Thursday, November 17, 2011

Second Annual Blog Report

Google Analytics map overlay showing the countries where visitors have been located, keyed in shades of green. This is pretty similar to last year, but fills in a few more countries in South America, Asia, and Africa.

This past Tuesday was my 51st birthday and 28th wedding anniversary. At some point on that auspicious day, the Total Pageviews counter on the right of the page crossed the 250,000 mark. A quarter-million pageviews! Thank you for that, it made a wonderful present! And purely by chance, this happens to be my 100th post.

Before I break down the numbers, some cautionary notes. There were two events this year that took the blog offline. The first occurred in May. This was Google's fault, when an update to Blogger took a number of blogs offline. They had to revert to backups, and lost some posts. I was able to restore my one missing post from my browser window that was still open. Lesson learned: always backup the blog after posting to it. The Blogger software makes it easy to export a copy. When did you last backup your site?

The second event occurred this past weekend. This was my fault, when I let my domain name registration (i.e. my custom website name) expire. I hadn't noticed the emails notifying me of automatic re-registration; it failed because my credit card had changed. I didn't find out until Freddy Roman sent me an email saying he got an error message when he tried to go to the site.

Google Apps does have a grace period where you can renew an expired domain, but of course I didn't find out until one day after it ended. After that it falls out of their system completely and has to be handled through the domain registration provider, in this case

I called GoDaddy customer support and went through their redemption process for an $80 fee. While I was not happy about the situation, their customer support was excellent, helpful and responsive. I spoke to a human on the phone who was able to quickly connect me to another human who was able to quickly send me instructions. By the next afternoon the transaction was complete and my domain managment was fully transitioned from Google Apps to GoDaddy. Lesson learned: set multiple reminders (where I will notice them) to renew annually. When does your domain name expire?

To some extent, Google has over-automated the domain registration process. They've made it so easy that you don't think about it. But if something goes wrong, it's a a mess to clean up. I'm still not 100% sure everything is all set on the Google side. Note that if the blog becomes inaccessible via the domain name, it can always be reached via the name, since it is a Blogger site.

The broader lesson here is that just as the pen is mightier than the sword, the printing press is mightier than the web server. Gutenberg triumphs again. Hard-copy publications cannot simply wink out of existence the way online publications can. There will always be a place for physical copies. Keep that in mind before you commit all the fruits of you labor to the cloud. The same old disaster recovery precautions still hold: keep multiple independent backup copies of your data.

On to the numbers. Woodworking continues to span countries, languages, and cultures. The number of visits and pageviews for the year grew significantly, more than doubling last year's numbers (even considering that I didn't have statistics enabled for the first few months).

Visits for the period Dec 15, 2010 to Nov 17, 2011. The Average Pageviews and Time on Site are almost identical to last year.

I'm averaging over 200 visits per day, with over 500 pageviews per day. That's over 15,000 pageviews per month.

Traffic sources.

Searches that hit the blog continue to be dominated by workbench topics, but bowsaws and planes are very popular, as well as all kinds of variations of the blog name, and a wide variety of specific skills. Similarly for the actual pages viewed. That tells me the blog is serving as an effective resource for people, and I've received a number of very kind emails to that effect.

The number of sites linking here has grown as well. Several are foreign-language woodworking forums. I've been able to register with some of them via Google Translate; I keep the postings very simple, since Google Translate can come up with odd renderings when I translate back to English. I had visits through over 50 different Google country and translator portals. There were also a number of hits from email servers, indicating people were emailing links to their friends. A few links were due to comments I've left on other sites that people followed back to here.

Referring Site Visits 6469 4876 3924 1820 1378 981 919 862 810 709 673 669 623 540 536 422 406 373 367 352 291 253 252 186 178 168 165 132 132 113 103 87 85 85 85 83 80 78 75 72 71 69 69 62 53 52 49 40 39 37 36 28 25 21 22 20 19 19 18 17 17 15 15 15 14 14 12 12 12 11 11 10 10 10 10 9 7 6 5 4 4 4 4 4 7 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

As before, 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. That still leaves 105 countries!

