Wow, part two took a long time. It's been very HOT here, so I've only been able to work very early in the morning...turning one day's worth of work into several. So let's jump in. I left you with a damp table waiting for grain to raise....
After about an hour, if you run your hand over the surface you will feel how bumpy it is. Use 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it. This is usually a pretty quick process and I use my hand to feel for bumps as I go to make sure I get the whole thing. Wipe it with a cloth and then a tack cloth to make sure you get ALL the dust off.
I'm working with this water based stain in walnut, and I'm starting with the idea that this top cannot get too dark. I haven't worked with a normal stain for a long time, but I know most of the directions say to spread it on, let it sit, then wipe it off. This one says that too, but that method doesn't work very well because it soaks into the wood so fast. Plus it dries so fast that it's hard to use that method and get an even color. (at least for me...some people may be more talented...but I'm going to tell you how I found to work well with this stuff).
Start by applying liberally, then you kindof buff it in. Try to use really long smooth strokes with your rag, and when you get streaks or blotches, rub them out as soon as you see them(sometimes it takes a good bit of elbow grease). If they are being stubborn, try putting more stain on it, buff out the blotch, then rub it out smooth. This stuff dries fast, and you can probably do a second coat after it sits for an hour or so, but don't let your blotches sit. They won't come out...even though the can says you can add more stain to wet and even out blotches or streaks, I've found it doesn't work after it's sat very long. It also says you can try spraying water on it to get it wet and even it, but I didn't think that worked well at all...just made weird water drop pattern that I couldn't get to buff out.
See how you have some grain with no stain down in it? For the first coat it's not a real big deal, but to get rid of it, you have to put a good pool of stain and rub both across and the long way to get it down into that part, then smooth/buff out streaks. A lot of times, after the first coat, it won't mater how well I got these spots, the grain will still suck the color off the surface and leave light spots.
Very blotchy after the first coat. It's interesting to me to see how different spots in the wood absorb color so differently. Between coats, be sure to use tack cloth to get rid of any dust that has settled.
When putting on the second stain, I'm sure to focus on the light spots, but hit the whole thing again. At this point it's looking pretty good, but I think it can be a little better...
3rd coat....really focus on light spots, and even out to get a nice, even, dark color.
When that is nice and set, I brushed on polycrylic in semi-gloss. It's also water based, so it dries nice and fast and has a lot less smell then the oil based stuff. It looks like milk in the can and goes on very cloudy, but dries nice and clear. You want to put on thin coats, in long even strokes going with the grain. Be careful not to "overbrush". It can be a fine line. If your brush isn't sliding easily over the surface, if it feels tacky at all, you are overbrushing and will leave visable brush strokes. As long as it's sliding easily over the surface, the poly will self-level pretty well and give you a nice smooth finish. Watch for drips down the sides, or bubbles in the finish. Drips, you can just brush out if you see them when they happen. Bubbles are a little trickier because you have to brush them out, but don't want to overbrush....it's a fine line...sometimes I'll add a little more poly and then work out the bubbles.
You want to wait at least 3 hours between coats of poly. The directions say to sand between coats, but I was worried about having stain problems like we had before, so I just didn't and guess what? It was just fine :). I've actually done that before and had not problems with the results after not sanding. It bonds just fine. You just have to be more careful with each coat because you won't be fixing it with sandpaper. I use 3 - 4 coats...on this I did 3 and felt it was good.
And finished! again...:) No more drips...no weird light spot in the middle....Now it is ready to be sold.