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Polishes

It is not always easy, even for experts, to tell one antique finish from another, particularly when the piece has been polished and re-polished over many years. The following are the principal types of polish. French Polish consists of shellac dissolved in methylated spirits. The color of the polish can be varied to suit the wood by using different types of shellac and by adding dyes, such as alkanet or dragon's blood if an authentic antique color is required. Gilding has two principal methods of applying gold leaf, namely oil gilding and water gilding, and both were used on furniture; the choice depended on whether or not the gilding needed to be burnished. Oil gilding cannot be burnished, but water gilding can. Graining is defined as a way of painting woodwork to imitate the grain and color of a more costly or attractive timber. The process involved applying scumble glazes to the wood and manipulating them with various brushes and tools to resemble the color and grain of the desired timber. Marbling was accomplished by methods and tools very similar to those used for graining and, in fact, many of the stately pillars in the grandest country houses are made of wood which has been marbled. It was also used to decorate woodwork and furniture, table tops particularly. Japanning is an inferior imitation of lacquering; japanning utilizes shellac while lacquering employs the sap of the "lacquer" or "varnish" tree which is widely grown in Japan. Shellac is derived from the incrustations of lac insects which feed on the sap of trees in India and Thailand. Lacquer is sap which has been collected from lacquer trees tapped for the purpose. Many of the Arts and Crafts Movement designers used paint, either all-over or to pick out the salient features. In Medieval times, most furniture was painted. Two types of Varnish were used as finishes for furniture - spirit varnish, and oil varnish. Spirit varnishes consist of gums or resins dissolved in methylated spirits including shellac, copal resin, gum damar and gum sandarac. Oil varnishes are made by dissolving such resins and gums as copal, damar, and fossil resin; linseed oil was the most common. Wax polishing was made by dissolving beeswax in turpentine, sometimes with the addition of a little linseed oil.