Next I added the toe piece for the bottom riser which bends a full 90 degrees into what will be the bench seat. I wish I could have bought some of the flexible trim that's available, but mine are custom so I could never get a match. I ended up installing the flat and then over two weeks keeping a damp cloth on the trim to soften it and slowly worked it around the corner. It didn't come out perfectly tight all around the riser but it looks ok.
I started working on the closet door which is also a real bear to get stripped. I think it was sanded down before the white paint was applied and has soaked in the wood a bit. It taked a heat gun for the top layers, then two coats of stripper for the bottom coat, and then a good going over with my sander. The biggest problem is the detail between the panels and the rails. Nothing but tedious stripping and hand sanding will fix that and I haven't got that far yet on it. I would replace the door since the bottom has been chopped shorter for carpeting... but finding a thinner style oak 5 panel door that hasn't been drilled for a lockset will be tough at best.
Now it's time to start stripping the side panels. These aren't to0 bad and at this point I have sections left. I also did one face of the main newel post. At this point the idea is to strip everything that surrounds the built in bench so that I can start replicating that. When I stripped the post I discovered a sillouete about 1 inch wide and about 40 inches tall. When working on a bench design in my head and what clues I have to go by I initially thought it would be open on the newel post end. The more I thought I just couldn't come up with a design that made sense to fit the cavity I had and how the stair was chopped.Then I started looking at pictures online and closer at my situation - and discovered that most had another full side to them. Then I noticed a slight line in my newel and after initial stripping it was even more evident because of how the white paint stubbornly attached to raw oak (this time was a plus). And some filled nail holes as well.
Stay tuned as I work on a design and replicate the missing bench (if only I had a picture to go by.....)