Suggestions for staining/finishing soft white maple

OK.. I am taking my first step into actually trying to make a piece of furniture. I am making a bed for my wife to surprise her for our anniversary. I am making the bed out of soft white maple. She tends to like dark stained wood. My thought is to take a piece of the maple and give her two or three different stained choices.
What I am looking for is opinions on how to stain the wood. Techniques, products.. etc. I am looking primarily for three things: 1) Something that will be easy to do 2) something that will look good 3) something to protect the finish.
Thanks for any hints/suggestions
Stcey
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You have an option of oil finish which would just bring out the grain but usually not darken. Easy somewhat. (oil based) Stain, Generally the most used coloring technique if you really want a challenge mix with artists oil paints for your own custom color. Stain is what I usually use. Dye. If your Maple has this really cool grain Dye will enhance it. The nice thing about dye is that it comes in many color variations, it can be bought in liquid (pre mix) form or dry (you mix form) some say its easy some say its hard. I use Polyurethane for my finish. Tough as nails. Has a tendency to "amberize" that some guys just absolutely hate. Water poly is Clear and not know do amberize. Becoming more an more popular. there are some grain raising issues. Then there is Danish Oils which might look nice on your bed. There is also Polyshades. Probably the "easiest" of the bunch, since it stains and polys at the same time. However the trade off is the grain will be slightly obscured, and after two coats color will not deepen, just obscure the grain. I use this on my Jummywood projects.
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Young Carpenter

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