Types of Finishes

In identifying the kind of finish on furni ture, it helps to know a little history about the types of finishes.

Shellac Shellac was developed as a furniture finish about 1800, and for the next 50 years, just about every manufactured (as opposed to custom-made) picce of furniture was finished in shellac. Its use continued for another 70 years, but during this time, other finishes also were used. If you know the piece was made between 1800 and 1850, you can be pretty sure the finish is shellac.

Lacquer After World War I, there was a great movement to improve the manufacture of furniture— improve it, that is, from the viewpoint of the maker. Before the war. furniture assembly lines had been developed. But in the five to ten years after the war. the process was speeded up.

One of the major events in this speedup was the development first of commercial lacquer (an offshoot of ammunitions manufacture in World War I) and later of lacquer that could be sprayed on. These products cut the long drying times needed for earlier finishing materials. As a result, most of the furniture made after the mid-1920s was finished in lacquer.

Synthetics Beginning in the mid-1960s, paint chemistry took some new quantum leaps with the development of synthetic varnishes and new lacqucr formulations. If your furniture piecc was produced after that time, it could have one of these newer finishes.

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