Real Men, Measuring, and Cutting

By Patrick Fitzgerald (originally posted to Flickr as spinning wheel) CC-BY-2.0 ( via Wikimedia Commons

A real man measures twice and cuts once.

I’ve been blessed to have two really good grandfathers in my life. I love, and loved, both of these men very much.

One of them who is still with us was an engineer for most of his life. Growing up, I was always really impressed by how sharp and analytical he was (even if I had no place in my vocabulary for the word analytical back then).

There was no problem tmy granddad couldn’t solve. There was no complex issue he couldn’t get his mind around.

He could fix just about anything whether it was his car, his mower or his boat. As a really young boy, I fondly remember sitting in his garage and watching him tinker with his 1970s Chevy pickup truck, or as I called it back then, “Papa’s Kickup.” He was a great grandfather and I will always cherish the time he spent initiating me into the world of manhood.

Unfortunately, while he was gracious enough to pass on his analytical and problem solving skills to me, his skill and ability with all things mechanical was not. And while I could write a whole series of posts about masculine skills and values of one generation that are lost by those that follow, that’s not where I am going.  In fact, this post isn’t even about him.

As I said before, I’ve been blessed to be have two really great men call me their grandson.

The other one, who passed away a little less than a year ago, worked in management at an AT&T factory on the west side of Oklahoma City for most of his time in the professional world. And while that job was a big part of who he was, this post is really more about the avocational side of his life.

You see, when he wasn’t interfacing between the engineers and end users of AT&T’s products, my mom’s dad was busy teaching himself the art of carpentry. By the time I was old enough to have a conversation with him, he was quite the skilled (and self-taught) carpenter.

If you needed something and it could be made out of wood, my grandpa could make it. He almost completely remodeled the house he bought after retiring. He built cabinets and card catalogs and all sorts of other useful wooden things for his church. I need two hands to count the number of things he made for me over the years: a really sweet contraption for cracking pecans, built-in shelves for my bedroom as a boy, more shelves for my first house, and cabinets for the laundry room of that same house are just a few I can recall off the top of my head.

Just like I was fortunate to see my other grandpa tinker and fix mechanical things, I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with this one in his wood-shop or at my house as he sketched, measured, marked, cut, and built things out of wood.

And do you know what frustrated me more than anything?

He NEVER measured once. I’d watch as he’d take his tape measure or ruler and pencil and mark 8 or 9 different places on a piece of wood where he would eventually end up making cuts. That part took long enough as he was doing it the first time. But then, after he’d already measured it once, HE WOULD MEASURE THE WHOLE THING AGAIN!!!

As an impatient young boy, I remember thinking, “COME ON GRAMPS! CUT THE WOOD ALREADY!”

Yet he knew something I didn’t at the time.

I can count on one hand the number of times I recall him having to throw a piece of wood away after he started cutting it. The man NEVER made mistakes with his woodworking projects.

He always measured twice and as a result he never had to make more than one cut. He rarely got frustrated and had to start over.

As I got older I began realizing that this philosophy of measuring twice and cutting once was not just limited to his woodworking projects. It was something that flowed over into all other areas of his life. He was a man of precision and I will always appreciate that about him.

He taught me the importance of not going too fast; of slowing down and taking the time to be precise. He taught me that real men measure twice and only have to cut once.

I’m not a carpenter, and though I think I’d like to learn the skill some day, I’m not sure I have the aptitude for it. Fortunately, the idea of measuring twice and cutting once is a metaphor that applies to almost every other area of my life as well. It’s about making smart decisions. It’s about thinking long and hard before speaking. It’s about considering how what we do will affect other people.

At work, it’s about seeing all of the ramifications and possible effects of a new project or initiative BEFORE starting it. At home, it’s about thinking how what we do today affects who we become tomorrow.

I want to be a real man some day, and since a real man measures twice and cuts once, so will I.



One thought on “Real Men, Measuring, and Cutting”

Comments are closed.