Measure Twice, Cut Once

In woodworking, there is an often used phrase “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” The concept is that when you do your first measurement, you should check it a second time a little later, just to make sure you didn’t make a mistake, before you cut something. When you cut a piece of wood (or metal, cloth, etc.) you pretty much are committed at that point to wherever you have measured to – and the world is full of people who measured an inch (or centimeter) too short. The result – something gets tossed out because it isn’t useful.

I was reminded of this recently while doing some woodworking in the shop. I was building a couple of doors for the kitchen island I was making. The doors used a framing joinery style called “mortise and tenon” which is very old (1,000s of years) in which you create a tenon (sort of a wooden tab) which gets inserted into a mortise (a hole you’ve carved into the wood). It results in a square frame, sort of like a picture frame. You can then insert a flat panel into the middle, which “floats” between the four pieces. This is key, because wood has a tendency to contract and expand as it releases/takes in water throughout the year. If the center panel can’t move, things have a tendency to crack.

Well, in rushing things I took the measurement for the panel and cut them while I had some glue drying on something else. Guess what? The panels are too short, on both ends. Exactly one inch too short!

I had to go purchase new wood to go into these, and the other ones will go into my wood pile, where I hope to find  a new use for them.

For many of us in the days of Tesla and GameStop, there is the urge to shoot first, then aim. While this can pay off occasionally, I would still urge others to “measure twice, cut once” and double check your assumptions and decisions a second time before acting on them. A lot of trouble in this world can be bypassed if we just take a second look at things.

I hope everyone is healthy and happy!

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Mr. 39 Months

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