When we purchased the house, it came complete with a white banister and the spindles encased in layers of drywall.
After tearing off the drywall from the spindles, I used CitruStrip to take the paint of the banister. The process required a thick coat of the stripper, which sat for 24 hours, and a fair amount of scraping.
Interestingly, the stripper interacted with the original lacquer varnish to create a black sticky goo. To remove the goo, I used lacquer thinner, an old toothbrush, and fine steel wool pads.
Once the paint and lacquer were removed, I applied pre-stain conditioner to the wood to help the stain apply evenly, and then Minwax's "American Chestnut" stain in two coats.
The entry way and upstairs hallway now have a more pleasing and open feel. The finished product came out beautifully, and thankfully was fully dry before the floors were sanded and stained to match.