Furniture Polisher
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Practical or MechanicalSkill Level 2Skill Level 3

Furniture polishers [French polishers; Furniture Finishers] polish timber furniture and musical instruments by hand or machine to give them a protective and attractive finish. Future Growth Static

ANZSCO description: 394211: Applies finishes, such as stain, lacquer, paint, oil and varnish, to furniture, and polishes and waxes finished furniture surfaces.

Alternative names: Furniture


Knowledge, skills and attributes

A furniture finisher requires:

  • good eyesight to select woods and look for surface imperfections
  • good eye/hand co-ordination, ability to colour match and manual dexterity
  • ability to visualise a finished product from drawings, blueprints or other specifications
  • a desire to do a precise and thorough job
  • keenness to use tools and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision
  • the ability to follow established procedures and solve problems by experimenting
  • the ability to select the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job
  • good judgement and decision-making skills - able to consider the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one
  • knowledge of the history of furniture and the materials, methods, and the tools involved.

Duties and Tasks

AntiqueA furniture finisher applies stain, lacquer, paint, oil and varnish to furniture, and polishes and waxes finished furniture surfaces. Other tasks will be to:

  • read and interpret work documents
  • estimate job costs
  • dismantle and reassemble furniture
  • remove old finishes by stripping, scraping, sanding or applying solvents or paint strippers
  • mix and apply stains and paint to timber and other surfaces
  • spray on lacquers, varnish and two-pack finishes
  • polish with French polish, wax or lacquer
  • apply graining and decorative finishes
  • make minor repairs to damaged furniture
  • set up, operate and maintain mechanical coating and other furniture finishing tools and machinery.
  • follow plans to produce specific designs
  • remove old finishes and damaged or deteriorated parts
  • design and decorate entire pieces or specific parts of furniture, such as chairs and draws for cabinets
  • create an antique appearance
  • recommend woods, colours, finishes, and furniture styles
  • repair broken parts and fill cracks and imperfections
  • examine and disassemble furniture to determine the extent of damage or deterioration and the best method for repair or restoration


Working conditions

A furniture finisher will need to have minimum allergic reactions to dust and spirit based products such as turpentine and shellac. All timber furniture finishers work indoors, generally in a shop environment, and are exposed to a high noise level, some airborne sawdust and chemicals from painting and stripping products. There is some risk of injury involved in working with high-speed woodworking machinery. Furniture polisher may be required to lift equipment or supplies weighing up to 25 kilograms.

Furniture polishers work in workshops, which may be noisy due to the operation of industrial machines and tools. They usually stand for most of the day and wear protective masks as some of the lacquers give off unpleasant fumes.

Tools and technologies

Furniture finishers use a variety of tools and materials including: wax; shellac; nitro cellulose lacquer; stain; paint; solvents; bleach; sanding blocks; steel wool; rags; brushes; automated sprays; stripping tools; wood fillers; dip baths; nails; screws and tacks; hammers; chisels, screwdrivers; planes and saws. They may also use wood lathes, drill presses, routers and other machinery.

In mass production many of the traditional hand processes are automated and include a conveyer or overhead conveyer system.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a furniture finisher, you usually need to complete an apprenticeship. A timber furniture finisher apprenticeship takes 36 months to complete and is available as a school-based apprenticeship.

chest of drawers



Did You Know?

French polishing is a wood finishing technique that results in a very high gloss surface, with a deep colour and chatoyancy. French polishing consists of applying many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol using a rubbing pad lubricated with oil.

"French polish" is a process, not a material. The main material is shellac, although there are several other shellac-based finishes, not all of which class as French polishing.

French polishing became prominent in the 18th century. In the Victorian era, French polishing was commonly used on mahogany and other expensive woods. It was considered the best finish for fine furniture and string instruments such as pianos and guitars. The process was very labour intensive, and many manufacturers abandoned the technique around 1930, preferring the cheaper and quicker techniques of spray finishing nitrocellulose lacquer and abrasive buffing.
(Source: Wikipedia)

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