How much water-based poly is too much?
I am a total amateur and I could use some help from someone who knows what they are doing.
I am restoring an old factory/railroad cart, and I have finally arrived at the finishing stage. I chose a water-based poly for ease of cleanup and crystal clear coating. My question is this: how many coats is too many?
The instructions suggest 3 coats, but the internet seems to have a massive amount of variation with regard to how many coats are optimal. I have read everything from "should not need more than two" to "water-based versions could require as many as 10 or 20."
I think I would prefer about 5 coats, because the surface of the wood is very uneven and I would like to mitigate that a bit with my finish. (I don't want to sand it smooth because the beauty of the piece, in my opinion, are the pits/scuffs/burn marks from a hundred years of industrial use. But I also want a surface that feels smooth and silky.) However, the last thing I want is a cloudy mess.
So long story short: how much water-based poly is too much?
Thanks in advance for the help!