Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
Pictured is the need. It has 3 surfaces that differ in their finishing requirements.
The outside show surface- It needs to look pretty and be durable in a dining room area. This thing is going to be used and a minimalist "museum finish" will not hold up. *** Stain, Waterlox varnish. I love its rich luster. I can't achieve it except by some varnishes and shellac.
Interior- A varnish interior risks smelling like old varnish, a result of oxidation of the oil to yield rancid smelling degradation products. ****Zinsser waxy shellac. It ages to yield a fruity ester odor in an enclosed space and it is durable enough on the vertical interior surfaces.
Shelves- Needs to be durable and not stink ***Target waterborne urethane finish. Crappy luster by comparison to the varnish by not an issue for a shelf with plates piled on it. The front edge of the shelf I will shellac.