Charlie and Ray Mowder

Michael Cooper with his latest sculpture in progress.

I really enjoyed meeting Michael. I saw a presentation that he did at the Furniture Society Symposium a few years ago and I have always been a big fan of his work. My time with him far exceeded any expectations I had ahead of time. He and his wife Gayle are two of the very nicest people that I have ever met. Spending time at their beautiful home was icing on the cake. In addition to many of Michael’s beautiful sculptures, their home is tastefully decorated with artwork and custom furniture by some of the great furniture making icons of our time.

Michael still has several of his sculptures on his property and it was great to see them up close. Michael was very generous with his time and we made several videos while I was there. In one of the videos he showed me his most recent sculpture which is still in progress. (See photo above) He also did a video describing his technique for making wooden coil springs and another one on his technique for making the convoluted compound curves that is a signature of his work.

Wooden Coil Spring

Michael showed me how he makes the compound curves as seen in the exhaust pipes of this sculpture.

It so happens that David J. Marks lives very close to Michael. I saw a seminar that David did for the Minnesota Woodworkers’ Guild and, well, he is David Marks! I was quite pleasantly surprised not only that David agreed to meet with me, but by how generous he was with his time. We spent the whole day together and we made two videos. The first one is about the fabulous 30” vase that he is currently working on. His wife Victoria joined us for the second video which was a complete tour of the David J Marks Woodworking School. David and the school are both great and I would encourage anyone who is considering taking a class to take a look at his school.

Not only was David generous with his time, but he also gave me a nice piece of exotic hardwood called Pernambuco as a gift! Obviously, David is very high on my list!

Charlie and David Marks

Charlie and Peter Brown

The trifecta of this portion of my trip was the opportunity to meet Peter Brown. Peter has a very good and extremely popular YouTube channel.   Peter is a very fun guy and really enjoyed myself that afternoon. Even though Peter has made a name for himself with his “crazy creations”, he is not a crazy guy. To the contrary, I found him to have the admirable qualities of being sincere, personable, and fun too!

Until next time –

Charlie from Jack Bench Woodworking!

One of the absolute high points of my 2016 winter road trip was meeting Marc Spagnuolo, aka The Wood Whisperer at his shop outside Phoenix, AZ.

I posted on Facebook when I was in Arizona that I would like to interview another woodworker while I was there.  I had heard that Marc lived in the Phoenix area, but I never expected that he would have the time to meet with me.  To my surprise he responded to my Facebook posting and invited me to his woodshop for an interview!

See the whole interview on my YouTube channel

I was meeting most of the woodworkers that I interviewed for the very first time when I met with them.  Rather than just show up and start interviewing, I usually arranged to meet them at a restaurant for lunch to get a chance to get to know them first.

When Marc arrived at the restaurant I was pleasantly surprised to see that his wife, Nicole, was there too! They were both very nice, down to earth people and I felt very comfortable around them.

Marc and Nicole Spagnuolo

After lunch we headed to the Dream Shop that he built behind his house, and yes it really is a Dream Shop!  There is even extra space around the machines, I don’t see that very often!  Dream Shop Build Video

We broke the interview into three parts:

  1. Marc’s background and how he came to be known as “The Wood Whisper”
  2. The business side of “Wood Whispering”
  3. Marc responded to a few viewer questions that I had solicited through Facebook and YouTube.

I wanted to hear about Marc’s background and how he got started with all this.  I am also a big fan of David Marks and I wanted to hear more about how they got to be such good friends.  The most surprising thing I learned is that Marc is a molecular biologist!  I didn’t see that coming, but it is amazing how many woodworkers have scientific backgrounds.

I was most interested to hear about the business side of The Wood Whisper web site and the Wood Whisperer Guild.  I wanted to ask Marc why he thought that the Wood Whisperer web site and Guild are so successful and what does he do differently than most of the other woodworkers on the internet?  Marc was very open about his business.  His advise to others who want to develop internet woodworking businesses is “Don’t do it”.  The main reason he says that is because there is so much more competition on the internet today than there was when he started out.

We could’t get to all of the viewer questions.  Most of them were serious woodworking questions, but some were just for fun like Peter Brown’s question about why doesn’t Marc like Batman as well as Superman!

The last thing I did before we wrapped it up was to give Marc one of my Jack Bench Woodworking stickers and he graciously pasted it on the wall.

Marc Spagnuolo with Jack Bench Sticker

This blog article is just a recap of the interview, so be sure to watch the Video!

Marc is a fun guy to hang out with and I really enjoyed meeting him.  If you have ever watched any of his videos or listened to his podcast then you have a good idea as to what I mean by that!

Marc and me in his Dream Shop!

The first leg of my trip was driving from Minneapolis to Reno so that I could interview Zac Higgins.

The drive was long but pleasant. I haven’t been in the mountains for a few years and the scenery through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada was beautiful!

