re-finishing an old walnut table

A friend has an OLD walnut table that had a very badly damaged lacquer finish. The only way to fix it was to strip it down to the bare wood and now I need to re-finish it.
Since it was finished once, the pores are already filled and it won't really take stain.
I have worked out and tested a scheme to do the job. It works and has a highly polished finish. However, his wife has expressed a desire for a finish that is not highly polished. Here is what I have done so far (on a test piece of wood)
1) I found that using just finish coats created a muddy and dark finish. I started over and applied a coat of "light golden oak" dye and rubbed it out pretty hard. This gave the a nice lightened orange tone
2) I followed that with a sealer coat of amber shellac.
3) Applied 5 coats of water borne lacquer.
4) sanded up to 2000 grit.
5) used liquid car polishing compound
6) applied 2 coats of wax
The result is nice highly polished finish. The dye gave the finish a lot of "life". The only negative is that a finger nail can make an impression in the surface. Is that normal, or did I put the lacquer on too heavy. ( The test was done with a brush. The table will be sprayed and I will be able to control the thickness better.)
The friend's wife does not desire a highly polished finish. How do I get there from here? I have been putting this job off because I don't want to screw up the table and need to strip it again. But you can only put off a good friend for a few years.
Len
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On 6/14/2009 2:48 PM snipped-for-privacy@uiuc.edu spake thus:

I'd do everything you did up above, with one exception: use oil-based varnish (*not* polyurethane) instead of lacquer. (A little difficult to find, but it is still available.)
Lacquer is softer than varnish, as you've discovered. It's also prone to damage from water (like water rings if a wet glass is left standing on it). Varnish is harder, more durable, plus *much* easier to apply; you can get a glass-smooth finish with a brush, and don't have to be in a rush to finish before it sets up. (Lacquer starts to dry very quickly, as I'm sure you've experienced.)
Use satin varnish rather than glossy. You'll like the results.
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On Sun, 14 Jun 2009 17:15:44 -0700, David Nebenzahl wrote:

But if you're doing multiple coats, make them all gloss but the last one so you won't muddy the finish. Or just use the gloss and rub it out with some extra fine steel wool.
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On 6/14/2009 6:46 PM Larry Blanchard spake thus:

Yes.
I like your first idea better.
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