You might consider what's commonly called the "Sam Maloof" (the famous
woodworker) finish to give you that look. There are all kinds of
modifications to his mixture but, basically it is composed of the
1) An oil (or two) such as Boiled Linseed and/or Pure Tung, etc. which will
dry/cure and protect the material. These will, to varying degrees, darken
and maybe yellow the wood but you can get some great depth to the colors and
patterns to the wood this way.
2) A thinner such as mineral spirits/paint thinner, etc that is compatible
with "3)" below. The thinner...
A) Allows the oils above to penetrate deeper into the wood
B) Makes the finish dry quicker
C) Lets you hand rub the finish easier
3) A film finish such as polyurethane (oil based of course). With enough
thinner and oil, the film build is very slight with each application. This
protects the wood and gives you the level of shine that you desire just by
how many coats you apply. 2 to 3 coats will give you a nice matte finish
depending on wood used, etc.
For a simple, one step mixture, mix the above ingredients in equal parts.
To have a little more control, start by mixing more thinner and oil compared
to the film finish. Coat a few times and then go to the equal mixture for a
few more coats.
What you do is just rub this mixture into the wood and let sit for around
10-15 minutes. Once the finish becomes (or just before if you can time it
right) tacky, wipe it off the surface. Don't let it dry that way. Do this
several times with just very light and fine sanding between coats. The more
you coat it, the more it becomes glossy. It won't get real glossy like in a
gloss lacquer application but that's not what you're wanting, right?
This is often what's called an "in the wood" type of finish. Looks quite
good without being plastic-looking. For added protection, buff very very
lightly with carnauba wax and some clear oil (mineral oil here in the USA).
Do too much buffing and you'll get more gloss so watch out.
You can buy a commercially made "Sam Maloof finish" from various places and
that's fine but I prefer to make my own. Like I said above, there's all
kinds of variations in each of the parts. Do an internet search on Maloof
Finish and you'll get tons of them.
> I'm looking for a finish that is almost unnoticable and matt (to show off
> the nice wood, and not to refelect the glowing nixie tubes), that would be
> easy to clean and be long lasting... oil? varnish?