This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
The drying of paint is to a great extent dependent upon the temperature. Below the freezing-point of water, paint will remain wet for weeks, even when mixed with a considerable proportion of driers; while, if exposed to a heat of 120° F. (49° C.)t the same paint will become solid in a few hours. The drying of paint being a process of oxidation and not evaporation, it is essential that a good supply of fresh air should be provided. When a film of fresh paint is placed with air in a closed vessel, it does not absorb the whole of the oxygen present; but after a time the drying process is arrested, and the remaining oxygen appears to have become inert. Considerable quantities of volatile vapours are given off during the drying of paint; these are due to the decomposition of the oil. When the paint has been thinned down by turpentine, the whole of this liquid evaporates on exposure to the air. There must, therefore, be a plentiful access of air, to remove the vapours formed, and afford a fresh supply of active oxygen. The presence of moisture in the air is rather beneficial than injurious at this stage. Especially in the case of paints mixed with varnish, moist air appears to counteract the tendency to crack or shrink.
Under the erroneous impression that the drying of paint is a species of evaporation, open fires are sometimes kept up in freshly-painted rooms. It is only when the temperature is very low that any benefit can result from this practice: as a rule, it rather retards than hastens the solidification of the oil, which cannot take place rapidly in an atmosphere laden with carbonic acid. The first coat of paint should be thoroughly dry before the second is applied. Acrylic acid is formed during the oxidation of linseed-oil, and unless this be allowed to evaporate, it may subsequently liberate carbonic acid from the white-lead present in most paints, and give rise to blisters. Sometimes a second priming-coat is given; but usually the second coat applied contains the pigment. This, as soon as dry, is again covered by another coat, and subsequently by two or more finishing-coats, according to the nature of the work.