Charlie, I have tried some of the stains that the specialty woodworking stores carry but keep coming back to Minwax. Availability is probably a big part of this and since I use it the most, I have a pretty good feel for what it will and will not do and how to work with it. My biggest problem with them is that I can never get my wood to look like their sample picture so I test and mix to get what I want.
Are you going to use 5/4 for the treads? You want this milled to 1-1/8 or 1-1/16" and break the nose with a 3/8 to 3/4" roundover bit in your router on both top and bottom.
I use a 10" 30 tooth ATB blade for just about everything. You will not see a heck of a lot of difference between the 36 and 40 tooth blades unless the tooth forms are something special. The Alternate Top Bevel blades are somewhat aggressive but this is great for oak or ash. The 60 tooth blade is too fine for this and will cause you a lot of burned edges. You will probably get some burning on the oak but this should sand right off. Don't even think about using blades that aren't carbide tipped.
It helps to clean your blades off every once in a while. I put mine in the basement sink and spray them down with Easy-Off oven cleaner and let them soak in it for a while. Come back in about an hour and get the resin off with fine steel wool, then rinse, dry, and hit them with a light WD-40 spray. This will not be a fun job and be sure to wear heavy rubber gloves. The fumes from the Easy-Off will curl your nose hairs no matter what you do.