Hello Don. Some time ago I built a small bookcase using local red alder. I chose it because alder matched the antique cabinet doors I incorporated into this project. Whatever you choose to finish your piece, you will need to first use some sort of wood conditioner to give you an even coloring. Sanding between coats may be needed to get the color you want. I always use a tack cloth before adding another coat. Sanding with 400 grit or smoother between coats of varathane will give you a great finished product. Just make sure your stain and finish coatings are compatible.
The cabinet shown was completed in 2013. The finish could have been better, if I had more patience.
"Even bad decisions make good stories"