Wednesday, 14 October 2015

A true horror story


Yesterday I set myself a little target which I easily achieved, then - as I was stacking the components of the two marble fire-surrounds in the workshop, I realise that I had made a schoolboy error. I had cut two left-hand jambs from the expensive material, even though I thought I had triple-checked to avoid doing this. Today, I go to the little Italian man and beg him to cut me a new piece of marble - at considerable cost.

Right. That's off my chest, but it has reminded me of a similar thing, some years ago, and how absolutely crap I am at measuring things.

I had a friend who ran a medium sized marble workshop, and he was short of a sawyer during a busy time, so asked me to step in and operate the water-fed, diamond-bladed thing for one week, as he had an urgent and important job to complete and couldn't find anyone else who he thought could do it.

I initially said no, as it was not my kind of thing, but he begged me and offered me double the normal rates, so I found myself there at 8.00 am on a cold and frosty morning, with a huge sheet of ridiculously expensive, one inch by ten foot by six foot sheet of shiny black marble sitting on the saw bed waiting for me. I had to de-ice the saw before it could be used.

"Don't make any mistakes," he joked, "This is the last skant of its kind in the country!" I laughed too.

So I drew the first cut-line in it with a wax crayon, and this ran the whole length from top to bottom. I checked it again against the written cutting-list, then I checked it again before firing up the saw and beginning the cut. These saws are brutally noisy, especially at ten past eight on a Winter morning.

The cut was so long that it took about 5 minutes, and by the time the blade reached my end of the saw, I realised with mounting horror that I had cut the wrong side of the line, destroying the sheet for that job. The cold sweat I broke out in froze on my forehead.

After I had plucked up the courage to tell him what I had done, he looked at me with a smile on his face and said, "You are joking, aren't you?" He then ran to his office and began making phone calls.

This time, he really had located the last sheet in the country, and to order another would have meant waiting at least 6 weeks for it to arrive from South Africa. He drove to the other side of London overnight, picked it up and arrived back at dawn in Bath, so I found it waiting for me on the saw bed when I arrived at 8 the following day.

As I began marking it out, he was in the process of firing one of his operatives, and he was so angry with this man that he was shouting and swearing at him at the top of his voice. The man was protesting at the same level, so it was very off-putting, especially at that early hour.

I started up the saw having quadruple-checked my cutting line, then dragged the blade toward me on its 5 minute journey through the marble. The noise was such that they had to shout even louder to be heard over it during the ugly argument.

Just as I reached the end of the cut, two things happened. The first was that I realised that I had - once again - cut on the wrong side of the line, destroying the marble, and the second was that my boss had got hold of the fired man by the scruff of the neck and was literally booting him through the gate by kicking his arse and violently pushing him.

I considered creeping away and leaving Bath forever, but this - I decided - was the coward's way out.

By the time I had walked up to him to break the news, he had evicted the man and was catching his breath, breathing out clouds of steam in the morning air and visibly sweating as he composed himself.

"Sorry about that. Now, what is it you want?"

When I told him, he walked quietly away, went into his office and didn't come out for the rest of the week.

We laugh about it now!

21 comments:

  1. I'm always measuring things in inches then cutting them in centimetres. DOH!

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    1. It's the same thing here. I think in inches but have to use centimetres for others and computers. All the Italian saws don't recognise anything other than units of 10 in any case. If I ask for 1 inch, they give me 25 mm. Plenty of scope for disaster.

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    2. There are now 2 generations of Brits who do not have a clue about imperial.

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    3. I think only in inches. I have an illustration of a centimetre against an inch drawn in felt tip pen on a windowsill at home in an attempt to remind me from time to time. But still it doesn't sink in.

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    4. Sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. I thought I had.

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  2. That is a nightmare. I couldn't have done it the second time. Too much pressure for me.

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    1. You sort of get used to pressure when dealing with fragile, £250,000 things on an almost daily basis.

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  3. I would never have risked that guy's wrath a second time after witnessing the scene you describe. I'd have hauled ass out of there, never to return! Cowardly? Yep.

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    1. It was - in the end - a very funny experience, but I know he hated me at the time. He blamed himself for begging me to do the job when I said I wasn't suited to it.

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  4. Somebody once said to me 'measure about six times'cut once. Some truth in that Tom. Although on a much lesser scale, in the days when I made my own Christmas cards I was always placing the card wrongly in the guillotins so that the cutting line was wrong. I still have to run a bit of old paper throuigh it to remember exactly where it cuts.

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    1. That rule doesn't seem to apply to me, Weave.

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  5. I'm crap at measuring, always have been. Inches, centimetres, makes no difference. I measure multiple times, and if possible, test cut it on scrap first.

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    1. Me too. I often get someone else to check before I cut.

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  6. When we binned a mistake we would say "it's only thread." But, it was our own thread.

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    1. I say, "Never mind. It doesn't belong to me". (Not really).

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  7. Why didnt he boot u up the arse?

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    1. I would have ventured at least one bitch slap

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    2. That would have been worth waiting for. Anyway, he begged me to work for him when I said it was not for me, so he couldn't really get too upset. The bloke who he fired bigged himself up beyond his capabilities.

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  8. That made my eyes water just reading about it. Bigger or not, he'd have been quite justified. He sounds like a good friend.

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    1. So you take sides too, Moll? Read the above!

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