Difference between different types of finish (urethane, varnish, etc.)

What are the differences between all the different types of clear finish. For example there is urethane, polyurethane, varethane, varnish, lacquer, spar finish, shellac. I'm wondering about the following properties: water/oil based, resistance to water, resistance to wear and tear, clarity, difficulty of application, difference in looks, and any other points you might know that distinguish them.
I'm gonna be coating a piece of furniture that will be exposed to water on a regular basis (fish tank stand) and I'm trying to figure out which one of the above is best to use, and why?
Thanks, Harry
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Go here:
http://tinyurl.com/27p2s or (Amazon.com product link shortened)72537504//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i0_xgl14/102-5322860-7126505?v=glance&s=books&nP7846
Buy the book. Learn something.
Mike

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I would also recommend the book by Flexner that the other poster recommended.
I have a 75 G tank I made a canopy for out of pine. I coated the sucker out of polyurethane inside and out. I have had no problems with it.

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Oh, I also stained it first which might help to seal the pores.

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I've had a lot of luck using hardwood floor grade polyurethane finish.I would also recommend that you try using a sealer as well.This will cut the job time in half as the finish will float on top instead of sinking in .I would then coat three times and water sand with a fine grit between each coat.The end result will be beautiful and any water spilled on the surface will just bead and not cause you any problems in the future good luck dp

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Ditto to the flexner book.
But the short answer is poly will probably offer the best protection.

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