We decided to stain the white oak, which immediately raised a concern. When I stain a piece after assembly, I invariably miss at least one glue spot, resulting in an ugly splotch, and I find it difficult to apply the stain smoothly at the joints. I knew that some woodworkers apply stain before assembly, something I had never done. Doing so could potentially solve both problems, but I was concerned about whether I could glue up the base without damaging the stained surfaces. In the end, I decided to give it a try and it worked great. It was easier to keep the stain out of the mortises and off the tenons than I thought it would be and I managed to avoid damaging the surfaces during the glue-up. This is something I will definitely do again.
As for the glue-up, it was surprisingly uneventful. I am really pleased that the joints all closed tightly:
Here is what the table looks like in clamps. Notice the cards under the clamp faces to protect the stained surfaces.
I am very pleased with this stain. It is called Salem by General Finishes.
I am tempted to conclude that my woodworking has gone up to a new level but, in statistics, there is something called regression to the mean. In this context it means everybody gets lucky once in a while, but they shouldn't count on it to be true in the future. :)
One issue with staining the frame before assembly is that I have to install the lower shelf pieces later and I don't know how that is going to go. Worst case, as long as I can touch up the stain, I think I will be fine.