This is great help guys - thank you all very much for taking your time to help.
Zool: I like that final solution!!! The (scotch) whisky distillery, Glenmorangie single malt is no further than a mile from where I sit!!!!
I'm fine with all this now, but there's still one more issue that I need to make a decision on and that is what is the best finishing method. Danish oil gets a lot of good press and seems to be the modern preference (even for outdoor work). I've used this in the past in favour of varnish as it sinks in more and there is no flaking or bubbling over time when water may seep in. It's another dificult choice but right now I'm beginning to favour a good quality varnish. Perhaps there is another option?