A carpentry teacher at Red Lodge High School raises money for classroom materials

RED LODGE – Prices for lumber, like many commodities, have increased dramatically over the past few years.

This price increase affects more than the impact of contractors.

“The most important thing was the wood. The prices are high, so our biggest challenge is always being able to get some hardwoods into our shop and get some different things to build. Whether it’s hockey benches or Shed, having those materials around, or even just scraps to play sports on.

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

“To have something like this, from welding to cars to woodworking to robotics, says a ton for not only Red Lodge High but also the Red Lodge community,” Siegel explains.

But these types of classes often require more physical materials for students to work with than basic classes like math and science—and with the price of wood still so high—Sigl had to get creative.

Sigl decided to start selling custom wooden topographic maps to raise money for the classroom materials he makes at the school’s CTE center. He uses a machine, known as a CNC, to create a design on his computer, and he carves the designs onto a wooden block.

James Siegel's Wooden Topographic Maps

James Siegel

James Siegel’s Wooden Topographic Maps

“I think everyone in Montana is kind of connected to the land, specifically the mountains. To be able to mix those two worlds of woodworking with CNC technology with something you can actually carry in your home, and show people, that’s where I’ve been, that’s the path I’ve been on. It’s great,” says Siegel.

A customer stopped by the school while visiting MTN News on Tuesday to pick up her custom order.

Lisa Bird and her family hiked a trail in Washington state, and Siegel had her make a custom map of the trail.

“So cool. And I can tell where everything is, like, I know what I’m looking for,” Beard said. “Yeah, there is, right? You can see it, you can go back to it. You see the valleys and it’s like, I know exactly where it is,” Sigl replies. “Yeah, I climbed a rock up there. It was 400 feet high,” Beard said.

Lisa Baird and James Siegel look at Baird's topographical map

Kelsey Merison

Lisa Baird and James Siegel look at Baird’s topographical map

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

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

“For some people, they got married near one of these peaks, so having it to be able to hold out is pretty cool and they end up looking beautiful. A lot of people love them,” Siegel explains.

All proceeds directly benefit Woodshop students at Red Lodge High School.

To place a custom order, or find out more, email Sigl at james_sigl@redlodge.k12.mt.us or message him on Facebook.

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

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