Red Lodge High School carpentry teacher raises money for classroom supplies

RED LODGE – Like many raw materials, the price of wood has increased significantly in recent years.

And this price increase affects more than contractors.

“The biggest was wood. The prices are high, so getting some hardwoods to our store and getting different things to build is always our biggest challenge. Whether it’s hockey benches, or a shed and stuff lying around, or even just leftovers for practice,” explains James Sigl, carpentry teacher at Red Lodge High School.

Red Lodge High School opened a new Vocational Training Center (CTE Center) in January focused on teaching students interested in crafts.

“To have something like that, from welding to automotive to carpentry to robotics, not only says a lot about Red Lodge High, but also about the Red Lodge community,” explains Sigl.

But these types of classes often require more physical materials for students to work with than core classes like math and science — and as wood prices continue to rise, Sigl has had to get creative.

Sigl decided to start selling custom wooden topographic maps to raise money for teaching materials he is making at the school’s CTE center. He uses a machine called a CNC to create a design on his computer and has the machine carve the designs onto a block of wood.

Wood topographic maps by James Sigl

Jakob Sigl

Wood topographic maps by James Sigl

“I think everyone in Montana has some kind of connection to the country and the mountains in particular. To be able to combine these two worlds of woodworking with CNC technology with something you can physically hold and have in your home and show people that this is where I’ve been, this is the way i walked. That’s pretty cool,” says Sigl.

A customer stopped by the school when MTN News visited her Tuesday to pick up her custom order.

Lisa Baird and her family hiked a hiking trail in Washington state, and she had Sigl make a custom map of the trail.

“It’s so cool. And I could tell where everything is like I know what I’m seeing,” Baird said. “Yeah, it’s there, right? You can see it, you can go back there. You see those.” valleys and say I know exactly where that is,” Sigl replies. “Yes, I climbed a rock there. It was 400 feet,” says Baird.

Lisa Baird and James Sigl review Baird's custom topographic map

Kelsey Merison

Lisa Baird and James Sigl review Baird’s custom topographic map

The cards are available to order and prices range from $100 to $200 depending on the size and type of wood.

Sigl explains that these cards make great Christmas gifts to commemorate a special memory, like a family hike or a wedding in the mountains.

“Some people got married near one of these peaks so it’s pretty cool to be able to hold that and they end up looking pretty cute. A lot of people liked her,” explains Sigl.

All proceeds directly benefit the students at Red Lodge High School’s wood workshop.

To place a custom order or find out more email Sigl at [email protected] or message him on Facebook.

“I just applaud Red Lodge High and Red Lodge for giving these kids these opportunities,” says Sigl. “And for kids who take a risk and try something new, I think it’s a pretty good idea.”