation especially in older single glazed properties and the propensity to act as a platform for pot plants and occasionally cups of tea cills can be finished in a water resistant lacquer.

Antique restoration white ring scratch dent removal clean and wax

I am not a floor sander, I am a French polisher and antique restorer who just also happens to sand and repair floors. Having my first taste of French polishing working for my Grandfather in 1986 I then studied for my City and Guilds in both Wood Finishing and Antique Restoration and I have been learning ever since.

Hand made by famille Vulliamy. Clockmakers to King George III and builders of The Regulator, official regulator of London time 1780 to 1884.
Cleaned, shellacked and waxed. The Law Society, Chancery Lane.

I have worked on Chippendale chairs, Sheraton sideboards, Queen Anne, Regency, Georgian and Victorian tables, chairs, chest of drawers and armoires, from original HMV gramophones, Swiss music boxes to snooker tables and pianos. I use traditional materials such as Van dyke walnut shell crystal stains, rhubarb bleach, shellacks and natural carnauba and beeswaxes. Infills expertly colour matched and repaired to be almost invisible. Careful stripping of deeply patinated furniture like faded Rosewood and Mahogany by hand and re fading of the surface or carefully revived keeping the centuries old patination and colour intact.

I undertake minor veneer, moulding and metal inlay repairs, releathering, white ring and dent removal, filling and colouring of scratches, wash and revives, knock apart and reglues through to full stripping and full grain French polishing and hand rubbed lacquering of modern and period antiques, tables, chairs and pianos.

Whilst repairs to broken tenons, muntins and other structural items are glued with high performance polyurethane or D4 PVA adhesive for strength, actual joints between members can be steamed apart, cleaned and re glued with traditional reversible pearl glue if required. This reduces stress on load bearing members by allowing joint movement under extreme force conditions and ensures continued repairability for future generations maintaining the value of period antiques.

Furniture refinishing

I also undertake repair, scratch colouring, white ring removal to full stripping and refinishing of contemporary home and office furniture, boardroom tables, hotel and restaurant tables and chairs.

Tables sanded on site in situ with dust and fume extraction

Boardroom and meeting tables for institutions, hotels and pubs, from small business suites to banqueting halls and libraries. Below we are refinishing the mahogany meeting tables for The Law Society council chamber where we also stripped, stained and restored all the tables in the library as well as other work to the interior and exterior. We are able to work unsociable hours to complete jobs in the evenings and weekends working through the night to ensure any down time is kept to a minimum.

Boardroom tables and office furniture sanded and relacquered on site

We can sand boardroom tables on site, in situ with no dust or fume nuisance. White marks, scratches and scuffs removed, tables recoloured and restained or changed. Hard wearing durable lacquer applied, hand finishing available. We can work out of hours to minimise disruption to your business.

Art repair

I have worked on a number of French painted antiques, stabilising the existing paint and repainting the missing portions. Whilst I would not call myself an artist, I am particularly fond of painting, drawing and design. I have also undertaken wood staining and colouring on art pieces by modern artists.

After 1979 BBC Life on Earth – David Attenborough first edition poster. Oil and house paint on hardboard. 61 x 61cm. Toby Newell. 1996.

Colouring and golding powder gilding

I can make virtually any colour, transparent, full or semi opaque suspended in shellac and apply it to furniture, frames and architectural items such as wood engraved signs in bars and restaurants for example. Dutch gold powders or silver for that matter, can also be applied to frames and railings as a more versatile and cheaper alternative to water gilding using real gold leaf. The 100% dutch gold metal powders available in French, Italian, Rose, White and Yellow gold colours, are mixed with a special shellac and applied using British hand made squirrel hair brushes, fine detail is applied using sable artists brushes.

The gold and metallic colours are mixed bespoke during the job and only last a few minutes before clumping. The colours are sealed in after they are dry to protect them. The carved antique mirror frame below belonged to the late mother of a good customer of mine. The frame was in bare grey primer with the only instruction from my customer to “Jazz it up a bit” knowing she loved colours as much as I do, I spent a whole day mixing and painting the frame different shades of metallic gold. Thankfully my customer was delighted with the result.

Traditional dutch gold powder paints mixed and applied

I can prepare, colour and finish any architectural item interior or exterior in real dutch gold powder to give a colour, level of lustre and most importantly durability that is simply unobtainable with ready mixed, shop bought paints and finishes. The gold powder is so fine it clumps within minutes of preparation and needs to be expertly applied with soft squirrel and sable hair brushes. The effect is second only to water gilding with gold leaf but at a fraction of the cost. The look is far superior to gold paint and lasts several years longer.

Most gold paint contains a background pigment which is an orange yellow colour and a small amount of metallic powder, over time the warm colours in the background pigment degrade in sunlight and the once gold paint turns a turgid yellow green. This does not happen with 100% pure metal powders that are unaffected by sunlight and weathering if correctly sealed.

The magnificent Alfred Stevens lion sejant railings of The Law Society in Chancery Lane, bequeathed by The British Museum were looking tired and dull with flaking gold paint. After stripping off the old finish, filling and sanding the damage I made up and applied a traditional red lead primer which would serve as a bright base, much as in water gilding. I then applied several coats of dutch gold powder in a special weather resistant shellac and protected them with five coats of traditional yacht varnish. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures in the sun which really shows the difference as in bright full sunlight they look spectacular and much brighter than any gold paint.

In addition we also restored almost the entire wooden interior of The Law Society including the president of The Law Society’s residence in Carey Street, The library tables, council meeting room tables, and the rare antique tables designed by Vulliamy the architect of the building c.1832 and a clock I believe to be of his brother, clockmaker to the Royal Court and apparently Barry’s first choice to build Big Ben.

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