How do I get an even lighter finish on an old piece of furniture which has been stripped?

Claire asked 5 years ago

An old dressing table has been stripped of a very dark stain but it is still dark and blotchy. Will it take hours and hours of sanding to get an even look? What will bleaching do to the wood and will it help? My customer wants a light to medium stain. I am an artist and faux-finisher. I could just lime it and do my thing but I was trying to stain it and paint a pretty flower design in an area or two as requested by the customer.

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