Put This in Your Toolbelt

If woodworkers were polled, “measure twice, cut once” would probably be their most commonly vocalized adage - usually right after a costly mistake caused by neglecting its wisdom. A close cousin to "never assume...", it means one should recheck measurements or suffer the potentially costly repercussions of an easily avoidable mistake. 

I'm thinking I'll need to be putting my thinking cap on soon. The budget for our upcoming builds is uber-tight, and I can't afford to make many mistakes. It's more like measure thrice, or pay the price.

Should that price gets too costly, however, and I have to live with the unavoidably visible consequences of an avoidable mistake, I'll have another handy saying in my tool belt. And now, so will you.

Think of it as my Christmas gift to you, dear reader. 

I got it from my good friend, the artist James Grashow, or Jimmy as he’s usually called, http://www.jamesgrashow.com/. Like “measure twice…” his adage applies not only to woodworkers, but to just about any field of work which involves humans/errors. It’s to be used in response to a query from someone as to why something isn’t quite right; why, say, a table leg is slightly shorter than the other three, or... why Ian Anderson has six fingers on his left hand on the Stand Up album cover Jimmy carved for Jethro Tull back in the day. 

Truth be told, Jimmy simply forgot how many fingers he'd already given Ian's left hand. Jimmy still gets occasional letters or emails from Jethro Tull fans, asking him if he would divulge the six finger symbolism. He obliges their mystical presumptions variously.

A warning, however. Jimmy's adage, which I'll be passing along to you soon, loses all effectiveness if you employ it more than once every other blue moon or so.   

Furthermore, it won’t cover all sins: for instance, the designers of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a.k.a. “Gallopin’ Gertie”, wouldn’t have gotten anywhere had they utilized the phrase after the poorly designed bridge's heavy rock and roll had died. 

Finally, to use this “weapon of mass obstruction” in a kind of verbal pre-emptive strike is against the rules; it's to be used in self-defense only, capiche? 

With all that in mind, here’s a fictitious exchange between a client and a furniture maker:

“Wow, that looks great! I love it! You did a spectac – hmm.” (Client frowns, leaning closer to the piece to view what looks to be a faint circular coffee mug-sized ring on it's top.)


“Well, hmm... I've just gotta... What happened over here? This looks a little…” 

“What – oh, that?”

“Yeah. That.”

“That’s not what you think it is. That’s nuance of process.

“I'm sorry?"

"Um... nuance of process. Nuance of process."

"That's what I thought you said. Looks to me like a coffee mug stain.”

“Um, yeah, well, I can see how you'd... it, uh, it takes a practiced eye to, uh, um...”  

“Well, how about you fix it? I'd really hate for that 'practiced eye' of yours to spot the difference in my check.”


Ok, so, as you can see, it doesn’t always work. And although I’ve implied it, I hope you don’t ever employ it in order to avoid doing your best or to obfuscate when you haven't. But when there’s no harm/no foul involved – when it affects you and you alone, well, let's just say you might just want to keep it in your purse, wallet, or tool box. 

Nuance of process. It’s like a “get out of jail free” card.


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