Metric system

Whatever happened to the (U.S.) goal of adopting the metric system
by the of the (20th) century? We’re not behind schedule; the project
seemes to have been abandoned completely. Elementary schools merely
teach the existence of the metric system. When it comes to actually
measuring things, the kids use inches, pounds, and quarts.

I’m not good with numbers, and working with measurements like
3/16ths of an inch, 8 ounces (is that troy or regular?), etc., just
makes calculations more confusing and prone to error.

Metric systems are more convenient and I am determined to use them,
even though it means making a lot of INconvenient conversions to and
from the U.S. standard. (But heck, we have to perform conversions
all the time because some industry standards are not based on inches
and ounces. For example, the Brown & Sharpe gauges don’t have nice,
round numbers or logical increments.)

Are metric wire gauges used in Europe?

whose left thumb is exactly 2cm wide


In New Zealand we changed completely to metric system including
money from the old Imperial pounds and chains etc many years ago -
about 30 I would think. There was a period where goods in shops
were marked in both systems by law, then gradually the old prices
and amounts were phased out until it was entirely metric for
everything. There was a bit of a kerfuffel at first but things soon
settled down and if you ask a child of 12 to get you two pounds of
apples they won’t know what you are talking about. There were many
diehards who refused to change, but the law stated that everything
had to be sold in metric measurement, and they were forced to
conform. Only oldies like me had real difficulties in changing.
Metric system was taught and used properly in schools, and an
improvement in education became obvious. OK, I knew several
relatives who could rapidly add columns of pounds, shillings and
pence, with halfpennies and farthings - all four columns at once and
very fast. (20 shillings to a pound; 12 pence to a shilling; and
four farthings to a penny!!) But even they think metric so very
much simpler and easier. And even the surveyors forgot their
beloved chains and furlongs.

Being in science jobs all my life I used metric at work since I was
14, then came home and had to think in Imperial. (I got paid
fifteen shillings and a penny weekly) but it wasn’t easy to begin
thinking in kilometres instead of miles. But I managed. I had to
because everyone else had to, And at this time you will find very
few diehards who would want to change back. So, why doesn’t the
USA come in and join us ‘backward countries’? Come in - the water’s

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

Hi, Janet If it makes you feel better, I was just helping my
15-year-old son with a bridge-building project, and he is completely
comfortable with metric-- prefers it to avoirdupoids. It must depend
on the particular schools, or districts. I agree, I wish we’d stop
messing around and get on with the transition, but from here it
doesn’t look dead in the water.


One of the worst things the English left us was their measurement
system. Here we are, the most industrialized country in the world,
still using thirty-seconds of an inch, drams, B & S gauges and
yards. The US was the first country to issue metric money in the
1780s, and we are the last to use what is a clearly superior
measuring system. It makes no sense, until you consider the huge
cost and effort to change over industries like automobile

All measuring devices are available in metric. I encourage all my
students to think metric. Making jewelry is challenging enough,
without having to use an arcane and cumbersome measuring system.

Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts
760 Market Street - Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94102
tel: 415-391-4179 fax: 415-391-7570

Well ‘up here’ in Canada we are measuring our jewellery in Metric.
Students do not know of the ‘other’ way, they’ve literally grown up
with Metric. Grams of wax castings, temperatures in Celsius,
kilo-grams of gold. Gasoline sold in litres, kilometres and meters of
distances, and now the other way is ancient, “going the way of the
dinosaur”. We’ve gotten used to this method of measuring.

Imagine in Olde England they used to measure money as “farthings,
thrupneebits, twopence, pounds, shillings” ad infinitum! Try metric,
its a lot easier to use and more international…“Gerry, the
Cyber-Setter who uses metric”

Janet Just my cue word. Yes, here in Europe we all went metric some
time in the 19th century, except tthe British, - they have always
been somewhat conservative (big grin (no offence meant)), -I don’t
know how far they are in their conversion by now, but I think that
they measure speed in miles per hour?!? I normally teach my students
how lucky they are that they do not have to cope with things like
grains, dwt, ounces of one or the other sort, inches in a variety of
fractions, B&S and other gauges , and drill numbers, but simply can
stick to millimeters and grams. And I’m looking forward to the day
when (or should I say if) the US go metric. By the way Janet, if your
left thumb has a diameter of 20 mm (2 cm), it is a ring size 63 (or
62,85 to be more accurate). We measure the ring sizes as the inner
circumference in millimeters, - also makes calculating ring sizes
much easier. And for same reason we do not have any problems with
ring sizes varying (a recent thread here), as this simply is an exact
measure. So convert, convert, convert. :wink: Niels, Bornholm, Metric Denmark

