If I didn't have spray equipment, my choice would be a coat of boiled linseed oil, to really make the grain "pop" out. Let that dry a day or so and follow with 4-5 coats of wipe-on poly.
You can make or buy the wipe on poly. I make mine with equal parts naptha and polyurethane (use satin if you want less gloss)
Just mix together and apply quickly with an old t-shirt rag. Depending upon conditions, allow to dry a few hours, the re-apply. After 3 coats, scuff with 280 and apply another coat or two.
The best part of this finish is it ain't rocket science..and is quick and easy. You should be able to wipe on a coat of this stuff in about 2 minutes or less.
If the room you are finishing the chests in has low humidity and a decent temp, you can literally have a "finished" finish in one day with professional looking results.