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!