Restoring cabin siding to a gem-like state

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Q: We recently purchased two cabins on the water at Clear Lake (Calif.) that were built around 1950. The property had been derelict for at least 30 years. Both cabins have redwood siding that appears to have been given a clear coat of varnish or shellac. Most of the coating is gone. The wood is silver/gray and fairly soft. Most of what was left of the varnish has come off as we brushed the wood with a natural-bristle brush. We're afraid to use a wire brush or power wash because the wood is so soft. Yet certain areas require more cleaning. Should we sand at all? We like the patina that has developed, but wouldn't mind enriching the natural color. We do not, however, want a shiny surface. Will clear preservatives give us a matte finish? Do you recommend any particular product? How often can I expect to have to reapply this preservative? Also, part of one cabin will be painted. What type of primer would you recommend based on mostly bare exposed wood? And what type of finish coat? A:...