Full Chisel Blog

February 26, 2012

French Polish – Cotton vs Wool in the Fad

I have used a variety of fillers [such as rolled up cotton cloth, tow, cotton string] for the fad, pad, or rubber for applying shellac in the French polish process.  Mostly I have used raw cotton balls, they are readily available and terribly inexpensive.  After my research for Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint – Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes, I wanted to give raw wool a try.

I acquired some raw wool from a friend Tracy Mudder a fine seamstress and spinner and washed it twice to remove any remaining lanolin.  I tried this stuff during the WestPac convention of the Piano Technicians Guild held last week in Salt Lake.  I was at Jurgen Goehring’s booth Piano Forte Supply from Canada.  I did a private [sort of, others were watching] workshop on French Polish.

Mixed up the seedlac and Everclear a couple of hours before I did the impromptu demonstration and lesson.  I prepared the linen cloth with Moses T’s St. John’s Oil and a bit of rottenstone.  I dipped a wad of raw wool into the shellac/alcohol mixture then wrapped it up in the linen and proceeded with the demonstration.  I then turned it over to Jurgen.








The piece of wood is a sample of spruce piano sounding board, the only piece of wood we could find to do the demonstration with.

Adjusting the pad before proceeding again.








He picked up the technique and learned what the ‘feel’ is like when the resistance starts and the surfaces goes to gloss.

My old pad with cotton on the left and my new favorite raw wool on the right.  Get some raw wool, wash it thoroughly, let it dry and use it for your pad.  The stuff looks like it will last a long time, I always threw away the cotton after one use.



  1. Stephen,

    I have been using washed and carded wool for a few years now. I an fortunate enough to live near several farms where both goats and sheep are raised. I have used sheep,goat,alpaca, and llama. The alpaca is too fine and the goat and llama and sheep seem to perform mostly the same. What I like about the wool is that it seems to give up the shellac at a more even rate and the pad seems to last forever. Even if I let it dry out, I can soak it in some alcohol and it is good as new.

    Thanks for such a great blog.

    Comment by J.P. — February 26, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

  2. Is there a reason that cotton couldn’t be reused? Or is it just that it is so cheap?

    Comment by Wilbur Pan — February 26, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

  3. JP,

    I will have a steady source of raw wool now, however as you mentioned and I noticed the wool lasts.


    The cotton becomes matted and doesn’t hold nor dispense the shellac like raw wool does, even when the cotton is new.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — February 27, 2012 @ 7:55 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress