Yesterday I went to Home Depot to buy a couple pieces of wood for a small home project. Basically I needed a 12-inch board, and a 3-inch board. I cut the 3-inch board into three pieces and attached them to the bottom of the 12-inch board to make a riser for my desk, allowing my monitor, speakers, and printer to be elevated, creating a lower compartment to keep my scanner, external drive, and paper holder.
It was an easy project. You take measurements of your desk, and tallest object you want to store under your riser (the scanner at 2.5-inches). You go to the store, read the signs marking the sizes for individual pieces of wood, buy ones that are larger than what you need, take them home, assemble them, set up your desk, and attempt to slide the scanner under the riser. Of course it did not fit. That is because I bought a 3-inch board that was actually 2.25-inches. The 12-inch board was 11.5-inches. I could live with that, but the other discrepancy defeated the objective of the entire project.
Ok, first off, I rarely buy lumber, and when I do I usually buy a general size, rather than something very specific. So, in other words, I am not a professional carpenter, wood worker, or construction worker. Second, I have heard the common saying that a 2X4 is not actually 2-inches by 4-inches. I don’t like to assume anything, and to think that everywhere in the United States all pieces of lumber that are marked a certain size are not actually that size. That would be false advertising. It would also be stupid.
So, today I went back to Home Depot to find something I could use to raise my riser, and have a friendly word with one of the managers. I spoke to Bob. He was nice enough. Said that is just the way it is done. My angle was that if you were not a professional or rarely bought wood, how would you know the descriptions on the signs are incorrect? Also, if I had a project in the future, what would I need to do to convert my dimensions into the magical world of lumber reality? He said I should go ask the guy at the Contractor Services desk, and said “sorry.”
The guy at the Contractor Services desk wasn’t rude, but behind his customer service facade was an obvious attitude of “It doesn’t matter if it is wrong, that is the way it has been done for at least sixty years,” which is almost exactly what he told me. He couldn’t offer a way to convert dimensions. I left with the understanding that you cannot buy what you want, and if you buy anything, you are on your own to sort out the mess. Really? Is that just the way it is? Is our society not advanced enough to cut standard retail wood to exact dimensions? If so, is it really that difficult to display actual dimensions on signs?
Sorry, but there is no excuse for doing something wrong. You just shut up and make it right.