I am making a dining table out of walnut which is highly figured. What is the best finish so that the table can be used? I know French Polishing it will really enhance the timber but it seems so fragile and prone to damage, so I wonder if there is anything you can do to protect it and make it more durable and user friendly?

  • Have to ask, have you French polished before? If not I wouldn't expect to get an acceptable result first time, it's considered a very challenging finish to pull off. Now besides that, I think you'll find if you do a quick comparison test that the shellac doesn't give a finish superior to varnish used straight on the wood!
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 7:40
  • Thank you - I have French polished a sideboard with a good result, but it is VERY challenging I agree. I might do some tests on some offcuts - thanks for the suggestion.
    – Diana
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 9:52
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    Even if it is true that French Polishing produces a better result than modern varnishes by giving greater chatoyancy (or whatever), wouldn't varnishing over the shellac undo that advantage?
    – Jambo
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


You may be able to with the right lacquer (or "lacquer") but you probably don't have the expertise and equipment to apply one to the necessary standard. But that's OK because you can do what you want with polyurethane varnish and that is easily applied to a high standard by thinning it and applying it as wiping varnish.

See previous Answer for more on wiping varnish.

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    Did you mean 'lacquer or ("laquer")'? At the moment, I can't make sense of your parenthesised alternative. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 15:58
  • @MartinBonner The parenthetical comment is to refer to products named lacquer which aren't actually lacquer, at least not in the conventional sense. I similarly use quotes for other product names like "gel stain" and "Danish oil" where the words don't accurately describe what you're buying.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 5:56

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