Janet, One of the first things I tell my students…'Get used to
doing all your measurements in metric because I don’t understand
inches". The latter is not really true but I find it soooo much
easier to do small measurements in metric. Anyway, before you know
it, they are babbling away in metric. We still use B&S gauge for
thicknesses of wire and plate because when ordering, its either that
or 100’s of an inch from most suppliers. Otherwise, its all metric.
Having lived all over the world most of my adult life, I find it so
much easier. I too which the US would stop messing around and make
the switch!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

1780s, and we are the last to use what is a clearly superior
measuring system. It makes no sense, until you consider the huge
cost and effort to change over industries like automobile

Alan, I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news, But much of the
american auto industry has gone metric, Not real sure about
Chrysler/Daimler, but Ford Motor Co. and General Motors have been
using metric belts and measuring engine sizes in liters for quite
some time. I think the main problem is that we as a stoggy old bunch
don’t want to accept the change, the younger generations have no
trouble with metric. I remember some states starting to post milages
between citys in klicks but that seemed to stop about 10 years ago, I
do remember that we were supposed to adopt to the metric standard, I
remembeer Shell Gas stations in San Francisco selling Gasoline at
price per litre. which at the time I found rather irksome (made it
hard to price shop) as this was in the very late 70s and early 80.
Besides I don’t know how many in our current government can count all
the way to 10…Matter of fact I’m not sure you could force changing
the standard would go here in Tennessee. ( Hey Y’all pass me that
litre of moonshine) just don’t sound right does it LOL…

Kenneth Ferrell

Well why does the US still use the metric system? when the country
you got it from; the UK is now using the metric system. I couldn’t go
back to the old Imperial System. It was so complicated. Richard UK

in Olde England we use the metric system. We have used this system
now for about 15 years. Personally I think it is a far better and
simpler system that the old imperial system which was complicated and

We did use the measurements that you mention, remember though that
our history goes back nearly 2000 years. Richard

Both metric and imperial systems have their strong points…it is
easier to perform mathematical operations on metric numbers.
However, fractional inches are based on negative powers of 2. Each
graduation line has a length based on what power of 2 it represents.
The 1/4 and 3j/4 (2 to the -2_ graduations are shorter than the 1/2
(2 to the -1) graduations. 1/8 graduations are shorter than 1/4
graduations and so on. The arrangement of the various graduations
makes it easy for the practiced eye to quickly identify exacty what
graduation line represents the measurement without counting. On the
other hand, when I use a metric rule, there are anywhere from 4 to 10
graduation lines in a row, all with the same length.

The hand held calculator has reduced the calculating advantage of
metric over powers of minus 2. The natural order of operation makes
it easy to convert powers of minus 2 inches to decimal fraction
inches: 2 and a half inches plus 3 and a sixteenth inch is entered
into the calculator as 2+1/2 + 3 + 1/16 = since the calculator will
perform the division function before the addition function, it is
just enterd the same way it is said in the sentence with the word
"and" being the equivalent of a plus sign.

When I am in the jeweler’s shop, I usually prefer metric. However,
when I need to record an exact measurement in order to reproduce a
unit of jewelry, I pick the scale that comes closest to an exact
reproduction…metric, decimal inches, or powers of minus two

When I comes to working in the garage with wood and steel…sorry
folks, I won’t give an inch. I much prefer my good ol’ powers of
minus 2 tape measure.

