Who wants to go in with me on a group buy of shellac flakes ? You dissolve them in denatured alcohol, and apply it to your woodworking project to seal the pores of the wood before finishing (sanding a little with a 400-grit pad afterwards before finishing). If you apply a light coat on end-grain before staining, you can avoid a sharp contrast of the stain penetrating deeper in the end grain as opposed to the side grain -- a diluted light coat still allows the ends to absorb the stain. You can also add just the tiniest bit of stain to color the shellac (it will be slightly brown or yellow anyway), and set off the finish to that old-world look, or to help mimic an antique finish. It is also the trick before you apply a true varnish or enamel to help get that glossy multi-coat finish -- 3 coats of shellac and then 3 coats of varnish with a fine-grain sanding or polishing between each.
Although kindness is rarely a job, no matter what you do it's always an option.