It’s common to hear woodworkers lament that they don’t like finishing because they are afraid of ruining their woodworking project. So the following is an important point to keep in mind:
The only thing you can do in finishing that can’t be fixed fairly easily is to blotch the wood with a stain or decide after you have applied a stain that you don’t want it. All other problems can be fixed, with the worst case being that you have to strip off the finish and begin again. Nothing is ruined.
So, depending on the wood you use, it’s really the stain you have to be concerned about, not the finish. You can’t “ruin” anything with a finish. Choose your wood and whether or not to stain with this in mind. Blotching, like that in the accompanying picture, occurs on softwoods such as pine, and tight-grained hardwoods such as cherry, birch and maple. It’s difficult-to-impossible to totally avoid blotching on these woods if you use a stain.