This is the application method for both the stain and polyurethane products i bought, apply and let it set and then wipe
It's the first time i've used a gel stain and i'm pleased with the ease of use, the product doesn't dry overly fast so its forgiving and allows for fixing any mistakes you might have missed on first glance.
A wiping poly is nothing more than a regular poly diluted. That means you need more coats for the same protection.
I never buy wiping poly. When I use oil I just add mineral spirits and add more coats.
That being said I've switched to water based poly now. I can put 3 coats on in one afternoon. No odor and cleanup is a breeze.
The big difference between a gloss and satin/matte is the addition of flattening agents. If you don't stir matte you get gloss.
I generally prefer a matte finish. But it appears cloudy if all three coats are matte. With oil I put on two coats of gloss with the third the matte. Then rub it out. But don't cut through the layers. Poly does not bond to the layer below like lacquer does. You rub through the top layer in spots you will know it.
If the client wants a gloss it gets three coats. The gloss from the poly however is harsh. It needs to be rubbed out with rubbing compound then polishing compound and finish with a good wax. The gloss should look like a new car finish. I use automotive products to polish the finish and a good car wax.
I don't sand the first coat at all. That coats is just a first sealer and the wood absorbs most of it. Second coat gets sanded and leveled out.
With water poly I generally add six coats. Probably could just do three but I like the depth it gets. Also water doesn't add the amber tint oil does.
With oil I prefer anything but minwax. I lean toward Varathane but do use others. If I am using oil I use a good quality brush for application. Over the years I've found the quality of the brush can make or break a finish. I never use a foam brush on oil. Water yes foam is fine.
Flexner on finishing is pretty good read. Guy knows his stuff.
To prevent warping finish both sides of the board. Even if it won't be seen.