Metric system

    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. 

Ha, good one Ian…though here in Ibiza we get quite a few UK
tourists patriotically retaining their driving habits in their hire
cars,which can be verrrry scarey. Steve Holden

 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. 

Hi Linda… Good example here why the mm is used moreso…extra
factor of 10 you have to remember to deal with, with the cm…

Example… 5 in. = 12.7cm not 1.27cm……

I do industrial sales in the day job, and the easiest (and actually
fairly precise) length conversion to use is 1 inch = 25.4 mm, and
then leave it at that…

Gary W. Bourbonais

Linda, I don’t know what countries your friends were from but having
spent many years overseas, I assure you, at least in the countries I
have lived in (mostly in Asia) they use mm and or cm and or m but
not .41m, or 1.27cm. One normally says 9mm not .9cm. When you reach
10mm it is easier to say 1cm not .1m. Also in the latter case of
your example, use 12.7cm or 127mm, not 1.27m. Remember, some things
get lost in translation but, from my experience, that is how they are
commonly used. Anyone else have a view?

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

i’ve been getting wire even to the decimal point ( 0.3 mm .5mm etc)
the larger problem with having converted to metric here in Canada is
the remaining prevalence of imperial measurements in technical and
industrial legal codes, hence a continuing dual system…half
imperial (miles, BTUs, feet, pounds, ounces, Fahrenheit), half metric
(kilometers or “clicks”, kilograms, grams, Celcius)–and this after
almost 3 decades of the legislation being passed in the first place!


Yes. From my bullion dealer I can get wire from 0.4mm through to
about 8mm in most cross-sections as standard. Increments are
generally 0.1mm up to 1.0mm, and 1.0mm thereafter.


    When you reach 10mm it is easier to say 1cm not .1m.  Also in
the latter case of your example, use 12.7cm or 127mm, not 1.27m. 

1 cm = 0.01 m ↔ 1 m = 100 cm = 1000 mm

the metric scale is:

km(1000) - hm(100) - dam(10) - m(1) - dm(0.1) - cm(0.01) - mm(0.001)

We are a metric country, and the common use is:

meters (m), for measures beteween 1 meter and 1 kilometer (1000
meters) centimeters (cm), for measures between 1 cm and 100 cm (1 m)
milimeters (mm), for measures under 10 mm (1 cm)

Those do not apply for Architecture (m), Industrial Design (cm or
mm), Jewelry (cm, mm or mm decimals and centesimals). It all depends
on the scale and detail of the object.

All simple common sense, right?

Priscilla in reeeeally hot S=E3o Paulo, Brazil

Here is an item on why the US hasn’t gone metric. It makes
iheresting reading. It’s from this website:


Why Metrics Didn’t Measure Up Predictions from the past that haven’t
come true … yet By Erik Nelson Special Correspondent

IF PEOPLE LIKE Lorelle Young had their way, Americans by now would
be tanking up their hulking sport-utility vehicles by the liter,
ringing up their T-bone steaks and Idaho potatoes by the kilogram,
and fertilizing their wheat crops by the hectare.

Metric measurement – grams instead of pounds, liters instead of
ounces, meters instead of feet – was expected by many to dominate in
all areas of American life by the new millennium. Educators
throughout the nation began teaching it and, in many cases, promoting
it in the 1970s.

``We thought we’d be metric but we’re not,‘’ said Young, president
of the U.S. Metric Association. The private group, started by a group
of businessmen in the early part of the century, has been pushing for
metric conversion ever since.

Despite several attempts to bring the United States in line with the
rest of the world – and even legislation to encourage it – the
nation stands with only Liberia and Myanmar in resisting metric

There will never be a metric system that replaces the customary system'' in the United States, said Seaver Leslie, director of Americans for Customary Weight and Measure. The foot will prevail,
human measure will prevail, because of its practicality, accuracy and
its poetry.‘’

Among the first American proponents of the metric system was
Francophile Thomas Jefferson, who once noted that the French had just
developed a new decimal-based system of measurements, and Americans
would do well to adopt it along with their new decimal-based

Alexander Graham Bell told Congress in 1906 that scientists prefer
the metric system because it makes the math easier. Testifying on an
ill-fated bill introduced by New York Rep. L.N. Littauer that would
have forced government agencies to go metric, Bell said: ``If you
pass it . . . you have decided to abolish the chaotic systems of
weights and measures we now have.‘’

As early as 1866, Congress legalized use of the metric system in
business, while keeping customary or standard measurement as the
official national system. More than 100 years later, Congress in
1975 passed the Metric Conversion Act, setting up a board to
``coordinate and plan the increasing use of the metric system.‘’

The act accomplished very little. Americans got more than a bit
testy when they saw highway mileage signs in kilometers, in addition
to miles, and called upon Congress to stop this foreign invasion. By
1982, the once-burgeoning U.S. Metric Board dissolved, its budget
zeroed out by President Ronald Reagan.

In 1988, President George Bush, who was big on international
cooperation, signed a bill that required federal agency contracts to
be converted by 1992, but that met fierce resistance from the makers
of bricks and blocks and recessed lighting. They said the change
would cost them tremendously, noting they would have to retool their
factories specifically for federal contracts.

