How Not to build stoves

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  • At one time, our company manufactured cast iron wood stoves. We did not cast the actual parts, but received them from founderies and then machined, assembled and painted them.
    As with all manufacturing, it was important to keep all the right bolts, nuts, washers, etc. in stock. This particular stove model weighed about 300 lbs and required only minimal assembly by the customer - that of bolting 4 legs onto the body. We included 4 bolts and 4 washers in a plastic bag for this purpose….and these simple bolts are the subject of my tale.
    You see, the bolts were 3/4 of an inch long, which allowed them to grip at least 4 turns into the tapped holes on the bottom of the stove body.
    One day, as a quality control measure, I opened the box of a stove about to be shipped, and discovered (to my horror) that the plastic bag contained bolts that were TOO SHORT! The bolts were 5/8” of an inch long, which means they would only barely reach into the holes they need to thread into. The result would be that, as soon as time and vibration loosened them, the stove leg would probably fall off - allowing a 300 lbs stove full of burning wood to roll forward or backwards across some poor homeowners floor!
    I tracked down the plant manager and asked him “How the heck did this happen? Where are the 3/4” bolts that are supposed to be in there?”.
    The response was classic “Boss, we ran out of the 3/4” bolts. The 5/8” was all we had”.
    After I reamed him out, I reminded him that there was a hardware store across the street from our factory, and that he could have easily bought a few dozen to tide him over until a shipment of bolts arrived. I also fired him soon afterwards.