French Polishing, the process of giving furniture a high-gloss finish by applying successive layers of shellac. Shellac is a natural resin dissolved in alcohol, and was first introduced into Europe about the 16th Century, but the term French Polishing was not used until about 1820, when the process was developed by a French cabinet maker. In the days before spray finishing and abrasive buffing, French polishing was said to produce the finest finish on wood. When applied, it produces what is possibly the finest looking finish for furniture.