I'll explain the finish momentarily , first I'd like to explain how I arrived to the finish application.
First, I took all of the 4x4 (legs) and 2x4(stretcher) and hand planed them. Once smooth, I used a sharp chissel to a distress the edges (all edges). Next I took a scrap piece of 2x4 and cut the scrap to a nice club length. Next I drilled holes in the club end of my scrap. I then screwed in twenty or more screws into the holes. The screws must protrude out of the bottom. Next I had my 8 year old daughter beat the planed surface. I sanded all parts finishing with 220 grit. I did the same with the top (must be laminated first).
Once all was sanded, it was time to stain. I tested scraps with my stain (dark walnut). It turned out brutal. Very blotchy! I then decided to partially seal some of the pores of this softwood . After trial and error, I found peace with a mixture of "zinser bullseye shellac" and denatured alcohol. A 1 to 1 ratio. I applied to the entire piece and applied a little heavier in the knot areas. Once dry, used the black walnut stain. I was very pleased with the stain. I followed up the stain with verathane 8 coats. After each coat, sanded with automotive sandpaper 1000 grit. The last sanding was with a finer grit than that.
The table and benches are so buttery smooth. Let's just say, I was a hero with the wife (for a day or two).