What is your biggest foul-up that you got away with??

Thread Starter


Joined May 23, 2013
When I was an apprentice at a large electronics company, I was given lots of boring repetitive jobs to do. One day, the charge hand gave me a a couple of hundred 1/4" thick copper sheets and told me to drill an 1/8" dia. hole in the center of each one.
Now, in the toolroom was a beautifull new pillar drill, and everyone was under threat of castration if it was damaged. I carefully set up a couple of bits of steel to make a jig, and cut a square of marine grade plywood to sit underneath the copper whilst it was being drilled.
I then went to the stores and got a nice new drill bit, set up the quill travel stop and proceeded to drill the copper plates.
After I had done about 2/3rds of them, the drill bit became blunt, so off to the stores for another. I fitted it in the chuck, put in a new copper plate and pulled down on the lever. As I lifted out the plate, Horror of Horrors!!! There was iron dust on the plywood, I had not re-set the depth stop!!!
My heart missed a beat, but, quick as a flash, I removed the plywood and there, right in the middle of the table was a nice little dimple in the iron. (Oh why didn't it have a large pass through hole like the old machine had?)
I then drilled nearly all the way through, got a set of letter stamps, and punched the word "OIL" just above it!
I wonder how many people have oiled that hole in all these years!!!!


Joined Nov 30, 2010
Getting away with something? Not likely in my area of electronics.:(
More likely, "I put anti-seize compound on the lug nuts for a car but the owner figured it out before the wheels fell off.":eek:
I don't think that's getting away with it completely, but I did get out of it without anybody getting killed.:rolleyes:


Joined Sep 9, 2010
I got married. Really! I was off at a conference at Lake Tahoe, and my wife-to-be, who worked at the same company as I did, was also nearby on business, so we arranged to do some spring skiing there. Unbeknownst to her, I had a ring in the pocket of my ski pants and a plan in my head.

Anyway, a giant reorganization happened back at the office while we were out. We were pulled into a big meeting upon our return to learn the new structure. (Most people were let go.) We were both assigned to a new spinoff company. Only then did we divulge that we were married!

We were told flat out that had we been married beforehand, they would have never assigned us both to the same company. But, they decided to allow it since all was done.

Of course, we'll never know if we "got away" with anything. We might have been far better off being fired. The road not taken.


Joined Mar 31, 2012
I then drilled nearly all the way through, got a set of letter stamps, and punched the word "OIL" just above it!
I wonder how many people have oiled that hole in all these years!!!!
In other words, in order to avoid taking responsibility for an easy to make mistake, you intentionally did further damage to the machine.

I would have said, "Please be more careful in the future," to the first and, "You're fired as of this instant," to the second.


Joined Mar 31, 2012
When I was an undergrad and working as a co-op student at NIST, I was cooling down one of the superconducting magnet systems by myself for the first time (having only participated in one prior cool down under supervision). The basic process is that you fill the dewar with liquid nitrogen and let it sit for a few hours (overnight works great). You then blow it out by pressurizing the dewar with gaseous nitrogen to force the liquid out of a stinger and back into the storage dewar. Once the liquid is out you blow enough gas in to purge any residual nitrogen. Then you start pumping in liquid helium by pressurizing the helium storage dewar with gaseous helium. It takes quite a while to cool the structure down and to start collecting liquid, so I wasn't too concerned that it was taking a while to start collecting liquid. But finally it dawned on me that this had to be way too long and I got my supervisor, who came in and looked things over for a bit and then had me check the liquid level using a condensation probe (which is done for liquid nitrogen by not liquid helium, so I was a bit confused). But when the probe (which is just a stainless steel tube) hit bottom and there was still three more inches before the bottom-mark on the tube reached the flange, I sighed and said something like, "I froze three inches of nitrogen in the bottom, didn't I?" To which he said something like, "Yep, and not only did you waste our entire allotment of liquid helium doing it, but it is going to take all day to heat up that nitrogen ice to get it out of the magnet." About then, the project leader came in (the real boss of both of us) and after I told him what had happened, he huffed and puffed (literally) and was about to say something when he suddenly just turned on his heel and left. I figured he was so mad that there was no way I wasn't going to get fired right then and there. My supervisor then said, "I suspect he was about to say something very pointed just before he remembered that he did the exact same thing about three years ago. Now, we got lucky the last time and everything went perfectly. So now let me show you how you determine that you have gotten all the nitrogen out before you start the helium transfer." I not only paid very close attention, but I also quickly became the guy that everyone came to when they needed their magnets cooled because I could do it with minimal loss of either liquid nitrogen or liquid helium. The project leader never said another word about it until, a couple years later, he remarked that that was the best thousand dollars worth of liquid helium that he had ever had to write off.