I like the sanded-down look of my oak chest of drawers and I intend to add a few small stencils on the front in waterbased eggshell. I'm wondering if I need to seal the wood somehow after? I don't want to varnish it again as varnish yellows and darkens the grain. But I'm not sure about waxing either. I assume if I just leave it untreated then the wood will eventually show marks from my fingers etc? What should I do to keep the overall look as pale and bleached as possible?
Wax for protection. Research the best one for you to use but leaving it bare will eventually show marks. You can test on a hidden area underneath first to see what the effect will be, but there are lots of options that mean you don't have to varnish.