Thanks to the rec - splotchy finish

Several weeks ago I asked for advice on a remedy for a really bad stain job. I had stained a larch or alder table -- light, relatively soft wood -- with Minwax 211 Provincial "Wood Finish", which really appears to be thin stain, and very dark in this case. Before staining, I used Minwax Stain Conditioner. The results still wake me up at night, cause it was REALLY ugly :)
After sanding out the stain -- no small task, for those wondering -- I started over. On the advice of several posters, I used a seal and stain approach. Shellac, followed by gel stain. I was not familiar with either product, but the rec usually knows best.
I used a 1/2# cut of shellac, applied plenty wet. The wood absorbed a lot of this thin mixture; this raised the grain a bit. Still, it dried nicely, and then I sanded smooth with 180 grit. Next came dark Minwax Gel Stain -- up till now, I was a gel stain virgin. Wiped on with a rag, set for a minute or two, wiped clean with a fresh rag. Wait overnight, another coat of gel and I was a much happier man. One coat of semigloss poly is already dry (purists, let your breath out now -- it is after all, a kitchen table) and one more to go.
It looks great.
Many thanks to those who replied -- it saved me a ton of aggravation, and your help was greatly appreciated. Without the advice, I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to use the new-to-me techniques.
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