One of the most dramatic finishing effects is burning wood to bring out the grain. Here's a quick and fast project that highlights this distinctive technique. I've tried at least a dozen different wipe-on finishes while making furniture, wall decorations, and even counter tops through the years. Some are designed to blend, some to contrast, and others are great for bringing out the natural character of the wood. But sometimes, a wipe-on layer can't really flesh out the layered textures as well as something a bit more drastic.
Jessica does a great job walking through the steps of adding a bit of pop to a table project by burning a cheap piece of wood just enough to make the grains really stand out. Take a look at her article and then tuck that new found skill into your mental toolkit for the next project on the list.