Country Visits Pages/Visit Avg. Time on Site (sec)
United States 42864 2.84 255
Canada 4762 2.65 225
United Kingdom 2832 2.65 253
Australia 1822 2.47 230
Germany 1219 3.24 273
Sweden 841 1.86 129
Mexico 739 2.04 116
Finland 688 3.54 231
France 669 4.28 310
Italy 507 3.44 239
Russia 501 3.04 254
Netherlands 452 3.98 385
Belgium 451 2.96 247
New Zealand 397 2.7 208
Hungary 391 2.86 207
Brazil 319 4.28 406
Romania 308 2.11 161
Spain 266 4.47 342
Poland 223 5.17 320
Czech Republic 223 5.07 281
Croatia 209 2.36 126
Argentina 203 5.13 358
Chile 142 4.92 307
Greece 140 1.96 126
Austria 128 2.58 206
Ireland 119 2.68 190
Colombia 118 2.29 161
Estonia 108 4.58 596
South Africa 108 2.56 313
Switzerland 107 3.52 235
Portugal 104 2.49 130
India 100 1.86 84
Philippines 100 3.63 327
Ukraine 99 3.59 318
Denmark 92 3.54 316
Norway 89 6.64 469
Japan 85 1.85 85
Israel 70 2.66 228
Serbia 60 2.92 204
Malaysia 58 2.41 178
Luxembourg 56 2.91 176
South Korea 50 5.58 508
Thailand 49 4.47 425
RĂ©union 43 2 158
Guernsey 39 1.59 111
Taiwan 36 8.78 454
Hong Kong 32 2.91 149
Lithuania 30 2.13 63
Indonesia 29 1.55 66
Turkey 27 3 267
Jamaica 27 1.26 56
China 26 2.58 232
Singapore 23 1.91 146
Egypt 21 2.62 210
United Arab Emirates 20 1.6 108
Latvia 19 1.95 108
Barbados 19 9.58 851
Bulgaria 18 8.22 688
Uruguay 18 6 813
Qatar 18 3.11 391
Vietnam 17 3.76 359
Trinidad and Tobago 16 4.13 382
Cyprus 16 5.31 1196
Peru 16 3.38 113
Slovakia 14 1.79 36
Pakistan 14 6.93 427
Brunei 13 1.92 212
Iran 12 1.67 79
Costa Rica 12 3.92 254
Belarus 11 5.18 407
Antigua and Barbuda 11 4.55 740
Iraq 11 1.82 113
Venezuela 10 13.8 808
Puerto Rico 10 2.3 92
Mauritius 10 5.1 244
Ecuador 9 2.44 239
Iceland 9 2 46
Kuwait 9 2.78 122
Bahrain 8 5.5 391
El Salvador 7 5.43 182
Nigeria 7 4 337
Slovenia 6 1.5 51
Lebanon 5 3.2 548
Malta 5 1.2 36
Georgia 5 3.6 68
Montenegro 5 2.4 73
Saudi Arabia 5 1.6 40
Kenya 4 2.25 247
Kazakhstan 4 4.25 652
Dominican Republic 4 2.25 511
Moldova 3 3 102
Sri Lanka 3 1.33 49
Bermuda 3 2 118
Libya 2 2 207
Haiti 2 2.5 254
Dominica 2 1.5 80
Botswana 2 32.5 871
Ethiopia 2 1.5 93
Armenia 1 2 202
Mozambique 1 3 322
Albania 1 4 158
Morocco 1 3 73
Fiji 1 2 1194
Guatemala 1 6 445
Laos 1 3 672

Finally, I did manage to earn a little more Google Ad revenue, most of which went to pay the redemption fee to GoDaddy.

Thanks for another great year! I always enjoy getting comments and emails (and so do other bloggers, so let them know if you like what they do; sometimes people aren't sure if anyone is listening).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Taking Al Breed's Shell Carving Class

Al Breed showing how to handle the grain when carving the various angled lobes of the shell. Some cuts you have to push the gouge, some you have to pull it. He said 99% of carving is following the grain and knowing how the tools respond to it.

This weekend, Al Breed offered a shell carving class for the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers members participating in the Townsend document chest project. He had a full house of 12 students. Lunches were provided, excellent wraps and cookies from the Black Bean Cafe.

The chest has three shell carvings, two convex and one concave. The convex shells are carved out of blanks, then glued to the chest doors. That gives you a chance to try again if you make a mistake. The concave shell is carved in the solid out of a door panel, so a mistake can be more costly.

The pattern Al used for the class is a classic Newport shell. The shells on the chest are an earlier, smaller version. Al gave everyone a mahogany blank glued to a backer, a copy of the pattern, a sheet of carbon paper, and a reprint of his Master Class article from Fine Woodworking. He also set out castings of the pattern to follow (he sells the castings on his website; in addition to being a 3-D model, they show the step-by-step sequence of cuts, so they're like a self-contained class). The carbon paper is used to transfer the pattern to the blank.

Al demonstrates the initial rounding of the shell's top edge in a mahogany blank. It's glued to a backing board with hide glue and brown paper. The backing board provides a solid support that's secured to the bench. The paper makes it easy to release the carving once it's finished.

My blank after rounding, setting out of the lobes with a V-tool, and initial shaping of some of the concave lobes. The lobes are alternately convex and concave.

The class hard at work.

John Short working on his portable bench raiser. Oh yeah, I built a bench-on-bench for this kind of work...and didn't bring it!

Continued progress shaping the concave lobes to establish the fillet angles on the their sides. From here I scooped the lobes out.

By the end of the day, we all had creaking backs from concentrated stooping over the work. For the second day, I brought my bench-on-bench so I could work at a more comfortable height.

I also brought my Queen Anne foot stool to ask Al about some fine shaping details (getting the most out of my time with a museum-quality expert). The transitions from the curved tops of the knees to the straight sides of the post blocks weren't as fine as I'd like. He recommended using the square edges of metal-working files to get a crisp inside corner and smooth surface, as well as using them on the straight grain in the rabbet at the top of the post blocks. He also said I should bevel back the undersides of the knee blocks. That maximizes the visibility of their curves.

My workpiece secured to the bench-on-bench. I've completed rounding over the convex lobes.

Al demonstrates a pull stroke with a broad gouge to excavate the ellipse at the center of the shell.

Outlining the petals with a V-tool.

Scooping out the petals.

Emulating Al's technique on my ellipse.

My final piece. The lighting and stray guide lines make it a little hard to see. I did have to "erase" the ellipse and petals with a broad gouge and re-do them. Al said you can use custom scrapers and square-edge and round files to smooth everything down once the piece has been removed from the backer.

Al ended the class with a demonstration of carving a concave shell. The ellipse and petals are the same, but all the lobes are reversed, and the rounded field is sunken in.

Al roughly excavating the field.

Carving out the reversed lobes.

The other unique detail on this shell is a fine scrolling outline that follows the lobe ends. Controlling this requires a specific technique: steering with the handle, the thumb is rolled against the small back-bent gouge to advance it through the cut. This allows tracing out any curve in a continuous line.

I'll practice this a few times before it's time to make the shells for the chest. In some ways it's surprisingly easy, though it does take a lot of patience and concentration. It's also good to be bold. That gives the work a dynamic flow. Timid work looks flat. With over 30 years of practice, Al was able to do in minutes what took the rest of us all morning.