Walnut Finish

Seeking recommendations on the best finish for walnut to provide the smoothest surface. I am going to be working with small pieces - 1" X 10" X 16" or similar. I want to maintain the color as much as possible and do not want to darken the wood. Is a light stain worthwhile? This is very good, clear wood.
Thanks for any help.
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I've just finished some pieces of walnut to a very smooth surface by sanding down to 600 grade paper and then beeswaxing. Looks really fine!
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SGM wrote:

Lacquer. Any topcoat will make the wood darker than it is raw but lacquer darkens it the least and is the easiest to sand between the multiple coats you'll need to achieve baby butt smooth. Preview darkening with a bit of water. Or spit. ____________

No
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dadiOH
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