Howard Woods
Eagle Idaho

In the UK we’ve been going metric for years - with stiff resistance
since there is a recognition that older people simply cannot cope
with it. It has made those of us, mostly middle-aged, that switch
from one system to another all the time quite mentally agile!
Greengrocers, for example, rebelled at having to mark prices per
kilo, simply ignored the new law and continue to mark up in pounds (a
couple were jailed for doing so but it didn’t stop them). I can buy
my gold and silver wire by the inch or the centimetre although
diameters are given in millimetres, and other bullion by the gram or
the ounce. Milk and beer are sold by the pint, but petrol by the
litre. It is illegal to show distance on road signs in anything other
than miles (and we LIKE driving on the left!). I buy meat by the kilo
but calculate cooking times by the pound. But unlike NASA, we never
confuse the two systems.

In twenty or thirty years time the Imperial system will have fallen
into disuse, like ells and cubits, but I suspect the length of a
cricket pitch will always be 22 yards or 1 chain.


    Imagine in Olde England they used to measure money as
"farthings, thrupneebits, twopence, pounds, shillings" ad
infinitum! Try metric, its a lot easier to use and more
international..."Gerry, the Cyber-Setter who uses metric" 

Hey don’t forget ha’pence,half crowns, florins, crowns, guineas and
sovreigns. Not to mention rods poles,and perches,furlongs,etc. Steve

except tithe British,  - they have always been somewhat
conservative (big grin (no offence meant)), -I don't know how far
they are in their conversion by now, but I think that they measure
speed in miles per hour?!?   

Hey, we are trying to change - we’re moving over to driving on the
right soon - but gradually… We’re going to have buses and lorries
driving on the right from April and cars will change over in July…

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

I admit it, I’ve been lurking for months now, learning ever-so-much
from everyone. But I’ve come out of the shadows because of the metric
system discussion. I work for Kalmbach Publishing Co. (Bead&Button,
BeadStyle, and the special issue, Art Jewelry). Our policy is to list
the imperial measurement and then list the metric parenthetically—2
in. (5cm). Some friends from other countries (who were not beaders or
jewelers) mentioned that in countries other than the US, measurements
were listed in either mm or m, and that cm were not commonly used:
examples, 16 in. = .41m, not 16 in. = 41cm or 5 in. = 127mm, not
1.27cm. However, foreign how-to books and magazines for
needlecrafting (as similar as I could find) seem to use mm, cm
(sometimes), and m (never dm). Help! For the non-imperial-system
readers out theRe: what makes sense to you when making jewelry items
(the context seems important, jewelry as opposed to roadway markers
and house plans)? Is there a rule about at what point you change from
one to the other (use cm up to 50, then use .51m or something?) or
what does it depend on? I’ve read the “metric rules” but am actually
hoping to get “real life” feedback. Thanks!

Linda Augsburg

In Olde England we use the metric system. 

Well, kinda… ;>) I was in England (only time, so far) a couple of
years ago. After several weeks in Europe struggling with the larger
metric measure (litres, kilometers, even meters) I was very
surprised and grateful when a young man I asked for directions gave
them in yards. Maybe he was humoring an American, but that was not
my impression. Old habits die hard.


God, I use measurements like 1/16th and 2 millimeters. I HATE the
English system and would only use metric if the US were not so set
up for feet and inches. Sam Patania, Tucson @Patania_s

    diameters are given in millimetres 

Does wire come in sensible diameters, e.g., 1.0mm, 2.0mm, 3.0mm,


As one of just a few British members I would have to say that we use
neither the metric nor the imperial system completely and we get on
very well… As a watchmaker I tend to use metric for most of my
’engineering’ work although I don’t like metric threads. The old
engineers spent years of research on finding the best thread for a
particular use or metal type and it now seems foolish to ignore that
in favour of a bad compromise just because it makes it less
complicated for shops to maintain stocks. However, kilometres and
litres mean little to me (even though I was originally trained as a
surveyor) and I still think in pounds and ounces rather than
kilograms. When I go to the hospital and they weigh me, they will
write it down in kilograms and automatically say it to me (or anyone)
in stones and pounds… I went to buy some nails the other day and
was told that the price was ‘a pound a pound, metric’ - that is,
they used to be a pound money for a pound of nails but now, since the
recently enacted legislation saying that shops have to now state
quantities in metric, I get half a kilogram for the same price…
Timber is another anomaly in that, until recently, you would still
buy 2 x 4s planed but it would be sold in lengths of 1.8 or 2.3
metres - i.e the length had been converted from imperial to metric
although the actual length was still 6 feet etc. Now they have gone
the whole hog and the dimensions are all metric but not anything
sensible, they simply ran the tape over the existing timber and so
the sizes are now quoted as something like 39 x 97 - almost
meaningless and difficult to remember. One of my biggest beefs is in
teaching metric to schoolchildren. All the infant schools round here
use centimetres as the primary teaching unit but who uses this in
the real world? All normal people use either the metre or the
millimetre but, I am told that children cannot (understandably)
visualise either of these units easily and so they are taught
centimetres… Bring back the days of an inch as the length of your
thumb tip, 4" the width of your palm, a foot the length of your foot
and a yard the distance from your nose to an outstretched finger tip!
I will continue to think in both measurement systems (and also old
French inches, pouces and lignes for my watchmaking) and I will
probably, in a few years time, be the only person left who can really
interpret old drawings, deed plans, maps etc.! Did you know that the
world used to have at least 84 different length inches??

