Sorry Im so late gettin in on this.
First I would saw, then template route the final shape.
Next, I would use a penetrating epoxy as the first coat, even warming the wood so as it cools, the air contracting in the cells draws it deeper. Smiths is slow setting, so you can brush on more as it soaks. You don't have to have it fill all the space in the cells, but when it fills the cell walls, it inhibits it from ever soaking up moisture like would happen if you had a ding with just a top coating.
I've mentioned using it on my Eastern Redcedar island top down at my cabin. That wood is too soft to use with just a finish, but it really soaked up the epoxy and is as hard as your Walnut, if not harder. Another benefit, is that it has stayed the deep red, purple and gold instead of turning tobacco brown like the legs and drawers.
I only used one coat of wipe on poly after a fine sanding, which looked like about 8 coats of any wipe on finish.
Ive also used it on some tables that had glasses full of ice left on it overnight which would have left a circle on most other finishes. Another time, I used it as the first coat to seal a table top, then sprayed with SWP pre-cat lacquer that while I was away for a long weekend, my roof leaked. Two days later when I returned, water was standing on about two square feet, but showed no ill effects.
It seems expensive, but I buy the 2 gallon kit, and use it for lots of projects, and this top is surely one I would use it on if I were doing this top.
I think you can get it from Jamestown Dis.
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