The red tray has a coat of BLO, as I usually apply to my birch projects to "pop the grain" because birch is so plain otherwise, It helps, but not much. This was followed by a coat of Watco Red Mahogany Danish Oil. When that didn't make it red enough, I added a coat of Zar red mahogany pigmented stain over it. Then 2 coats of polyurethane were hand applied over that. Between coats I always lightly rub all surfaces with 220 paper to remove nubs and provide better bonding for the next coat. They still have grain, but are very smooth when handled.
The same finishing process was used for the brown tray, but without the Watco, and I used Zar Dark Walnut Stain for it. The rest of the finishing process was identical.
Birch wood is hard to get an appealing grain pattern to show through the finish. I've tried many methods and have pretty much settled on the BLO to achieve this, although when working with birch, there just isn't much appealing about the grain swirls even when using this method.
A Strong Word Of Caution -
If any of you try this, be very careful with your BLO (Boiled Linseed Oil) soaked rags and clean up materials. BLO reacts slowly and sneaky with the air when drying, and it gives off considerable heat. You won't notice this from the surfaces that you put the BLO on, but a soaked rag left crumpled up anywhere will become very warm and sometimes even hot enough to set the rag on fire. I once left a linseed oil rag on my workbench while I rearranged part of my shop to make room so that I could place my project pieces around to dry. When I picked the rag up off my workbench about 45 minutes later, the rag was already hot enough to almost leave burns on my hand.
My "in use" rags now get dropped into an empty and clean 1 gallon tin can sitting on my workbench "whenever I need to set them down" even if only for a minute or two, and as soon as I finish using it on the the project, anything with linseed oil on it gets taken outside and submerged in a metal pail of water and the metal lid put on it. The next day, or day after next, I wring the rags out and put them, still wet, in my city collected trash can.
At my former shop there was a chain link fence nearby that I used to hang my rags from with clothes pins while they dried. Then I would put them in the trash after they were dry. I don't have a chain link fence that I can use here, but for a while I was spreading the rags out flat and weighting them down on a metal workbench outside and away from my shop and home. I now think the best and safest possible way is the metal pail of water with the metal lid. Water to keep them cool. A lid to keep the air away, and distance between the pail and anything that can burn. I'm becoming anal about this, but I have a great fear and respect for fire, since I was once a fireman and fire marshal, among my many other life's occupations.
Please be fire safe. Your home, shop, and maybe you and your family's lives depend on it. Linseed Oil and some other products that give off heat when they are drying, can be very dangerous if not respected.
Central North Carolina