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Red Lodge carpentry teacher finds creative ways to raise money for classroom materials



Red Lodge, Montana – Like many other commodities, the cost of lumber has increased dramatically in recent years.

More than only contractors are impacted by the price hike.

“The biggest thing has been lumber. Prices are high, so that’s always our biggest challenge is being able to get some hard woods into our shop and getting some different things to build. Whether that’s hockey benches or a shed, and having that material around, or even just scraps for them to practice on,” explains James Sigl, the carpentry teacher at Red Lodge High School.

A new career training education center (CTE Center) at Red Lodge High School was launched in January with a focus on instructing students who are interested in the trades.

“To have something like this, from welding to automotive to carpentry to robotics, it says a ton not only of Red Lodge High but also the community of Red Lodge,” Sigl explains.

However, compared to core subjects like math and physics, these classes frequently call for students to use more tangible things, thus Sigl has had to come up with inventive solutions.

To raise money for the instructional materials he creates in the school’s CTE Center, Sigl decided to start selling his unique wood topographic maps. He uses a device called a CNC to generate a design on his computer, then instructs the device to carve the design onto a piece of wood.

“I think everyone in Montana is kind of connected to the land, and specifically the mountains. To be able to blend those two worlds of woodworking meets CNC technology with something that you can physically hold and have in your house, and show people, this is where I’ve been, this is the trail I’ve done. That’s pretty cool,” Sigl says.

On Tuesday, when MTN News was there, a customer came by the school to pick up her customized order.

Sigl created a unique trail map for Lisa Baird after she and her family trekked a path in Washington state.

“It’s so cool. And I could tell where everything is, like, I know what I’m looking at,” Baird said. “Yeah, it’s there right? You can see it, you can go back to it. You see the valleys and are like, I know exactly where that is,” Sigl responds. “Yeah, I climbed a rock right there. It was 400 feet,” Baird exclaims.

Prices for the custom-made maps vary from $100 to $200 depending on the size and type of wood used.

According to Sigl, these maps are wonderful Christmas presents to help remember a special memory, like a hike with family or a mountain wedding.

“For some people, they’ve got married near one of these peaks, so having that to be able to hold is pretty cool and they end up looking pretty sweet. A lot of people have been liking them,” Sigl explains.

The woodshop students at Red Lodge High School will directly benefit from all of the revenues.

Send Sigl an email at or a Facebook message for special orders or more information.

“I just applaud Red Lodge High and Red Lodge for giving these kids these opportunities,” Sigl says. “And for kids taking a chance and trying something new, I think it’s a pretty neat idea.”