Ugh, I'm beat. Starting around 1 pm, Shayne and I finished sanding the baseboard-type woodwork on the laft side of the stairs. Then we disassembled the 5 stairs above the landing so that we could do a thorough job sandinf them as well. All 5 treads, what Shayne calls "kickboards" (the vertical pieces between each step), and the baseboard on each side are all ready for sealant and stain. We burned through a TON of sandpaper, since there was so much old shellac and carpet adhesive that the stripper didn't remove. I even scraped each piece with a carbide scraper, but it was still slow, tough going. But the top portion of the stairway is pretty much done.
We wasted some time trying to figure out if it would be worthwhile to disassemble the bottom portion of the stairs. I've been against this from the start, but Shayne (correctly) pointed out that we'd be able to do a much more thorough sanding job. We couldn't figure out how to get the banister and newel post apart (thankfully), so the stairs stayed intact. I was worried he'd figure out how to get them separated, and then we'd never get it all back together! It's a bigger pain in the butt to sand this way, but I think it would be a bigger pain to reassemble the railing, newel post, and all 30 spindles.
Right now the 5 top treads are just resting on the risers, and the top one is really wobbly. I covered the treads with towels to keep them clean and protected. I also have to stand on the top step when the dogs go up and down to prevent them from freaking out. I'm using the baby gate at the top of the stairway when we're upstairs to keep the dogs from charging downstairs without me. With my luck, I'd end up with a dog falling through the basement stairway's ceiling...
I'm going to seal and stain the top 5 stairs tomorrow so we can reassemble them before we have a disaster...!