The problem with designing a better mouse trap is that no one bothers to tell the mouse. Well maybe in the case of the mouse it really doesn’t matter. Perhaps mice are only smart enough to get themselves into a situation that is going to get them killed—-regardless of the device used to do the smacking. At a recent inspection I came across a “better mouse trap” that just never went anywhere in the building industry.
It did not revolutionize the building industry in 1969 the way I expect its inventor would have liked. It may not have even been revolutionary in the neighborhood where all the rest of the houses were built by the same builder.
When one builds a better mouse trap one must understand mice. I don’t pretend to understand mice so I would not attempt to design and build a better mouse trap. I do however have more familiarity with how to build houses than my maimed body would care to admit. It is this experience that helps me understand why this idea did not take off.
So here is what this better mouse trap looks like.
These metal hangers are designed to accommodate different pitches of roofs as well as allow the carpenter the “freedom” to not have to do the tedious business of cutting the rafters at whatever angle is necessary to hit the ridge beam at the correct angle. They would not even have to cut the rafters to precise lengths because if they were a little short the difference would be hidden inside the metal bracket.
Sounds great—-so what could possibly be the drawback? The drawback has to do with the part where the inventor did not really understand mice—or in this case the evolution of framing and why we do all that tedious precision cutting of angles. It is about checks and balances. Precision cutting of framing components allows for the builder to keep tabs on himself (this is especially important in complicated roof structures)—-if things don’t line up—-there is usually a good reason—-time to put the thinking-cap on and figure out “why.” Short-cuts that attempt to avoid the “thinking-cap” will result in houses that become as crooked as my baseball finger. Sometimes the precisely cut pieces can be driven up & down, or in & out, to make the whole structure line up and look the way it is supposed to. You just cannot do that with irregular pieces—-at least not in an “easier” way.
Another thing that coincided with this invention, to conspire against the inventor, was the increasing use of trusses. Today trusses have nearly eliminated all stick framing.
So this better mouse trap did not fly because it did not incorporate long standing checks and balances built into the “process” of building and the increased use of trusses. It was a way to attempt to get to the end result without the whole process—-kind of like when we try to live our lives with only the end result in mind and forget that it is the process that really matters.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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