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French Polish

After Stimson studies the damaged furniture, he uses his butane knife to heat, shape and mold the shellac stick. He then carefully drips the stick into the indentation, simultaneously smoothing it over with the heated knife.

When the indentation is filled, he lightly sands the problem area before adding ground earth-pigmented colors - "the same kind," he says, "that Michelangelo used on the Sistine Chapel" - to re-create the surrounding grain. His final touch is a French polish over the stain.

"A French polish is an old finishing procedure that takes years of practice and subtle technique," he says. "The polish is applied with a wad of cotton and a cheesecloth.

It has to be built up carefully, one layer at a time to get an even, streak-free finish. It takes many strokes to get just the right look." What about the polish in aerosol cans that most furniture repair shops use today?

"Spray cans of finish don't offer the same quality results," Stimson says. "Using a can is faster because the finish builds quicker. Another advantage is that cans offer more variety in sheens such as gloss, flat and satin. The con, " he points out, "is that you can never quite get that French polish look."

Furniture Burn-in

Furniture burn, says Stimson, is an old-world craft that began around the turn of the 17th century. Shellac, which came in the form of hardened flakes, was heated over an open fire and then applied to damaged wood furniture to conceal nicks and dings.

"When shellac sticks came on the scene around 1850, it became easier to manipulate and shave the shellac with a knife that was heated by a candle," Stimson says.

Around the 1940s candles were replaced with small electric ovens or Bunsen burners that repairmen carried with them. These were the primary tools of the trade until the 1960s when the even more convenient electric knife became available. Today this is still a commonly used tool. Not so with the Wood Wizard.

"This is my magic wand," Stimson exclaims, pointing to his butane-powered cord-free knife. "The umbilical cord has been severed! With this tool I can now work anywhere beyond the confines of electricity."

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