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Why didn’t the U.S. go metric? Good question. I remember being
taught the metric system in my elementary school classroom, and being
told this was the direction of the future. The failure to get there
is an interesting study in culture and why seemingly sensible plans
sometimes end up DOA.

The metric system isn’t completely absent from the American market
place. I buy my soda in 2-liter bottles, and when I compare amounts
in various packages, I usually look at the grams. Both ounces and
grams are listed, but the grams (or ml, or whatever) are usually
simpler math. Having studied both systems of measurement, I’m
perfectly comfortable with either. I measure small things in mm and
calculate distance in miles. Whatever.

But I wonder if the whole project didn’t stall because it turned out
to have so many more ramifications than the Powers that Be
anticipated. I mean, it’s no big deal to buy soda in liters. All I do
with soda is pour it into a glass (no measuring) and drink it. But
all my grandmother’s recipes are written up in pints, cups,
teaspoons, etc. If I buy my cream in a half liter container, I now
need a calculator in the kitchen to figure out if I have the right
amount for the cake. (I don’t do calculations in my head – I’m just
really, really lousy at thinking in those terms. And that’s a topic
for another day, OK? ) Worse, when I’m standing in a grocery
store, I have to guess whether the half-liter is enough. What if I
need a tiny bit more than that? Arrgh, now I have to buy a whole
liter, when a pint used to work just fine, thank you very much. I’ll
end up with a bunch left, and spending twice as much (Because the
liter will cost the same amount as the quart, guaranteed…) So if
Dairy B gives me the option of just buying a pint instead of a
half-liter… well, which would you choose?

There are lots of other things that have similar downhill
ramifications – the size of paper, for example. Most European paper
sizes are slightly different from the 8.5 x 11 inch that’s the
standard in the U.S. No big deal, right? Except my folders are sized
for 8.5 x 11, my computer printer assumes 8.5 x 11, all the defaults
in my computer system are for 8.5 x 11. My envelopes assume my paper
is 8.5 x 11, so the metric paper won’t fit quite right. Yes, I can
buy all new folders and envelopes to go with my new paper, and buy
software patches and a new printer… but darn, what a pain in the

Americans don’t take well to the government telling them they should
put up with all these nuisances for the “greater good.” Heck, it’s
hard to persuade us to put up with nuisances when the benefits are
obvious and personal. And for most of us, going metric didn’t offer
those kinds of benefits. For most people, the old system worked just
fine. I can make a cake, no problem, doesn’t much matter if the
recipe is in cups and teaspoons. In fact, I’m only going to have a
problem if you insist I convert it to metric. So why should I favor
someone in government passing a law that all milk manufacturers must
now sell only in liters? And if you don’t force all dairies to sell
milk in liters, the market will ensure that they continue to sell in
pints --because that’s what I want, the benighted consumer, who has
all her grandmother’s recipes and finds it easier to follow them as
written, rather than convert to metric.

So we’re left with this dual system, where I buy 2-liters of soda
and a gallon of milk. Perhaps it will eventually shift to one or the
other: Perhaps the pressures of the global economy will leave the
corporations forcing it upon us, where our government didn’t dare.
Put it down to American obstinancy, individualism, or the cowardice
of our legislative leaders, whichever you fancy. But I have to say, I
don’t think it’s going anywhere soon.

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255