Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Woodworking Shows

I got a nice email from the PR firm for The Woodworking & D.I.Y. Shows, and I'm happy to pass the information along. This is a series of shows across the country, with the New England show coming up in West Springfield, MA, January 14-16.

I'll be frostbite racing in Boston Harbor on the 15th, but I'd like to get to the Friday or Sunday session. The exhibitor and seminar list is pretty power-tool centric, which doesn't hold much interest for me, but there are other exhibitors such as Lee Valley/Veritas, one of my favorite hand-tool suppliers. So there appears to be something for everybody.

Then there's one that looks worth the price of admission alone: The Shelter Institute. They come from Woolwich, ME, just across the road from the Montsweag Flea Market, where one of my favorite old tool sellers hangs out. They teach classes in building timber-frame structures, plus they have a retail tool and book store (formerly Woodbutcher Tools). I haven't been in there in a few years, but it's a fun place. I'd love to take one of their classes some time.

The Shelter Institute is going to be building a full-size timber-frame structure on the show floor. That's cool! Also seems like a big job when it's time to go home. But I want to see that! Wonder if someone will be doing a time-lapse video of the build and teardown...hint, hint.

Fine Woodworking editors will also be doing seminars, so let's hope Matt Kenney will be there with a bunch of hand-tool presentations.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Annual Blog Report

Google Analytics map overlay showing the countries where visitors have been located, keyed in shades of green. Not too many blank spots left!

A little late, since this blog is now 14 months old, but I'm pleased to report that it's read all over the world. Woodworking is a universal endeavor with a long history. There's clearly a wide interest in working with hand tools.

First post was October 23, 2009; this will be the 56th. I added Google Analytics on February 24, 2010, so all statistics are from Analytics reports starting on that date. I also added a modest level of advertising at that point.

The best thing about Analytics for me is the feedback it provides. Going by the number of comments and emails I get, you'd think nobody was reading this. But I can see from the statistics that many people are indeed reading it, and I hope getting as much enjoyment as I get writing it.

Now, to the numbers. One of my favorite quotes, mistakenly attributed by Mark Twain to Benjamin Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". These figures are subject to some error and interpretation.

(For the record, my other most favorite quote is this little exchange between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla; Edison: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."; Tesla: "A little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.")

There are some counts where the location is shown as "(not set)", so I can't attribute them to any particular country. There's also a counter called "Bounce Rate," which means someone only visited one page before leaving the site. Presumably this is due either to someone doing a search that lands here and it wasn't what they were looking for, or to someone just checking in to see if there are any new posts.

Visits for the period Feb 24, 2009 to Dec 15, 2010.

I'm now averaging about 150 visits per day, with a low of 100 and a high of 300, for 150 to 1100 total pageviews per day. The peaks are usually the day after posting, when feeds and aggregators pick it up.

Traffic sources. I think "Other" means Twitter.

By far, the most common terms of the 4200 searches that resulted in a visit (other than various forms of the blog name) were related to "Roubo" and "workbench". The direct traffic shows that people have the site bookmarked. The referring sites are those that have linked to me (thank you!), or where I've posted comments or forum entries that allow links. I only got added to the blog roll on the Popular Woodworking Magazine blog in September, and after 3 months it accounts for over 1/6 of all referrals.

If you're looking for interesting woodworking sites, many of these are worth checking out.

Referring Site Visits 2557 2340 1842 785 702 507 470 421 353 347 305 272 272 263 222 213 206 176 134 94 90 69 59 55 53 50 47 36 32 30 20 15 12 12 9 8 8 7 6 6 6 5 4 4 4 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

From a content perspective, the top pages visited were again anything "Roubo" and "workbench", followed by "Grimsdale sharpening", "Gramercy Bowsaw", and "Intro Hand Tools".

To try to reasonably gauge which countries actually have interested readers, for countries with fewer than 10 visits and 10 pages per visit, I throw out any where the average time on site is less than 30 seconds. This should filter out most of the countries where one or two people randomly stumbled in by accident, though there are a few that just squeak by on the list. All very scientific.

The Map Overlay report lists visits from 107 countries, of which 1 is the "(not set)" country and 28 get thrown out due to the 10/10/30 rule. So I'll call that readers in 78 countries!

I can always tell when a new reader shows up, because the stats for some city show one visit with 10 to 20 pages read.

Country Visits Pages/Visit Avg. Time on Site (sec)
United States 16421 2.83 270
Canada 1958 2.99 251
United Kingdom 1318 2.99 313
Australia 918 1.75 122
Germany 545 2.95 236
Mexico 342 2.35 132
Italy 278 3.45 254
Sweden 271 2.04 208
Hungary 261 1.74 70
France 214 2.95 178
New Zealand 199 2.93 279
Netherlands 152 3.53 351
Poland 137 3.92 168
Finland 132 3.87 354
Belgium 130 3.25 212
Spain 108 4.05 393
Brazil 98 4.45 445
Norway 86 3.35 451
Croatia 69 5.19 380
Colombia 65 2.94 216
Switzerland 60 6.12 546
Czech Republic 55 2.76 180
Philippines 50 2.94 188
Greece 49 3.12 304
South Korea 45 2.42 138
India 41 1.9 93
Russia 40 2.73 126
Chile 38 4.58 545
Japan 38 2 174
Austria 38 2.08 155
Romania 36 1.78 75
Ireland 34 2.09 273
Israel 33 4.15 460
South Africa 29 3.31 339
Denmark 25 6.52 257
Portugal 25 3.08 130
Malaysia 19 4.32 683
Thailand 19 1.58 27
Estonia 18 2.17 250
Trinidad and Tobago 18 3.33 413
Dominican Republic 16 1.25 17
Turkey 16 2.75 211
Ukraine 15 4.87 377
RĂ©union 13 3.62 528
Jamaica 12 1.42 11
Indonesia 12 1.75 245
Serbia 12 4.58 326
Argentina 12 3.33 254
Slovenia 12 4.42 398
Luxembourg 10 7 845
Bulgaria 9 8.11 643
Tajikistan 9 3.78 670
Latvia 8 5.5 672
Hong Kong 8 2.38 604
Taiwan 8 2 266
Slovakia 7 31 694
Venezuela 7 3.71 483
Singapore 6 1.67 33
Ecuador 6 6.67 559
Guernsey 5 1.6 76
Belarus 4 2 178
Costa Rica 4 1.5 33
Libya 4 2 110
Afghanistan 4 5 737
Iran 4 1.75 40
Qatar 4 4.25 127
Lithuania 4 2.75 423
Barbados 3 5 306
Belize 3 6.33 1770
Iceland 3 7.33 1106
Peru 3 5.67 203
Vietnam 2 1.5 32
Uruguay 2 1.5 80
French Polynesia 2 1.5 89
Macedonia 1 5 123
Mongolia 1 3 176
Bermuda 1 18 4340
Armenia 1 2 40

Regarding advertising via AdSense and affiliate links, let me just say that readers are as rigorous as I am about ignoring ads! I'm getting my little slice of the Internet Millions, but so far this year it hasn't been enough to take my wife out to dinner. Perhaps next year I'll be able to retire off it. Perhaps not.

For those of you who have reached the riveting conclusion here, thanks! And a big thank you to all those who have visited this past year, you make it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad News and Good News

There's bad news and there's good news. The bad news: I got laid off today. Time to update my resume. Need someone to work on high-performance, high-scale Internet routers or digital video delivery systems? Need someone to work on real-time MPEG-2 and AVC video splicing and stream control? Need someone to work on embedded real-time systems? Data plane? Control plane? I can do that. Got some other kind of system? I'm versatile. I can do that.

The good news: now I have more time to develop my woodworking skills and do some non-blog writing. I can probably finally get the garage and basement cleaned up, too.

Given the current crazy economy, this may just be an unplanned vacation, or it may turn into a whole new career path as long as I have a place to maintain a workshop. Opportunity is as much what you make as what you take.

I'll be posting here more frequently for the duration, since I have a backlog of things I've been wanting to work on. I'll also add some e-commerce features that I've been thinking about, though I'll continue to keep the ads to a minimum, since I like a clean, uncluttered site.

I received my brochure for the Littleton Parks, Recreation, and Community Education Winter 2011 session in the mail today. It's not online yet, but will be available at, listing my Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking and Hand Tool Woodworking, Part 2 classes.

Since the part 2 class focuses on joinery, I came up with this adaptation to my portable work surface for holding workpieces upright after watching Bob Razaieski's video on workbench workholding. He added a twin-screw vise to the front of his bench, similar to Moxon's removable twin-screw.

A simple T-track version of a twin-screw face vise. This holds the piece securely for dovetailing, tenoning, or resawing. The movable crochets do a similar job, but this can apply better clamping pressure for small pieces. If necessary, I can drill holes for the T-bolts closer together.

The final classes of the Fall session went well. Here are some photos of chisel night, showing what every instructor likes to see: heads down, busily at work.

Keri rolling out the waste from a dado with a chisel held bevel-down. This was everybody's favorite operation.

I've known Keri's husband, Bob, for nearly 15 years. He taught me many of my outdoor skills, rock and ice climbing, winter backpacking, light mountaineering (New England mountains, not K2!).

Keri had signed up for a power tool woodworking night class over a year ago, but it was canceled due to insufficient enrollment. I had been focusing on my hand tool skills for a while, so that gave me the idea to do a basic hand tool class. Thanks for the inspiration, Keri! I was very happy that I could do some skills exchange after everything I had learned from Bob.

Rob (no, not Keri's husband Bob) working backwards along a rabbet with a chisel tucked up against his right shoulder, again bevel-down. This method gives both power and control. The upper body mass provides the power, the hand on the blade provides the control.

From left, Erik forming a fillister on the end of a board with a moving fillister plane, Rob cleaning out a dado, and Lance marking a dado for shoulder cuts.

Finally, speaking of outdoor skills, indulge me in a few proud fatherly moments with my daughter, Shelby. Nothing to do with woodworking.

