Today’s Tale: It’s a Very Thin Line
CUSTOMER A: I just need this plywood cut down to 3’ x 6’.
ME: Okay, done.
CUSTOMER A: Thank you!
ME: Thanks for coming in. Who’s next?
CUSTOMER B: Can you cut these two sheets of plywood in half for me?
ME: 4’ x 4’?
CUSTOMER B: Yes, please.
ME: No problem. There you go.
CUSTOMER B: Thanks, that saves me a lot of time.
ME: Glad to help. Thanks for coming in. Who’s next?
CUSTOMER C: Yes, I have five sheets of 4’ x 8’ hardboard that I need cut into specific sizes.
ME: Well, I’ll certainly do my best.
CUSTOMER C: No, no, these need to be exact.
ME: Okay. Well, sir, I can try, but we really can’t guarantee precision cuts.
CUSTOMER C: What does that mean?
ME: It means this is a rough-cut, industrial saw. It’s not a furniture saw. It doesn’t do precision cutting.
CUSTOMER C: I have it all worked out mathematically; it should be very simple.
ME: Okay, then. What would you like done?
CUSTOMER C: All right, now this first sheet I’d like cut into 24 identical pieces.
CUSTOMER C: Yes. I’m an Art Professor. It’s for a class project.
CUSTOMER C: And I need each piece to be exactly 12” by 16.”
ME: Um … well … that …. that’s not going to be possible.
CUSTOMER C: These ARE 4’ by 8’ sheets of material, are they not?
ME: Yes …
CUSTOMER C: That’s 48″ by 96″ if I’m not mistaken?
ME: That’s right, but …
CUSTOMER C: Then it’s entirely possible to cut it into 24 identical 12”x16” pieces. I’ve even drawn up a little diagram to help you, if you need it. See?
ME: I … I see … uh … okay … I appreciate that. And you want all five boards cut this way?
CUSTOMER C: No, I said this is just for the FIRST board. I have diagrams for the other four as well. They’re all different.
ME: Oh, good.
CUSTOMER C: I’ve also numbered the order of the cuts as well, to help speed up the process. It’s just a simple matter of halving the board lengthwise, then doubling up the material and halving it again. That will give me four boards at exactly 12” wide. Then if you line up all these together and make the cross-cut at 48”, square up the remaining pieces and cut them at 16” and 32” that will give me 24 pieces at exactly 12” x 16”.
ME: Actually … no. No, it won’t.
CUSTOMER C: Yes, yes, it will. It’s very simple math.
ME: On paper, yes, sir. But you’ve neglected to include the width of the blade.
CUSTOMER C: Excuse me?
ME: The blade width. The blade on this saw is 3/16 of an inch wide.
CUSTOMER C: So?
ME: So, that means every cut I make, you’ll be losing 3/16 of an inch.
CUSTOMER C: What are you talking about?
ME: Your diagram — nice as it is — does not take into account that every pass of the saw cuts away 3/16”. Now, if I halve the first sheet, as you suggested, the remaining two pieces are NOT EXACTLY 24”. And if I cut them AGAIN, another 3/16” is chewed up. Now, you’ve got about EIGHT cuts on here total. Even if we double up some of them … I’m still making maybe FIVE cuts which adds up to 15/16 or pretty much ONE ENTIRE INCH of material that’s lost.
CUSTOMER C: An entire INCH?!? That can’t be possible!
ME: Well, that’s spread out over the whole board, so each piece will be just a fraction short.
CUSTOMER C: That doesn’t make any sense! I’ve worked it out very carefully.
ME: Like I said, this is a heavy-duty industrial saw. It’s not a fine-cut saw, it’s not a laser-cutter. Some material gets lost with every cut.
CUSTOMER C: What do you mean “lost?” Where does it go?
ME: You see all this sawdust on the floor? That’s where it goes. The blade chews up a lot of material.
CUSTOMER C: Well, is there a thinner blade somewhere?
ME: They do make thinner blades, but they’re very expensive and they’re not practical for our purpose here. Besides, I’m not authorized to alter the saw.
CUSTOMER C: Do you mean to tell me you CAN’T make 12”x 16” pieces?!?
ME: If you’re trying to cut them all out of ONE sheet, I can cut SOME of them. I can’t do ALL twenty-four out of one sheet. The last few are going to be short.
CUSTOMER C: That’s ridiculous! Then what is the purpose of even offering this service?!?
ME: The purpose is intended to cut larger pieces down so customers can get them into their vehicles to take home. We’re a Do-It-Yourself store, sir. We’re not here to build your projects for you.
CUSTOMER C: I’m not asking you to do it for me! All I wanted were some very simple cuts!
ME: No, sir, I’m sorry, but you asked for very specific and exact cuts. That’s something beyond the capacity of the equipment and services we offer. Now, I’m certainly willing to try to cut 24 pieces that are identical to each other, but in order to compensate for the width of the saw, they won’t be EXACTLY 12”x16,” but they’ll be close.
CUSTOMER C: No! Forget it! Just forget it! If it can’t be done RIGHT then I don’t want it at ALL!!
ME: Okay. Well. Thanks for coming in.