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I think Minwax Wood Finish (stain) feels waxy for quite awhile after applying it. I have only applied a water based poly over it once. That was years ago and I don't remember how long I waited for the stain to dry. I think the OP said he waited about 24 hours. I'm betting the poly didn't adhere in some areas and has lifted. The stain clearly dries differently in different areas of a piece of wood, so that would explain why it is spotty. The OP implies he has done this before with no problems, but this is the first time he has done it on birch.

Both products used are Minwax. I'd try calling Minwax and see what they say. @Fergferg, if you haven't stripped it yet, maybe try taking a razor blade and at an angle cutting into a white area. When you cut into it, you will be able to see if it has lifted. If nothing else, a call to Minwax might help so that it doesn't happen again after you go through the trouble of stripping it.
 
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