Before proceeding with the finish, I checked over the entire project for any missed squeeze-out. I also sanded any rough spots to 220 grit. Finally, I slightly rounded over the edges of the two top pieces, as finish does not stick very well to sharp corners.
I generally prefer to leave wood as natural as possible; however, Mission-style furniture is traditionally dark. I first applied a coat of Varathane Golden Mahogany (#233) stain to all the pieces and wiped off the excess. Next I brushed on two coats of Zinsser SealCoat dewaxed shellac. After each coat, I hand sanded with 400-grit sandpaper. This seals the stain, adds just a hint of amber color and helps with filling the wood pores so that a smooth finish is achieved. If you want your finish very smooth, apply several more coats of shellac, sanding after each coat and wiping off the dust.
The final step was to apply three or four coats of Varathane Diamond Wood Finish, a clear water-based polyurethane. After each coat had dried, I lightly sanded with 400-grit sandpaper. The tops received four coats for extra protection, while the leg assemblies each received three. Polyurethane provides a hard, clear surface with excellent moisture resistance.
After the final coat dried thoroughly, I dribbled on a few drops of water for lubrication and buffed with a 3M Scotch-Brite sanding pad. These are the equivalent of #0000 steel wool, but of course you should never use steel wool on a water-based finish. Dry the piece thoroughly after this.
In the process of applying finish to the larger of the table tops.