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A lesson on lumber: McFarland High woodshop students learn logging

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:37 AM CDT
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MCFARLAND, Wis. (WMTV) - From bark to board, a professional sawmill operator gave woodshop students at McFarland High School a hands-on lesson on lumber.

The Technical Education Department brought in Charlie Tom, a sawmill operator, and tree trunks provided by RG Huston Company Inc. for the demonstration in the high school parking lot on Tuesday.

“I didn’t realize it was this much work! If I did I definitely would be using my lumber a little bit more wisely,” said Junior Charlotte Prosser.

The students are able to learn about the cycle of lumber and help prepare it to be dried for projects.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it before. In the classroom we’re working with small materials, but to see it go from a tree trunk to a log, to a board is kind of crazy,” said Senior Zach Nicholas.

“Having the students see an expert in his field operate a piece of equipment the way it’s intended is incredible. To then see the students be able to mimic or work alongside that individual in a very short period of time is incredibly gratifying,” said Technology and Engineering Teacher Steve Pennekamp.

Many students expressed a new appreciation for where lumber materials come from following the demonstration.

“I have learned that logging is very, very rough on your hands and you can get splinters very easily, but it’s a lot of fun and you learn a lot by doing it,” said Sophomore Lucy Swenson.

The learning didn’t stop when the last slats were stacked. All the lumber will be donated for the students to use in future woodshop projects.

“We’re hoping to get about 1,200 board feet of material out of today, that’s our goal and at current prices that could be $5,000 after it’s been dried and ready to use,” explained Pennekamp.

Those projects include making cabinets and tables.

“This is a pretty special opportunity,” said Nicholas.

Another hope for the special visit is that it will inspire the students to consider a career in building trades.

“We’re hoping to motivate students to be able to go into some of these career fields that are under-populated right now or are in high demand,” said Pennekamp.

Swenson said this has opened her eyes to a field of work she didn’t consider much previously. “I see how hard these people work now and I see how much they love it with the smiles on their faces,” said Swenson.

Prosser said the experience helped reinforce why she enjoys wood-working so much. “It’s really satisfying for me to have something right next to me that I know that I built and I accomplished and be able to use that in my own life,” said Prosser.

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