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Measure Once, Cut Twice. . .or Thirty Times

December 22, 2020

Measure twice, cut once.
– Woodworkers Proverb

I enjoy woodworking. This Christmas I’m working on several projects for family. I’m making toys for my grandkids. I’m making gifts for my children. I have a lot of kids, 13. I’m not making something for all of them. I also have a fair number of grandkids, 10. I am making something for each of them.

Many of the projects are copies. I’m making multiple copies of the same thing. (Sorry, to be vague, but my kids read this sometimes.) Anyway, as I was working on the projects I got to thinking about the old proverb, “Measure twice, cut once.” It means, that you have to be sure that your measurement is right before you commit to cutting the wood. You cannot put the wood back together if you measure incorrectly.

But, I realized there is an extension to the proverb. I have to cut dozens of 2×2 pieces. Some are 12″ long. Some are 30″ long. If I were to measure each piece, I’d actually come out with a worse project than if I only measure once.

This is a miter saw. It’s used to cut pieces of wood to a specific length. You measure the distance on the wood. Put a mark and then cut at the mark.

The saw blade is 1/8th of an inch wide. So, if I measure 15 1/4″ and I put the mark on the left or right of the blade, I can end up with a cut that is 15 1/8th” or 15 3/8th”, a difference of up to 1/4 of an inch. If I am trying to build a series of projects, it’s important that they all be exactly the same.

There’s a technique to ensure that every cut is exactly the same length. If you look at the picture again, you’ll notice that a cut 2×2 is sitting on top of two uncut 2x2s. The trick is to cut a single piece at the right length. Then, use that piece to “measure” all the rest of the pieces. I simply line up the ends and line the cut piece up with the saw blade.

Using this method, every piece is exactly the same length. Measure once, cut many times.

Some of my tasks at work are being moved to a new team. I spent years designing the protocols that govern this part of my job. I realized that these protocols are my measuring piece. They ensure that every interaction follows the same path. (Because that’s the path that leads to a successful resolution.)

Without a plan, without a template, without a protocol, you have to measure each piece individually. You have to redesign the system every time you have problem come up.

Measuring once allows you to make as many cuts as you want or need.

(Just make sure that first cut is accurate. Maybe measure it twice to be sure.)

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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