It had been laquered and it took us many hours of sanding before we had removed all of the finish (and even more hours cleaning up the dust afterwards).
This is what it looked like before. Not bad, but way to yellow and woody for our taste:
Sanding the whole stairway took forever, or at least several hours. In the end we were both very, very tired of it and almost regretted doing it.
Halfway through. Everything was sanded and everything except the steps painted white:
At first we thought we wanted dark steps (like this) but once we saw how good it looked with lighter steps we decided to go for that. We used this coloured wax, first applying one (or two, I am not sure) layer(s) of white coloring and then sealing with the top coat.
I have to admit that I was not as careful and throughly as I should have been - I applied the wax with a brush, left it for a while and then moped it up with a cloth. It seems to have worked just as fine as the more time consuming way the company recommended.
Waxing the steps meant some trouble as we could not step on it until it had dried, and so we were not able to reach all the thing we had on the top floor.
We also removed the rail and painted it all white.
With a little help of course.
Putting it back together was easier than it looked and we were very satisfied. It goes so much better with the rest of the house and even though it was one of the hardest projects so far (mostly due to the sanding) it was definitely one of the most revarding.