Natural finish: blonde shellac, water-based polyurethane or lacquer. The shellac will have a slight amber and will have little resistance to moisture. You will need to raise the grain first if you use the water based finish. It's not a problem but you have to do it.
Warm, amber finish: Anything with oil in it. Watco dainish, tung, etc. Oil-based poly will give the same sort of color. The oils will penetrate and do not give the hard finish, but they are easier to repair when there's damage. The mix of mineral and poly is good. You can even add one-third tung, polyuerthne and mineral spirits and wipe the finish on.
Stains: I hate the thin stuff because it can blotch and the tone is sometimes difficult to control. I never use it unless absolutely necessary. When I do, I use gel stains that wipe on.
Get some 000 and 0000 steel wool so you can smooth out your first coat. One other nice thing about watco or tung oil is that you can use fine SiC sand paper (320-, 400- or 600- grit) to sand the finish. The residue will fill in the gaps and open pours. It acts like a natural filler. This is what I would do.
Lots of ways to go my friend.
Andrew, MASI Treasurer
This message is always under construction: 75-gallon tank; 2, Eheim 2026 filters - one twice broken; Tek Light with 4, 54W T5s (6000K) ; Sand on top of 4:1 sand:clay mixture; Milwaukee CO2 controller; PlantGuild vortex CO2 reactor; pH = 6.6, kH=70mg/l, GH=120mg/l; EI; Flourish excel on 50% weekly water change: AGA Member.