I finished a desk with a wash of 1/3 sweet gum turpentine (not mineral
spirits or thinner) 1/3 3# cut shellac, and 1/3 tung. It lit up the
flames and waves like the wood was on fire. BTW, I go that recipe here
many years ago.
I now have tried changing out the tung for BLO, and have liked on some
pieces as it gives it a more amber glow. This is very forgiving, and
the measurements don't need to be exact.
After experimenting further, I can creat the appearance you are after
with 50% sweet gum turps and 50% 3# shellac. I don't know why, but
just cutting the shellac with 100% denatured alcohol doesn't seem to
give the penetration as this kind of turnpentine. Apply, wait a few
hours, light sand, apply, and sand for final finish.
Put this stuff on, let it cure out (you can also build this stuff!),
then put on a few coats of your favorite lacquer, and you are there. I
have put shellac, varnish, and poly over many recipes of this brew with
no problem at all. In fact, it even makes a good prefinish
I agree with the above comments on the prep. If the wood is so smooth
you are reluctant to put a finish on it, then it will "light up"
properly. Without proper prep, it will be mediocre at best.