Amongst the correspondence my dad saved, I found the following letter from his brother Earle. You may find it dull reading, but when I read it, I kinda think I hear my dad chortling away.
The “dark woodwork” my dad painted over was beautiful and evidently rare “Pacific fir,” with which the farmhouse living and dining rooms were trimmed. The doors and pocket doors were also made of this wood, and Daddy painted over all of it. Mike recalls that my dad preferred a painted finish to wood. When we remodeled the farmhouse, we stripped the paint off the wood and had a cabinetmaker recondition and varnish it.
1804 So. Blvd.
Idaho Falls, Ida.
Jan. 7, 1945
Your letter arrived Friday and I am writing so soon to let you know about the painting. Three coats will be necessary to cover that dark woodwork. You can use two coats of enamel undercoat first and finish with a coat of enamel. This would be the best. If you care to you can use first a coat of flat white, then a coat of enamel undercoat, and last a coat of enamel. This procedure would not be as good as the first one I have outlined as the flat white is not as good paint for wood work as enamel undercoat.
First use some very sharp, coarse sandpaper on the old finish, knocking off the gloss so the first coat will have something to unite with. Then sand lightly between coats with No. 0 or No. 00 sandpaper. Of course, the last coat is not sanded. If you can get Dutch Boy paint it will be splendid. If I were going to do that job, I’d put on an off white, and I’d use Dutch Boy Satin Eggshell No. 700 enamel for the last coat. It is the most beautiful soft finish I have ever seen. It is better taste for dining rooms and living rooms. In the kitchen I’d use the Gloss White No. 300 mentioned above.
You will find it difficult to get paint in anything but white, therefore let me give you some instructions on tinting the white: If you choose an off white, as I suggested above, get a pound can of Burnt Umber – or a small tube will do – and use about ½ teaspoon to one gallon of paint. If you wish it to be a little more off, add more burnt umber a very little at a time and stir well, pouring the gallon back and forth by using two containers. This mixes it better than any other process. In tinting paint always add the color a little at a time. Of course you see why. Use the “Colors in Oil” tints. Any brand will be o.k.
In case you do not want the off-white color and prefer the ivory, get some Raw Sienna color and add it a little at a time until you reach the right shade. I prefer light ivories. I’d mix at least one gallon of the enamel for both rooms. It is always smart, when you have to tint paint, to tint enough for the job, as it isn’t so easy to mix to a tint afterwards. It can be done, though, by saving a sample of the original tint.
The great advantage of doing your own tinting is that you can get the exact tint you want. If you buy ready-mixed tints you get only standard colors and all in-between shades are left out. I never buy any other colors except white, and do my own tinting. It is a lot of fun and if one is careful he can get exactly what he wants. Perhaps you know this, but in case you don’t, here are a few other instructions: edges of doors which swing into a room are painted the same as the room woodwork, e.g., the edge of the stairway door would be painted, and the recess it occupies when closed would also be painted including that part where the hinges are. Also clean all paint from window glass immediately. Use a small brush for painting around the glass. If you need any other information, let me know.
It’s amazing what one remembers when prompted. I had forgotten that as a second job, Uncle Earle painted and hung wallpaper, mostly in the summers. He had excellent tools – always the best quality. I thought he taught high school, but apparently it was junior high.
[This is the early photo of Ina's dining room. I don't have good pictures of the wood trim, but this picture, taken from the living room, gives a hint of the pocket doors. The picture of Earle and Bernice Dobson was taken in their home in Idaho Falls, 1943.] KW