I'm really happy with the end result, anyway, despite how long it took to complete. I got a belt sander for my birthday which made the initial sanding so much easier than anything I've ever done before. After stripping the hideous dark stain I went back over the wood with an orbital sander to smooth out any roughness before wiping off the dust and layering on three coats of clear polyurethane. I love the lightness of the wood! I decided to keep the old handles, partly because I think they're kind of cute, mostly because the wood underneath permanently showed the shape of the handles.