Sunday, January 09, 2005

When is an inch not an inch?

I procured some materials to begin building my pan-pipes as mentioned in this earlier post.

1/2" x 10' CPVC pipe
new hacksaw (old one was in sad shape)
1/2" wooden plugs with 1/8" holes (for tuning)
1/8" wooden dowel (for handles on the tuning plugs)
sheet of balsa wood (for mounting to hold all the pipes together)

I have to admit, besides being thinner than standard PVC, the CPVC has a nice pale beige tint to it which seems less artificial and even vaguely wood-like. Totally worth the extra cost. I'm a bit of a connoisseur of PVC, having used it to construct everything from clothes racks to didgeridoos, and let me tell you, CPVC is the shiz.

Got everything home, and had the foresight to try fitting the plugs into the pipe before opening the plastic packaging. Didn't fit. Could it be the plastic wrapping? Instead of tearing the pack open, I got out a ruler and measured the plugs. Yep, 1/2" exactly... then a fell suspicion began to creep over me. I knew that 2 x 4s weren't really two inches by four inches, and that this held true for other building materials. So, could I actually believe the text on the pipe which said it was 1/2" inside diameter?

Apparantly not. My trusty Official 1976 Bicentennial Snoopy ruler gives a reading of about 7/16".

I checked the website for those pan-pipes I'm going to model mine after. *sigh* Inside diameter of 0.47". 7/16 = 0.4375, so Snoopy was pretty close.

So, when is an inch not an inch?

Answer: when you're trying to bloody well build something and you buy materials.

Yeah, yeah, I can go exchange the wooden plugs tomorrow for smaller ones, which will probably even work better than the ones which should have been an exact fit. I can wind thread around them to snug them into the pipes and it'll be a more smooth and firm motion and fit. It's just that my principles are offended. I really want to trust hardware stores, but this seems like yet another example of false advertising. That is to say, lying.

I'm used to assuming that when I read esoterica various things will be presented incorrectly, that the "initiate" will know about this and be able to know what they're really talking about. But plumbing?

I know that lumber measurements were changed to enable sawmills to produce 16 planks where they had been producing 15, like adding wax to candy bars. I guess the same thing happened with pipes, and is now standardized into the industry. Doesn't mean I have to like it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine the chaos if the building industry suddenly labeled exact measurements on products. The ripples would cause a world wide cataclysm. No CEO I know would take responsibility for such an act and forget the illusion of them all agreeing to change. Then you have to convence the lifetime builders that changing the world as they know it is a good thing. congratulations, however, of carrying on the grand tradition of your Grandpa O. "Question Everything." It proves that this generation has not all succumbed to Lemmingism. Hi, from mom.

11:01 AM  
Blogger fatoudust said...

Ah, you're of course right, mom.

Even in plumbing, we're too far gone to back away from the abyss, now. Imagine if they went to an exactly as written standard: every hardware producer and distributer would suddenly have to have TWICE the space for plumbing items.

Which "Grandpa O" were you talking of? Your father or grandfather? Glad to know I come from a long line of irascible pains in the ass. I'll try and do the family proud!

2:01 AM  

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