Sounds foreboding and made to be broken or having dire consequences, depending upon your point of view.
Maybe even something like when you were a kid, were there just so many things you could do before you provoked your parents into a fit of anger.
Well, not quite.
It’s not really anything legalistic; it’s more like gravity – it just is. All things made are made according to some kind of plan, whether highly sophisticated like a machine or very simple like a baseball bat. There are always deviations from the plan in the process of making and the range of acceptable deviations is also laid out ahead of time or by experimentation according to a plan. These are generally referred to as tolerances.
Well, in woodworking, tolerances also have a range – from what’s commonly referred to as a hair or a whisker. Joinery and fitting follow fairly tight tolerances while milling and shaping follow a slightly more relaxed standard. One of the main reasons is that wood, as a living material, does not stay immoveable.
So. All this to say that in putting together 60-odd pieces of wood to make up a table base blank, I encountered a HUGE example of what accumulated tolerances look like that would never show up on any drawing. Imagine the effect a variation in thickness of say .005″ (a black whisker), which ain’t too shabby in milling lumber, would have multiplied 60 times!