I was never a good math student in school. (Stay with me, there is a point to be made here.) I could handle basic addition and multiplication but compound fractions and solving for x was enough to make me break out in a cold sweat.
When Jim told me we were going to be doing some measuring of the old mast to plan for the new one, I was confident I was up for the challenge especially since my mast was rectangular. He grabbed a pair of old calipers off the wall and we set off measuring the height of the mast at one foot increments of the 35-foot mast. I thought we would both start at each end and stop when we got to the middle but Jim insisted that we each measure the same points and then compare numbers. If our measurements were different, even an eighth of an inch different, we would both go back and redo the measurements. I was surprised to learn that because the mast tapered in size at the top and bottom that the measurements were different at each spot (this was no ordinary rectangle).
We also measured the width of the new Sitka Spruce planks in a similar fashion. Once we had all of measurements, the next step was to calculate where each piece of would should go and where each piece needed to be cut. This would require dividing a lot of complex fractions. Just as the first beads of cold perspiration formed on my brow, Jim had to run off and tend to another project.
‘Why don’t you figure these out and we’ll meet back in an hour?”
“Uh, yeah ok,” I stammered.
Unable to find the phone number for my high school math tutor, I broke out the calculator to subtract 35 and 7/8 inches from 1 3/8 plus 1 and 5/8 . It took me a full hour, a dozen scraps of paper and half a charge on my cell phone but I struggled through it.
I mention this story, not to gloat about my mathematical accomplishment, (that is an added plus) I mention this because when Jim returned, he decided to double check my numbers by doing the calculations himself. While I had broken a mental and physical sweat, Jim calculated all those numbers immediately, off the top of his head.
This skill would prove invaluable as the rest of the day was spent organizing the wood and deciding which ones would be best suited where. By the days end we had double and triple (and sometimes more than that) checked our measurments and laid out of the wood. We would go through the same exercise the following weekend, too.
“You can never be too careful when dealing with dimensions like this.” As anxious as I was to keep production moving I was thankful we were airing on the side of caution. Especially when you are working with $700 wood from Maine.