You both made a bed. A big bed. A heavy bed. A massive bed.
About a year ago, maybe longer, you got tired of sleeping in a creaky old bed. Turn on your side: creak. Lie on your back: crack. Yawn: snap. It wasn’t bad enough to keep you awake at night but the corner joints were slowly opening, so a catastrophic collapse could happen anytime.
The bed was ten years old when you got it (from Katherine) and it had since lasted another ten. It was time for it to retire (getting tired of the exhausting sleepy puns?).
- The new bed should have the following qualities:
- Be made of massive wood logs
- Have a rustic yet modern design
- Include power points for charging phones, electric blankets
- Integrated LED lights for reading
- No creaking
Bauhaus sold 15x15 cm solid beech logs in lengths up to 2.3 meters with various knots and splits. You hauled them home with a Mobility van and stacked them on the front balcony ready to cut and tidy.
- You assumed getting the other parts would be easy. Some examples of how easy it wasn’t include:
- You transported two meters of 80 mm diameter opaque plexiglass tube by bike during a heavy rain storm
- The high density LED strips were only available in Germany
- The metal posts all had half-inch threads (silly units)
- The hardware shop ran out of paint and wasn’t getting more stock
- Power points from the local hardware shop cost 50 CHF each and were too big anyway
- You had to order M30 bolts from Germany, washers from China and rail nuts from an industrial supplier in Switzerland
After work each day, you spent a few minutes cutting and sanding. With a spare half an hour you found fifteen minutes of effective work time — change, setup, work, clean, change. Progress was slow.
You used the router to accurately cut overlapping ends down 5 cm and finished the depth with a hand saw. You drilled 30 mm diameter holes at the corners with your new drill press and widened them by hand. The 20 mm diameter holes for the head beam supports needed to go 12 cm deep — deeper than your drill bit could securely dig. You clamped the drill bit by the tip and drilled very slowly. Luckily nothing broke and you got a tight fit on the post threads.
The splits were detailed with a chisel, a file and folded sandpaper into progressively smaller gaps; this part took the most time.
The light covers cylinders were tricky to make: the tended to split when cut at the wrong angle. Of the complete 2 meters you only needed 2x60 cm, but ended up using the whole thing due to breaks.
The bolts and screws you picked were a little over-dimensioned. The feet were screwed to the beams by four M6x140 wood screws (so long you needed a special drill bit). The middle beam was secured by M10x120 screws, just in case they had to traverse a split in the wood. The corners were clamped together with four M30x150 bolts atop one normal ISO 7089 washer and one large DIN 9021 washer, screwed into a square rail nut pressed into a tight hole. You didn’t even have a tool to tighten M30 bolts so you had to make one from some old wood offcuts, leftover felt and a screw clamp (worked well).
When Meike’s parents came to visit and they took May to the Zürich animal park while you sanded (she saw a lynx). When everything was painted and ready to go, you threaded the wires through and wound the LED light strips around the posts. Then, with four pairs of hands, you lowered the head beam into place. It fit. Lights worked. All good.
You are happy with the end result: a modern massive wooden bed that does not squeak. It cost about a thousand francs and a few hundred hours. Worth it.
2D drawing expert
Some years ago you visited the 2D drawing archive in the basement at work. There you found sliding racks upon racks of original hand-drawn train parts and assemblies. The drawings were incredibly detailed and immaculately sketched. It is impressive to think that Engineers had to draw everything by hand before CAD came along. Some drawings were even done by people who still worked there.
Fast forward a few years — while you were trying you best to emulate their level of quality — all the experienced Engineers had gone. Modern Engineering companies have the habit of letting people retire (or firing them) without knowledge transfer. This leaves everybody asking
Oh shit, now what?
Work is inevitably transferred to so called
best-cost countries and quality suffers. The infinite monkey theorem is a fitting analogy to explain how this situation plays out: bad quality continues until someone removes the monkey from his typewriter (or in this case, the Indian* from his workstation) and gives the job to someone competent.
Since you are forced to work with unqualified outsourcing, the only alternative is to define a minimum technical content and quality standard. You are now responsible for standardising your company’s 2D drawings. Apparently, you were the last person left with a sense of style (technically speaking). Nice!
Creating global 2D drawing guidelines is a long WIP involving much copy-pasting (keyboard modified accordingly). Reports from the last meeting stated
no new silly requests from management. At least they are letting you do your job for once. The work entails some boring telephone conferences; so you plan to do lots of home-office, go on mute and play with Lego. Must remember to mute your mike...
Quick story: you finally made use of your Japanese at work.
Your company has a bid project ongoing with Tokyo Metro to deliver some bogies, and you were responsible for getting the concept ready. Five man-months of work had to be completed in two weeks. Shortcuts were taken.
In the meeting three Engineers sat across from three other Engineers and chatted about engineering things. One translator and a manager were along for the ride, that latter contributing little more than presence.
When you finally started chatting in Japanese the manager was surprised:
I didn’t know you could do that, he said. You were tempted to crack jokes about him but the diligent translator may have been too helpful.
It felt validating to use your otherwise useless skill. Let’s see if you can get a trip to Japan our of it.