I'm using Emmet's Good Stuff (poly gel varnish that you wipe on) as a finish on a walnut slab. I've read a lot about finishing online, but am a little confused about "leveling the finish." As I understand it poly varnish requires some minor abrasion between coats for good adhesion. The guy at my local woodworking store told me to use 320 to accomplish this as well as to knock out any streaks left by my application rag, dust nibs, etc in between coats. I take it that this is not the "leveling step" described in sources like Flexner's "Understanding Wood Finishing" and is really more of a very light hit with 320 so as not to "bust through" the finish? How many coats of finish should you put on before "leveling"? As I understand it "leveling" means sanding (possibly wet sanding with ~320 grit) until the entire surface is at an even sheen, which presumably requires some amount of build up or else you're going through to the wood.
Flexner's book (page 156 -- "Brushing Varnish") says: "brush on the first coat....sand the surface lightly with 280-grit or finer...apply the next coat...sand the surface lightly with 320-grit or finer sterated sandpaper...If you're trying to achieve a perfect or near-perfect flat surface, sand out the brush marks after the next-to-last coat...use 320-or 400-grit wet/dry sandpaper lubricated with soap and water or mineral spirits. The last coat will then level better."
Does that mean that if you apply, for example, 5 coats of finish that you sand the first one with 280, the next one with 320, don't sand the next one at all, wet sand the 4th coat, and polish the final 5th coat? If you apply 7 coats would that imply two more coats with no sanding/abrasion at all?
On a related note his book also warns about ghosting or going through one layer to another. If you're leveling a surface, which has brush marks in it are you not -- by definition -- taking off more material in some places than others, which means that you must be intentionally ghosting in certain spots?
After leveling I take it the next step is polishing/rubbing, which can be done with things like abralon discs and the like. Is that typically done on the leveled surface or on yet another coat over the leveled surface?