Cimarron Lofting specializes in curved stairways, such as this one, viewed from below.

Cabinetmaker and carpenter Bill Amaya decided to focus his efforts on fabricating stairways and other wood specialty items. So he started his own company, Cimarron Lofting Inc. in Hailey, ID, (idahostairbuilder.com) in 1999 to do just that. From the beginning, he was intent on applying technology to be proficient and competitive. However, this took him even further than he imagined.







 
Cimarron Lofting used its CNC router to perform
detailed cutting in these decorative stairway balusters.
“We started building circular stairways,” Amaya says, “and I was able to figure out the math for some of the helical handrails and stringers. At that time, we produced these products by hand carving the rectangular billets. It typically was a curved piece that also twists, with a square cross-section. The size of the square, the radius of the billet and the twist were all figured out mathematically with a little help from a simple 2D drafting program.”

While most stairbuilders bend thin strips around a form to get such a shape, Amaya felt that his approach was faster and yielded a better-looking product. But he wanted to find a more efficient way to accomplish it. So he purchased a Warthog 3D flat bed CNC router with a simple program to drive it.

“With that purchase came the learning curve. Drawing, programing, fixturing of the part, cutter selection, feed speed and spindle speeds were all new to me,” he says. “Then, as we got proficient with this new way of working, I thought we could go even further with different software.”

To move to a higher level, Amaya chose two programs from Delcam — Designer, which is a modeling program, and Featurecam, which drives the router.







 
A closeup shows the CNC router machining a
handrail turn.

“Both were easy to learn,” he says. Using the two programs, the company was able to machine its helical handrails and handrail transition pieces, with minimal hand-carving required. It also used the router and software to cut cabinet parts, wood plugs, vent covers, grills, electrical cover plates, front door panels and more.

“I have used the modeling program to completely revolutionize how we produce some of our hand rail transition pieces, level turns and helixes,” Amaya says. “The software opened up an entire line of products that we simply could not make before and helped us to stay afloat in these economically challenging times.”

Amaya adds that the company recently purchased Rhino 3D software, which it also uses for modeling.
Featurecam allowed him to modify G-code output quickly, Amaya says, and its part documentation and printing abilities help maintain communication among team members. This also is important for repeatability.

“That repeatability is ‘mission critical’ when there is a time span of months between repeats,” Amaya says.
Using the capabilities of both the roughing and finishing tool paths, “We are able to produce some really nice parts now, really quickly,” he adds.

Cimarron Lofting continues to expand upon its routing capabilities. It recently supplemented Featurecam by purchasing Vectric’s Aspire software.

“They each have different features that we use for different things,” according to Amaya says. “For example, Featurecam has the ability to handle multiple fixtures. We can carve all around a part by rotating it in different fixtures. Aspire can nest parts and also can leave tabs on sheet goods, which helps hold the parts in place.”

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