Modern paints and coatings are much better and easier to work with than what we had just 15 years ago.\n\nA LOT of $ goes into protective coating and paint research! It is quite an interesting field, more science is involved than most people would realize. Many years ago, I saw a job listing for a paint formulation chemist--you know that part of that job must be literally watching paint dry!\n\nWith that being said, I am certainly an amateur and likely don't have the patience for a true furniture grade finish.\n\nBut, I have still been quite pleased with most of my work. It may be rudimentary, but I have gotten good results. I have also done some very nice painting on XBOX controllers with modern spray can paints.\n\n\nI hated finishing wooden projects and would use whatever required the fewest steps, materials and techniques- I would get exactly the results I deserved, too. At some point, I started wiping the stain on (if it was needed) and that helped, then I would wipe the finish on and switched to polyurethane. That was an improvement, too- I made a stereo stand (couldn't really call it a cabinet) and used Tung oil- that stuff took ages to dry and never did much more than soak in and leave a had surface. I eventually found that using a ScotchBrite bad to rub poly into the surface of some woods (mostly open-grain species like Oak) left a soft, smooth finish and helped to fill the grain without actually using a grain filler. I also found that using the finest ScotchBrite pad with paste wax after the finish was dry was a good way to make high gloss finish glow without looking like a cheap attempt at 'fine furniture'. High gloss is great if it's done right, but if the stuff is slapped on and left to dry with dust particles and flaws, it just looks bad. That's when I became interested in shellac & French Polishing- talk about ignoring my former hatred of finishing! It's one of the techniques that requires the most patience and care, but it's incredibly easy to fix some of the issues that come from inexperience, like wiping more on after it has started to dry which begins in less than a minute. \n\nPoly and shellac can be sprayed- I tested a few pieces and found that it works well as long as the mist isn't too heavy. I talked with a painter and he said poly sprays well if it's thinned with Naptha because it skins over quickly and that prevents dust sticking to the surface. One thing about poly- don't use extremely fine sandpaper on closed grain woods like Maple- it won't hold onto the surface and in one case, it actually peeled off with the tape. It's hard to build up coats with poly once it has dried- follow the instructions if you need to do that. If you want perfectly smooth with poly as the top coat, it's best to build the finish and fill the grain with something like shellac, then sand it to give the poly something to hold onto.