I also sanded the top to promote adhesion and used General Finishes gel stains in first Java and then Antique Walnut to update the 70's color finish. You can use various top coats on this - I ended up using a wipe-on satin polyurethane to minimize bubbling / brush strokes; the GF Arm R Seal is a great, super durable choice as well.
More tips after the break!
(Here's my test area - I loved how the gel stain was accenting the open grain of the oak, but came back and did more of an allover sand to ensure better coverage on the smoother surfaces as well!)
Although I first apply the allover technique and dry brush with the drawers out, I always put them back in for the final coat. It's very common to see inconsistency when you're working on each drawer separately, and when you put them back in, you can strategically apply your final dry brushing to ensure the amount of color is consistent and cohesive.
I first whitewashed the hardware, but was still seeing the two different tones of metal, so I topped it with a light application of Rub N Buff for consistency and dimension.
I love love love this super rustic take, and am so glad I was able to enhance and embrace the original texture of this beauty! What is your favorite style - classic and clean, or rustic yet refined? I'd love to hear from you!