Is it an antique? Do you realize if you remove the original finish on an antique it often greatly diminishes its value?
If it's not an antique -- I think you can sand it really well and put something like Kilz on it as a base coat to seal in whatever was originally there and then paint it whatever you want, especially if it's not that valuable. But stripping (hand stripping) it is always better, but it can be labor intensive.
J. Trent Hicks, what products do you use? I know the newer products are much easier to use than years ago.