I finished the second drill index the other day. I'm happier with this one than I am with the first one, but I'm still not thrilled with my abilities for "staying within the lines". Sadly, the beading is no more accurate on this second attempt than it is on the first, but the finish is much better, so things are improving for me. This second attempt at French Polishing was done using the "true" process, unlike the first one which was done in what I call a "faux French Polish". You can quickly see the difference in the colour between these two types of finish, the latest one being darker and browner than the first
Stephen over on The Full Chisel Blog has a couple of great articles about French Polish and what he says is completely on the money, "It can be a finicky finish to master but it is actually an easy finish to apply once you understand the principles". As he further states, this finish is difficult to apply on pieces that are intricate or on molding, and I can assure you, that is an understatement. To me, these pieces are not intricate at all, with only two little beads running around each edge. Those two little beads, however, are enough to cause you to pull your hair out when you have a polishing pad in your hand. What happens is that you can't get the pad tight into the corner and because you can't get the pad into that corner, you can't rub it out, and because you can't rub it out, you can't get an even coloured finish, a statement borne out in the image.
While Stephen explains the process of French Polishing well, gives the reader some good advice and warns them about some of the pitfalls, he does miss one very important point. The term "French Polish" is an acronym for the word, "Patience". The process is soooooo monotonous until that shine starts to creep in, I think that only those on a daily dose of about 50mg of valium can handle it. Lacking this calmer in my daily chemical mixture, I found that "staying with it" is the hardest part of the whole exercise. Doing this one index took eight days, each day involving activating the pad, charging it and spending about 10 minutes rubbing that pad in circles on the wood. Calling for forty minutes of prep and post time to spend 8 to 10 minutes applying the finish, is it surprising that this finish fell out of favour when labour costs rose above a buck an hour?
While I can tell you about the hassles, problems, mess, aggravation, extended time-frame, repetitions and frustrations involved in applying this finish, I can't begin to explain the silky soft smoothness of its incredibly deep, lustrous surface once its on.