Both wipe-on and brush on polyurethanes will protect your timber, however the application and therefore the finish is different. The more traditional brush on polyurethane (Feat Watson Clear Varnish) will require two coats over previously coated timber, and three coats over bare timber. This is because you are laying a thicker coat that you would if you were wiping it on. Dry time is 8 hours, and it is important to allow the first coat to dry fully before applying a second coat (and so on).
With a wipe-on Poly, you tend to apply a thinner coat as you are applying by rag. To get the best protection, we recommend 4 to 5 coats. However, re-coat is faster (6 hours) so you will end up taking a similar amount of time to apply both finishes.
It really comes down to personal preference, the finish you are trying to achieve and your particular piece of furniture. In terms of look, a wipe-on Poly will give you a classic hand rubbed look. The wipe on application method eliminates brush and drip mark, making the wipe-on poly the best choice for contoured surfaces (such as crown molding and stair balusters) and furniture that has intricate or elaborate detailing.
The brush on method will build more on top of the surface, giving brush on polyurethane a ‘heavier’ looking finish. Two coats of brush on polyurethane will be a little bit stronger and a little bit more durable than wipe-on poly. This makes the brush-on polyurethane ideal for often handled items or items that will be exposed to heavy traffic (i.e. a kitchen table) and flat surfaces where it's important to build up a durable film.