Lots of good answers here. I was a finisher in a cabinet shop for many years and this is how used to do it.
Avoid anything with silicone to get on your hands or near your wood project. It causes fish eye dimple defects in your clear coat and will ruin the finish. Such items with silicone include lubricants, water repellent sprays, etc. Wash your hands before starting.
Any sanding, scraping, or wiping of stain should be done going in the direction of the grain, (never across it.)
Wear gloves when using these products and in a well ventilated area.
Naptha can be used on a white cotton rag to wipe the surface to clean of any dirt and scuff marks off and also will show any white glue that was left from manufacture.
White glue that is not removed will not accept stain and should be removed at this point. A glue scraper is normally used as it doesn’t sand off easily.
For new raw wood sand with the grain using 150 grit paper. If you drip sweat on the wood or it gets wet somehow, let it dry overnight, then resand. Staining over a wet spot will show as a dark spot, not pretty.
Dust it off and apply Minwax oil stain, whatever color you like, be sure your rag is plenty wet saturated with stain when you apply it with the grain, better too wet than too dry. Then wipe off excess stain with cotton rag with the grain.
Let dry overnight, it must have time to dry.
I recommend the wood be lower than room temperature for workability time, that the poly doesn’t start to setup too fast while your applying it. Also dont bring the wood from a cold place to a warm place to apply the poly because air bubbles will form under the wet poly. So, let the wood acclimate to a temp of about 65 degrees. Avoid fans blowing on the piece.
Also your can of poly should be about 65 degrees.
Fast dry polyurethane will dry and be able to sand after about 8 hours. Its stinks
Regular poly doesn’t stink as bad but it takes a day or two to be dry enough to sand.
Ok, so the stain has dried overnight and hopefully it looks good. Next wipe any dust off of it with a clean cotton rag.
Surface should be dust free. You can use a tack rag or if your hands are dry and clean just wipe any grit you feel off with your bare hand, you will feel the surface get smoother after doing this.
A soft china bristled brush is best. Stir the poly with a new stir stick slowly, so as not to get air bubbles it it. There may be flattner paste in the bottom of the can unless it is gloss, which needs to be stired until its gone.
Apply a thin coat of poly working from the top of the piece down.
Let dry overnight. Test with your finger nail on an inconspicuous spot wether or not is is dry. If it still feels tacky you will have to wait until it is dry before sanding.
When it has hardened, sand with 320 just to slick it off.
Too much sanding on this thin sealer coat and you will burn through into the stain, so just slick it off lightly so that it is smooth and no more. Most likely you’ll burn through some of the corners from not keeping the paper off of them, in which case you can touch them up with a crayon before applying the second coat of poly.
Next dust it off with a clean cotton rag and blow it off with compressed air if you have that, or vacuum.
Wipe with tack rag or bare hands until smooth.
Apply another thin coat.
Its done. If its a table top let it cure a couple of days before setting anything on it.
This process was for a new wood project.
To refurbish a piece, it would need to be stripped of the old finish and cleaned off with laquer thinner, (very stinky and highly flamable.) propor ventilation, respirator a must.