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1. I don't build cabinets, so I can't provide too much input here. Sorry.

2. Here I can be of help - I use to work at Sherwin-Williams. Firstly, I would only go to Sherwin as if you go your local hardware store they will just suggest you use their "paint and primer in one" product which is NOT formulated for this purpose. Secondly: What are you looking for in your finished product? If you want a smooooooth finish with no evidence of what kind of substrate was used, you may want to ask what primer product they suggest (been a while since I worked there and their products have likely changed some by now so I won't recommend a name for that one). It will likely be something formulate specifically to be easy to sand smooth to give a smooth top coat finish. Lastly, the product I can recommend by name is "Proclassic." Comes in water or oil formulas. It's been Sherwin's cabinet and trim paint for years and it's around $54/gal. The other option is their "water-based enamel" product (there is an oil version as well). These paints are made for this purpose because unlike wall paint, it will not remain tacky and soft. If you have ever put a glass down on a table someone painted with wall paint and it stuck to it - this won't do that.

As I said, you can get it in water, but I suggest using some Floetrol or similar product as it's fairly thick. Depending on the color you use, you may want satin or semi. I prefer semi-gloss for 2 reasons: 1) MUCH better durability, resists hand oils better, and easier to clean. 2) it actually applies better and smooths out better. Flatten agents increase the surface tension of the product (e.g. satin anything) so the higher the gloss, the less flatteners.

3. I would recommend against a clear top coat for 3 reasons: 1) The product is already made to be durable, more clear coats might be just extra work. 2) If something does get damaged or chipped, it will probably easier to repair/conceal with a little touch up paint. Otherwise you would need to sand a repair, accidentally sand through the paint/primer, try to touch that up without compromising the poly, dry time + cure time, then top coat, sand a little, and second top coat. 3) If you decide you want to change colors later, you can just paint over it or if you want to stain them later, paint strips easier generally. Oh and if you DO decide you simply MUST top coat the paint - look at minwax's "polycrylic" product. It's strictly water-based and from what I hear it goes on clear, unlike traditional poly which has that amber tone.

Hope that helps! Make sure to ask someone at Sherwin about if they suggest a specific primer for cabinets that will sand smooth, and about the Proclassic and/or water-based enamel (green label, generally out on the shelves not behind the counter).
 
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