When it comes to the final finish with all my furniture projects, I get stuck. I've had a lot of bad experiences with poly topcoats. I've poured lots of hard labor into a piece of furniture, only to have it ruined in the end by polyurethanes. So now I simply leave all my tops incomplete.
Whenever I coat with a poly, it scratches up white and looks awful. I can make a tiny scratch with my fingernail and bring up what looks like caked on wax. Everything I place on these tables scratches them.
I used to use the old painstaking wax-on, wax-off technique, as that is the look I want, and with that out of the canister wax paste, I never have to worry about peeling, or that white caked on look if it does peel. But this is just too labor intensive.
Maybe I'm using the wrong poly, but before I screw up this latest project of a huge desk, I need to know what poly brand, if any, I could use to seal the top (without that glossy sheen) and have a nice flat, hand rubbed surface that you see on most table tops in the stores. I heard Varathane poly wouldn't scratch easily, but I can't afford to ruin yet another top. It needs to be a DIY product.
From contributor J:
If you're not spraying, then there are many wipe on polys that are tough and easy to apply. Easy to find at Home Depot or Lowes is Minwax wipe on poly. Just follow the directions on the can. It's thin, so use 4 or 5 coats. If it becomes scratched, just sand out the scratch and apply another coat. I used it on some maple and showed it to a friend with a $1,000.00 turbine. He said he was ready to trade his gun for a rag to get away from the orange peel!
Contributors J and B gave you great advice. Minwax wipe-on poly and General Finishes Arm-R-Seal are perfect oil base wipe-on products that are DIY friendly. Remember to let each coat dry completely before recoat. Sounds like you will be using a satin finish. Be sure to stir the product frequently to distribute the flatteners. Do not shake (shaking creates bubbles).
The Minwax product is available at most big box and hardware stores. You'll find General Finishes online.