She was an infant when I met Bob. Now she's doing these activities with us. Last week she asked when we could go snow camping and spend the night in a hollowed-out snowcave. Brings a tear to my eye!

Shelby on her first ever rappel. Bob's on tug belay below for safety. There's that magic moment as you lean out over the edge and your center of mass crosses the vertical plane of the cliff face. Your brain screams THIS JUST AIN'T RIGHT!

Here she's doing an Australian rappel at the same spot. This is a surreptitious entry method used by SWAT teams, MP5's in hand. Her harness is reversed, with the figure-8 in back and brake hand in front; Bob ran a separate top belay safety line for this one. This takes a lot of nerve, because she's facing down a 40' cliff the whole way. I don't think we need to worry about her suffering from acrophobia.

Shelby top-roping on a frozen waterfall near the MA/NH state line (not too far from the Merchant of Ashby).

Now that's what I call quality father-daughter time!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making A Cutting Gauge

The finished gauge. I should probably chamfer the ends of the arm a bit.

Bob Rozaieski recently did a very nice video blog post on making Dean Jansa's marking gauge from the December, 2006 issue of Popular Woodworking. I remembered wanting to build that gauge then; this finally gave me the kick to do it, so I dug out my old copy.

However, I ended up making one change. The original was a pin marking gauge based on one in the Seaton chest, but I turned it into a cutting gauge instead, for several reasons.

The first was watching Steve Brown of the North Bennet Street School on an epsiode of Rough Cut, where he and Tommy Mac built a "Shaker-inspired night stand." Steve marked out the leg mortises with a cutting gauge, and it was beautiful to see how smoothly the gauge flowed along the wood as he pulled it. He also had a particular way of holding it that I'll come back to.

Second, in Ian Kirby's The Complete Dovetail, he strongly recommends a cutting gauge rather than a pin gauge, due to the clean cut line. He pushes it, using an overhand grip.

Finally, I met Matt Kenney, Fine Woodworking associate editor, at the Lie-Nielsen hand tool event at Phil Lowe's Furniture Institute of Massachusetts last Friday, after I had already started making my gauge. He had a bench setup with grooving planes, gauges, and bench appliances, all of which he had made. His gauges were cutting style, and he said he made the cutters from sabre saw blades with the teeth ground off. As I was admiring them, I decided to adapt the one I had in progress to a cutter.

So yes, it took inspiration from five people to get me to make this gauge.

This is a good project for using up scraps. I had a few small scraps of mahogany, so used those. Mahogany probably isn't the greatest wood for a gauge due its relative softness, but as I started working it I was reminded once again what a fabulous material it is. It works like butter.

Ripping the piece for the head.

Final smoothing to width with a #4.

Resawing to thickness. The waste will provide the wedge stock.

Chopping out the tapered wedge mortise.

Final cleanup of the mortise with a plane float (which is meant for a different kind of wedge mortise, but it's the same operation).

Chopping the arm mortise. I didn't have a 5/8" chisel, so I did it with a 3/8".

Ripping out the arm piece.

Final very careful smoothing of the arm. I still managed to get it a little too thin, so there's gappage in the mortise, but the wedge locks it tight.

Grinding the teeth off a sabre saw blade. I sanded the paint off the sides, put a round profile on the end per Kirby's recommendation, and sharpened it up on oilstones.

Mortising the arm for the cutter and wedge. This is getting pretty delicate, so the machinist's parallel clamp prevents splitting.

After hogging off most of the waste with a chisel, tapering the wedge by running it over the bottom of the #4. Just watch those fingertips!

Final delicate paring on the bench hook to shape the wedge with a little finial at the end.

Roughing out the curve on the head with a chisel.

Final shaping with a cheap four-in-hand rasp. The file card on the bench is necessary to clean out the dust in the rasp's teeth periodically.

Last step before wedging it up is to pare down the bevel on the bottom edge of the head.

I may have to remake the arm wedge. I ended up paring it down a little too much, so when I push it in to lock the arm, the wedge goes almost all the way into the head. When I loosen it, the finial is too small to keep the wedge in the head; it can fall out if I'm not careful.

Now, back to the way Steve Brown used the gauge. He held it in an underhand grip, thumb on top, the arm between first and second fingers. The fingers curl around the bottom bevel.

Marking out on some scrap for practice. Smooth!

This is very comfortable, but more importantly, as you draw it back along the wood, your fingertips press the bottom bevel against the side face of the work, while your thumb presses the gauge down on the top face. This gives very smooth control, even if the grain tries to carry the gauge off course. With a sharp cutter, the result is a crisp clean line. Very subtle, but very effective.

I tried it with the bevel on the cutter oriented both ways, toward the head and away. It works best with the bevel facing the head, due to the wedging action of the bevel drawing the head against the work. That's good for rabbets, fillisters, dovetail baselines, and tenon shoulders. However, for mortise outlines, bevel away from the head is better. Depending on the operation, put it on the waste side of the line, leaving a flat cut on the good side.

Recommended Books
The Complete Dovetail: Handmade Furniture's Signature Joint