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I'm sure that you will receive a number of replies to your question. Here's my take on it. First use a primer/sealer. It drys quickly that promotes even staining later on. After your sealer drys sand it with a fine grit paper (220 or so).

I do this because the primer sometimes releases stress in the wood causing the wood fibers to stand up.

Remember to rub down the work piece with a tack cloth before staining.

I have had bad results with paint-on stains. They tend to run. I now always use a staining pad and get good results.

I tend to let the stain dry completely then spray on a 'poly' finish. I like full gloss but that's my personal preference.

I haven't come across a local supply of Red Oak Stain and I usually settle for Golden Oak Stain.

Good luck
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