Ives, Diall’s & Co. Oil and Spirit Varnish Manufactory

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”.

Ives_Diall’s_&_Co_manufactory_of_oil_and_spirit_varnish_c1801-15_01aIves, Diall’s & Co. Manufactory of Oil & Spirit Varnish, circa 1801-15. (Lewis Walpole Library)

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.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Staining, colouring and polishing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ives, Diall’s & Co. Oil and Spirit Varnish Manufactory

  1. whintor says:

    As always, many thanks for the treasure trove of detail you give us.
    Probably a silly question, but what exactly do you mean by “flattening” re the application of spirit varnish?
    Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a Good New Year. Hoping all your travails with the home are now resolved.


  2. Pingback: Ladies Beavers and the Sign of the Female Ass | Pegs and 'Tails

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