After talking with him for a few minutes, I am surprised that he figured out how to put pants on.
You might try the DIY Forum
to get better results. I found your post using the Google Reader, otherwise I might have skipped.
Anyway, it's a pain in the butt to clean up after each coat, but I am using Spar-Varnish (weather resistant varnish). Multiple thin coats give a lot of depth to the wood. I'm finding it quite easy to apply just following the directions on the can from Lowes with amazing results.
thread. This is before the varnish, but I'll post more pics tomorrow.