Remove old finish down to bare wood and then repaint or varnish

Q. White paint has been applied several times over the years to the varnished woodwork in two rooms of our house. As a result, there are unsightly cracks all through it and repainting only temporarily covers the cracks. One paint dealer says that an old liquid product called ''First Step Before Painting'' used to eliminate peeling and chipping, but my painter says he has never heard of it and is skeptical. He suggests removing all the finishes down to the bare wood. What do you say? Miss Agnes R. Freeman Evergreen Park, Ill.

A. Your painter is giving you good advice; if it were my house I would follow it. Using paint remover, strip off the old varnish and paint coats down to the bare wood.

Many years ago it was customary for painters to prime bare wood with raw linseed oil, wipe off the surplus, and then follow with varnish or paint. The solvents in the raw linseed oil sometimes continued to keep succeeding coats of paint from totally drying out. This may be what has happened to the cracked varnish and paint finishes in the two rooms.

While there has been vast improvement in paint removers, even the very easiest one involves plenty of elbow grease.

Follow the stripping with a finish, either varnish or paint, to suit your fancy and the room decor. You may be pleasantly surprised at the bare wood when it discloses its own beauty.

Actually, the wood may be attractive under a natural finish, but you be the judge.

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