Before the process of ‘French polishing’ was broadly adopted for finishing woodwork, a great deal of eighteenth-century furniture was simply, but skilfully polished with spirit varnish, laid on with a brush and then flattened. Colophony, copal, mastic, sandarac and shellac were the most common resins employed in the manufacture of spirit varnishes.
The early nineteenth-century Ives, Diall’s & Co. flyer below lists “Fine pale Copal Varnish for Painting or Cabinet Work”.
The inclusion, in the list, of “Fine finishing Japan Lacker” and “Fine polishing Japan Lacker” coincides with one of the many revivals in chinoiserie and japanning.
It is also interesting to see mention of “Fine Gold Lacker” which was used as a substitute for fire-gilding on furniture brasses and other brassware.