There was a long stretch outside of Casper WY where the sky was bright and sunny, and the surface of the snow was crystallized. For miles and miles, the snow looked like it was coated with bright shimmering diamonds. The word “awesome” is overused, but it was just that.


Reno is a special place for me because I lived here when I was younger. I attended elementary, middle, and high school here, but this is the first time I have been back since I was 17 years old!  I really looked forward to seeing how it has changed and I was surprised by how familiar was to me. I recognized all the major streets and had no trouble finding my way around. I drove past my old schools and the places where I had lived and was very surprised to see that they are still there.

Reno is a nice town and the one thing that did surprise me was how close and how big the mountains are! I guess since I grew up there I didn’t recognize how special that really is.

Unfortunately, downtown Reno does struggle with some of the same problems that other cities struggle with.

In the stairwell of the downtown parking ramp:

One of my best memories from growing up in Reno was visiting the Harrah’s Automobile Collection. In its day this was the largest and probably the best automobile collection in the world, really!   At one time the collection contained 1400 cars! It is not that big anymore and it is now called the National Automobile Museum, but there was no way I was going to pass on a chance to stop in and look around!

I know this is a woodworking blog, but these cars are just too cool!

John Wayne’s 1953 Corvette

1936 Mercedes

OK, back to woodworking!

I met Zac Higgins at his shop in Carson City, NV. He shares a 4000 sq. ft. space with his father. His father is a pretty cool guy, too!

Zac and I spent several hours together and I did both an interview and shop tour with him. Zac has a full woodshop and lots of cool lumber, but his main focus right now is casting specialized pen blanks. Zac has spent a lot of time honing his craft and I am quite impressed with his methodical and disciplined approach. I will say more about this when the videos are ready, but suffice it to say that if you are at all interested in specialized pen blanks then you owe it to yourself to check out his web site and YouTube channel

Zac has zillions of ideas for pen blanks! His most popular blanks are inspired by college and sports team colors.

This is his Saints pen blank.

Zac is not too happy with his bandsaw! There will be more about the bandsaw and Zac’s color matching in the upcoming videos.

My next stops are:

  • Sacramento to visit Ray Mowder of TabLeft Workshop
  • Sebastapol CA to visit the great wood sculptor, Michael Cooper
  • Santa Rosa to visit Peter Brown
  • Los Angeles to visit Matthew Morris
  • Las Vegas to visit Braxton Wirthlin
  • Denver to interview Andrew Klein

I will definitely let you know how it goes!

Charlie from Jack Bench Woodworking!

I know many YouTubers do regularly scheduled updates on their channels. I can’t commit to regularly scheduled updates at this time. I think later this year I am likely to begin some kind of regular update, but I am just not ready for that yet.

Fast Acting Twin Screw Vise

My friend, Andy Klein, asked me to help him with the prototype on a fast acting twin screw vise that he designed. I spoke before about this, but it certainly is one of the bigger things that I have been working on. For a variety of reasons, Andy was not able to work on the prototype for the vise. I ordered material from an online supply house, fabricated the parts, welded them together, and assembled the completed prototype. Along the way, Andy and I worked together to refine the design. This was a lot of fun!

Four Way Parallel Clamps

Before the vise was even completed, Andy presented another new design to me. This one was for some four way parallel clamps. The clamps were another very fun project that I recently worked on.

Jack Bench: Series of Interviews for YouTube

When the projects with Andy started to slow down I decided that I would conduct a series of interviews for my YouTube channel. My idea is to conduct face to face interviews with prominent woodworkers. Many of the people I will interview are well known on YouTube and on the internet, but there are some fabulous craftsmen, wood artists, and makers without a strong internet presence.  I am interested in meeting anyone with an interesting story whether they have an internet presence or not.

I interviewed George Vondriska of the Woodworkers’ Guild of America. Actually, I did 3 interviews and a shop tour with George. George also discussed workbenches. As it turns out, George likes Adjustable Height Workbenches. He likes them so much that he has not one, not two, but three of them in his shop!

I also interviewed Tom Caspar. Tom works in a fabulous shop and we did a video tour of his shop. Unfortunately, my el-cheapo microphones failed and I was unable to salvage any of the footage from the shop tour with Tom. Hopefully, he will be nice enough to give me another chance.

Last week I interviewed Matt Cremona. Matt is involved in a really exciting project with the Wood Whisperer, Marc Spagnuolo. Matt is conducting an on-line woodworking class for the Wood Whisperer’s Guild. I also got to see some of the cool things in Matt’s shop. Among the coolest was a 16″ circular saw! The best part was the Matt let me use it, that was fun!

Going forward, I have commitments for interviews from Zac Higgins at NV Woodworks, Ray at TabLeft Woodworks, Matthew Morris at MM Wood Studio, and from my friend Andy Klein. There are several others who I plan to interview, but I don’t want to say more about them until I actually schedule the meetings.