Lawsuit against the Nominal

Home Depot facing lawsuit over lumber size

We’ve had discussions on the forum about the actual dimensions of the Glowforge product, and of materials. Of interesting note was the article sharing an “unscientific survey” in which 1/3 of those polled were unaware of the difference in actual measurements from the nominal dimensions in which lumber is usually measured.

The Glowforge is going to be used by many people who may be effected by butting up against the very edge of some measurements. We’ve already seen issues with dimensions changing from the original crowdfunding campaign to the actualized product. There are actual measurements of materials that may give us grief (1/4" acrylic is not exactly 0.25" thick). We’ve also seen issues from the metric/imperial measurements, some of which @palmercr has brought to attention.

How might the actual measurements of materials and the machine itself cause problems with users projects, and are there ways to buffer these problems for even the most unexperienced of users?

Measure twice, laser once?


next there’ll be somebody bringing a suit about the discrepancy between pipe dimensions and tubing dimensions.


People will rage about parking in driveways and driving on parkways! Oh the humanity!

Yeah…we need that tongue in cheek emoji.


Many years ago I needed a piece of wood for some simple task, like serving as a shim. I went to the hardware store and bought a piece of two-by-four. When I got home I realized to my horror that neither dimension was accurately labeled. Further research showed me how deep the rabbit hole went:

  1. Everyone else already knew this
  2. No one cared

While I think a $5M lawsuit is a load of horsefeathers, I also think that labeling a part with dimensions that aren’t even close and relying on oral tradition to avoid misunderstandings is also not cool.

I managed to make it through a university career, a marriage, and a home purchase before I learned the cruel lie of dimensional lumber. It is true: I went around the sun about 30 times before I needed to buy or work with a piece of wood. You don’t know what you don’t know…


I have certainly been bitten by the nominal, in small ways. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that lumber is not a constant 0.5" narrower. A given size of lumber fits my kitchen cabinets perfectly one day, and then a few months later the same size of board has to have 3/8" ripped off the edge. That’s not just a rounding error!

I don’t think it’s a huge concern for one-off laser users, though. The laser bed may or may not be exactly the stated size, but once you know it, you know it. I expect Proofgrade stuff to fit, period. And you’ll probably have to precut materials from other sources, so you can just apply what you know about the working area.

As for thickness, well, a cheap digital caliper is an essential fab lab tool. New users are likely to start with relatively simple projects, in which case they’ll get a feel for different materials before they try anything too elaborate. If they’re told to measure the medium before designing interlocking parts, and it’s sufficiently clear that the warning isn’t specific to a given material or brand or shape, they shouldn’t run into much trouble.

I could see thickness issues causing minor to medium-sized headaches in production shops making complex shapes. Broken Token products wouldn’t work without decent standardization, for example.


I was just about to post this same link.

It’s hard to believe there’s a lawsuit over this.

It’s one thing that a few people did not know and coincidentally showed up at the same law firm.

It’s a whole other thing that the law firm determined the “damages” to three people is valued at $5 million.


yeah the value is absurd. they’re likely to win, didn’t lowe’s recently have to pay out for the same? that’s probably what precipitated this lawsuit. i can’t believe they’ll get $5 mil though; that’s completely absurd. force them to put up a sign or whatever, but come on.


I would think that their ‘damages’ would just mean another trip to the store. If you were using that construction lumber for some sort of project, you’d inevitably arrive at some sort of ‘measure and cut’ scenario before the volcano erupted. Emotional stress maybe?


I consider myself lucky as a kid having figured this out way back when my dad had me build a fence by hand. We had a bunch of 1x4" attached to a series of 2x2" posts. I was such the rebel and was quick to point out, “dad, this wood isn’t four inches wide, it’s like, three and a half! And I think these 2x2 are slim too!”.

And that day I learned those same two things listed above.


So would Glowforge have to report proofgrade materials down to the thousandth of an inch lest a user suffer ‘damages’ (time, material, tube-life) of a project disrupted by a hair’s width? Or would they have to have a big “actual material thickness is 0.245 inches” on the masking? Or have disclaimers on their approved selections in the design store that they are not responsible for parametric differences for customers using non-Proofgrade materials?

It seems to be a disturbing rabbit hole.


Thank the heavens for good parents who steered us right. My learning experience came from my first attempt at building a robot from Dad’s short ends and construction scraps. But not all users are going to have had something similar. Lego sets might be the extent of others’ construction experience.


Should have learned this in woodshop, but woodshop got cut from the budget.

The case should be thrown out as frivolous. And those lawyers should get a spanking.


Oh boy,

Not sure why this topic is titled this way.

Truth is, anyone who does not know that a 2 X 4 is not actually truly 2" by 4" — well, not sure they should be trusted with a hammer or a nail, and a lawsuit based around this would be seen as extremely frivolous. I was once told by someone in the legal profession that anyone in the USA can sue anyone for anything – it is the nature of overly litigious society members who have severe entitlement issues. It really comes down to – can they win?


I have no sympathy for HD on this one, because in my experience they tend to skimp even on the usual translation of nominal sizes. The worst was a bunch of 4’ 2x4s that were about 3’10. (And about 1-3/8 x 2-3/4, but I didn’t care so much about that.) When I first called to complain, the store manager told me to get lost, but oddly enough after I filed a complaint with the state consumer protection folks they desperately wanted to “make it right”.


If they’re deliberately shorting people, that’s one thing, but despite the many other reasons to hate Home Depot, I can’t find it in my cruel black heart to blame them for selling a standard product with a confusing name that has been confusing since before their store existed. After all, if they sold 2x4s that were actually 2x4, they would be the wrong size and would mess up people’s carpentry!


Annnnd, now we know why the materials selection in the interface describes materials as “Medium” and “Thick” and the Proofgrade store has the thickness dimensions prefaced with “Approximately”. Those Glowforge lawyers are pretty sharp (they probably read about the Lowes suit).


Nice to know. It’ll be nice to get access to the proofgrade store in the future.


This makes me hate people.


i’m sure this was on the agenda long before the lawsuit.


Looks like they try to obfuscate every technical detail, including sheet thickness.