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  • Simon Milner

Rudi's French Polish Marathon...

The cantilevered staircase in the main entrance hall at Terragong always elicits a ‘wow’ from visitors to the house (and has featured in many a wedding photograph over the decades). One of the first repair jobs we undertook as part of the renovation project was to the staircase, with our woodworker Red replacing broken and mismatched balusters and installing a newel post which we commissioned from a Sydney-based wood turner.

Nearly a year on and at last our wood finisher Rudi was able to fit us into his busy schedule, living in-house and working 12 hour days on the next stage in returning the staircase to its former glory. At some point in the past the bannister, stair treads and risers as well as the skirting board that winds its way up the stairs and along the first floor landing, had been given a coating of Estapol-like high gloss varnish. This had oxidised over time so not only was the high-gloss finish at odds with the original cedar surfaces in the house such as the windows, window casements, doors and door frames, the colour had turned an odd shade of deep orange.

Boy did we underestimate the time it would take to complete the job! Rudi’s original four-day stay turned into eight days, with the first six days spent stripping the estapol finish from the wood, using a variety of strippers (not all effective) and eventually a heat gun. Once the wood was bare, Rudi’s artistry was put into play, creating a custom blend colour varnish (which he referred to as L'oreal for Terragong) to match the other cedar wood in the house, painstakingly applying layer after layer to achieve the right depth of colour. Once stained, the wood (bannister, risers, treads and skirting board) was then French polished using traditional shellac and methylated spirits and buffed to a glorious satin finish which glows. Rudi also gave the large passage door under the stairs the same treatment, revealing its original beauty.

There's still a bit more work to be done - In the coming weeks we’ll be sanding and painting the ballusters, and next week the carpet supplier will be on site to measure the staircase for its new runner. We’ve removed and will be polishing the original brass stair rods which hold the carpet in place.

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