I'm making a counter for the top of my washer/dryer. I'll have to work with virgin aspen (72"x24"x). Being a soft wood, should I use a wood conditioner (like Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner)for even absorbtion of the stain? Also, with using a conditioner, should I use a water-base or oil-base stain? I'm thinking a polyurethane varnish (oil base) or latex varnish (water base?) for a protective top coat. Which should I use?