This section is from the book "The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do", by Popular Mechanics Co.. Also available from Amazon: The Boy Mechanic, Vol2: 1000 Things for Boys to Do.
A good and easy way to remove varnish from old furniture is to wash the surface thoroughly with 95-per-cent alcohol. This dissolves the varnish and the wood can then be cleaned with a strong solution of soap, or weak lye. If lye is used, it should be washed off quickly and the wood dried with flannel cloth. When the wood is thoroughly dry it will take a fine finish. - Contributed by Loren Ward, Des Moines, Iowa.