Trying to find Zen in a language without vowels

I am trying to become a better carpenter.  It is not easy.  They are out to sabotage me.  The bastards!


Years ago when I first tried to build something properly, I designed an extension to our house.  It was not quite 200 sft.  Lots of windows.  I didn’t want to have to order ‘custom’ windows so I ordered the standard 3×5’s.  And I framed the openings accordingly.  When the windows arrived, they were 2’10” by 4’10”.  My framing was out.  So, I called to complain…”Hey, what the hell!?”

“Everyone knows 3 x 5’s are not 3×5’s, doofus!”

Which reminded me of the conversation had by the Chinese when they decided to buy Canadian lumber.  They went nuts when the first shipment was ‘short-shipped’.  The 2 x 4 ‘s weren’t two by fours!  And it took months and dollops of international diplomacy to get them ‘hip’ to the language of the lumber industry.

Mind you, a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood is 4 x 8.  And 3-inch screws are 3 inches long.  Guess how much a 55 pound bag of Reddi-Mix weighs?  So, you can understand the confusion.

I ordered 3/4″ plywood sheets for the floor of the studio.  Tongue and groove.  I built the frame (joists) precisely to 12 feet.  When I laid 3 sheets of plywood across, you can imagine my shock and dismay to see that I was 1.5″ out!!!

There then ensued much and great gnashing of teeth, oaths and curses, arm flailing and futile kicking and punching gestures.  Which proved small consolation to me or Sally (who joined me in the primitive dance-expression) Seems ‘everyone knows’ that plywood – when T&G’d – is only 47.5 inches wide.

Well, Sal – for one –  didn’t know!’

And so it goes in the Canadian business world.  “Oh, you wanted tires with that car?”

I am sorry.  There is nothing in the brochure guaranteeing our boats will float!”

“Sorry, we reserve the right to over-book the airplane’s capacity and we did so.  You cannot board the plane sir, it is full!”

The list goes on from cell phone cancellation fees to service charges and CRTC licenses, from shipping and handling to ‘prep’ fees.  I have even been charged ‘transaction’ fees as if the act of transacting was some kind of surprise option or add-on?

And don’t get me started on taxes!  Sales tax on a used car that has changed hands several times?

OK, I am beginning to rant.  Sorry.  The diatribe today was about the misleading language of the construction trades.  How measurements and descriptions are not consistent.  WITH ANYTHING!  And that ‘one can never assume’ that you know even a simple sheet of plywood, Butterfly.  They may look the same.  But they are not the same.   Each one is a little soul, a separate entity all unto itself.  And the sooner we treat them as individuals the better off we will all be. 

Ommmmmmmmmmm…………..1………………2………………….3……………..(kick violently!)………….4………5…………..6……....(scream epithets!)

Now you know the secret of becoming a better !#$%$#% carpenter, Butterfly.

9 thoughts on “Trying to find Zen in a language without vowels

  1. Rough cut lumber is cut to full dimensions thus a two by four will measure two inches by four inches. Lumber is sold by the rough dimensions but if the customer wants it finished so be it but the customer must realize that they will pay for any further manufacturing. Most lumber to the sent to the east is shipped as rough export dimensions and remanufactured in the country of destination. Nowadays little or no manufacturing is done here we just ship them our raw logs and the jobs too. We are Canadians so no value added for us just ship the raw resources ’cause we are a hinterland and are heading headlong into the third world. “Om Ah Ra Pa Ca Na Dhih!”


  2. Yeah. I know about rough cuts. I know about windows. I know about all sorts of things. But I don’t know what I don’t know……….until I find out the hard way! And I found out the hard way about T&G plywood. $%!#@%$$#@!!
    Fortunately there is an answer. Cut a 1.5″ plywood strip and scab it on. The good thing about working with wood is just about everything is fixable. The bad part – I have to fix everything!


    • Like any good carpenter, I measure twice. It is just that I do it once before the cut and then again after it has proven NOT to fit.


  3. Plywood, as with all wood products, is hygroscopic (i.e. it readily absorbs moisture from the atmosphere). The permeability characteristics of hygroscopic materials change as the relative humidity increases. Your floor will expand and shrink so let them acclimatise to the humidity in your area.


    • Brilliant. I would have to soak these puppies in the sea for decades to get them to expand 1.5 inches. It was easier to ‘scarf/scab’ on a strip and paint over it all. I may not be a better carpenter but I am learning how to hide my mistakes better.


      • That’s is not what I’m saying, ‘soak them in the sea’. But they may well in the course of time expand . I recently put down a floor and left a three quarters of an inch gap around the perimeter to allow the floor to expand in the fullness of time. The gap is covered with a baseboard.


      • Oh. Well, I have certainly relied on ‘trim’ to hide my mistakes. And this one will be hidden by the sill when I put up the walls. So there is no harm done. ‘Cept to my barely existent pride, the bulk of which has been eroded to nubs.


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