How To Restore Polished Wood

In this in-depth video (below) Simon demonstrates how to restore and revive the finish on a pair of antique rosewood chests without removing the original antique finish.


A perfect opportunity was presented to us by one of our regular furniture restoration customers who outbid many people to win this pair of rosewood chests at auction. Originally we believe them to have been the pedestals separated either from an early 19th Century desk or dressing table.

Veneer Repairs

As with all furniture repairs when it comes restoration and reviving, they MUST be carried out first. The reason for doing so is to maximise the blending of any repairs at the polishing stage. We have a large three drawer chest stocked full of old previously used veneer. This is essential for period furniture restoration as it allows us to select veneers that have very similar characteristics to the piece we are repairing. The animal glue we use is the ONLY glue that should be used to repair antique furniture. Bought in a granular or pearl form, we steep it overnight and keep it gently warmed in a pot in the workshop. it is extremely versatile and can be thinned or thickened to suit the need. We insist on using this glue because...

  1. It's reversible. If in the future further repairs are needed to the furniture, then the restorer can use steam to loosen the veneer or joint without causing any damage to the antique
  2. This is the same glue that was used by the cabinet makers when it was made
  3. If we get it wrong it can be easily reversed and re-applied without causing any harm.
  4. It is very versatile: depending on how we mix it it can be used for the most delicate of inlay work or glueing the loosest of mortice and tenon joints.

Moulding Repair

This is very common on lots of period antiques. You can see me here using the animal glue as a very good contact adhesive to re-secure it.

Oil Stain Revive

We developed this technique of using traditional oil stains to revive and refresh old period finishes. It can be very effective as you can see. We love the fact that it doesn't harm the original finish by refreshing the colour and preserving all the lovely patination. Be careful to USE ONLY white spirit based oil stain for this method. Also check that the finish is not flaky or broken as the stain will creep under the finish and lift the remaining polish and discolour the wood underneath.

French Polishing

Once the oil satin has had time to dry we revive the finish using french polish. You can see me here applying a few very thin layers of polish using a traditional rubber charged with special pale polish and methylated spirit. Be careful not to over apply or be to exacting, easy to say and with practice it will become easier. Colouring This is such an important area of french polishing and furniture restoration. we will in the future dedicate a video explaining it in greater detail. Here you can see me using spirit colours and a squirrel hair pencil brush / mop to add a small amount of colour to blend the period veneer repairs in. This is normally carried out before the french polishing but in some cases like this small adjustments can be made.

Wax Finishing

What really finishes off this type of restoration is the wax polish. We use our own pure wax polish that has been developed by our own restorers in the workshop. The reason we did this is because is quite honestly the polishes we have been using for decades were just not good enough. They contain cheap petrochemical ingredients and in our opinion should not be used on valuable period furniture or for that matter on any furniture. The end result is, in our opinion a beautifully revived antique, preserving the original finish and protecting it with Gilboy's Gold Beeswax Polish for years to come.

To make it easier for you to navigate, we have written timestamps for the different sections in the video:

 how to restore polished wood video



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