Still, proponents argue that metrication would make everything
simpler. The metric system is the best system in the world,'' raves John Font, auto mechanic and owner of Hicksville Motors in Hicksville. You know how to count money? That’s good. You know the
metric system.‘’

Shoppers will drop a 2-liter bottle of root beer or a 500-milliliter
bottle of mouthwash in their shopping cart without stopping to think
about it. We may not be thinking about it, but metrication has taken
hold in some aspects of American life.

Today, manufacturers of pre-packaged goods in the United States must
label their products in both metric and standard measurement. The
National Institute of Standards and Technology, a division of the
Commerce Department, is helping draft legislation that would allow
manufacturers to drop standard measurement from labels entirely.

Championing the process of encouraging metric measurement today is a
staff of four in the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Director Gerard Iannelli corrects himself when he says switch to metric.'' I meant, `use’ the metric system. I don’t want to scare

Joe Sieczka is one of the people who does notice when metric is used
and when standard measurement is used. In fact, it’s part of his job.
As coordinator of Cornell University’s Long Island Horticulture
Research Lab in Riverhead, he lectures farmers about what to put on
their fields and in what amounts.

If I'm talking to the farmers, I'm talking about 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre,'' just as he did to potato growers in Syracuse Feb. 10. If I’m talking to the scientists, then I’m going to be
talking about 112 kilograms per hectare.‘’

Educators have been struggling with how to teach the system as well.
There was a time in the '70s when we taught entire units on metrics, but it kind of petered out,'' said Laura Scaduto, a fifth-grade teacher at Signal Hill Elementary School in Dix Hills who favors conversion. Now we teach both systems.‘’

If students learned only the metric system, U.S. school systems
could save 71 days of instruction and $17.653 billion, according to a
study published in the educational research journal Evaluation Review
in 1996.

Nicolina C. Seganti, office manager at Associated Marble Industry
Inc. in Inwood, has had to teach herself to convert. She receives
shipments of marble tiles from suppliers from Italy to Taiwan, all
marked in metric.

She has a little pamphlet with a conversion chart, but she has
committed the sizes to memory in both measurement systems.

``I guess it would be easier,‘’ she said of a uniform conversion in
the United States.

But the resistance endures. I still have kids coming up to me saying, well, my mother and father said: Why should we convert to the metric system?'' says Wayne Mammina, science coordinator and fourth-grade teacher at Edgar School in Rocky Point. I tell them:
because the rest of the world uses it.‘’

I really am an Americanophile but I have to say that I have recently
been looking a little askance at them. Watching George W bbbbumbling
his way through the Iraq Debacle, even that gorgeous stiff backed
Rumsfeld blushed when asked a few pointed questions.

I really believe that the Americans had better let down their hair,
swallow their pride, and convert to Metric before they go the way of
the Dinosaurs. Face it. It doesn’t make sense biologically, fiscally
or psychically to try so hard, invest so much energy in being
different from the ways of the rest of the planet. It’s just not
economical. And wastes so much energy.

However in the jewelry industry we measure stones by milimeters,
measure water for investing in mililitres, sizing stock by
milimeters in width and thickness and yes I use grams over
pennyweight! Go figure!

much of my measuring in jewelry is done under 1 millimeter, or
.040inch, which would become fractional in nature when using
metric, i like to keep tight tolerances in machined parts, close
fits of different materials, etc, to a few thousandths of an inch,
why measure .031mm, .062mm, .093mm, .125mm, when i can measure in
.001 increments, .001,.002,.003,.004,.005—.040 dp

As an aside to the metric system discussions, when the UK changed to
the metric weight system, lobbying by the relevent industries led to
a couple of exceptions in the new laws.

Beer could still be be sold in ‘pints’ and precious stones in
’carats’ . However the use of the term ‘precious stones’ does mean
that in the UK it is illegal to sell imitation or synthetic stones in
’carats’ - only grams. It is similarly illegal to sell imitation
stones in carats in some other European Countries.

Jack Ogden

Hi David,

i like to keep tight tolerances in machined parts, close fits of
different materials, etc., to a few thousandths of an inch,,, why
measure .031mm, .062mm, .093mm, .125mm,  when i can measure in
.001 increments,, .001,.002,.003.,004,.005

It makes no difference what you use as along as the finished item is
the correct size. The easiest way is to have two sets of measuring
instruments, one calibrated in english & one in metric or one set
that is switchable between english & metric.

For the sizes you mentioned, this means the addition of one tool a
0-25 mm micrometer or a 0-4" (0-100mm) electronic vernier caliper.
Many industrial tool shops (& Harbor Freight) sell 6" electronic
calipers that are switchable between english & metric, at the push
of a button, starting at $20.00.


Dear Wooden Soul,

Basically I perceive your point of view as being one of resistance
to change. You have, nonetheless , a claim to fame in the use of a
new form of logic. What difference is there in using multi digit
increments in any system ?

The point of this discussion is one of seeking a common language. If
we are a global economy we are foolish to have to convert and
translate in order to communicate. We already suffer enough from not
having a common language. And, while English is widely spoken, our
archaic system of measurement is not ! Does it not make sense to
adopt a common system of measurement…especially one that is logic
based ? Let’s get rid of this silly system that uses parts of the
human anatomy to make measurements. The most assinine system of all
is the one of measuring the height of a horse in hands…or is
it the Brit system of weighing people in stones ? Let’s come out of
our caves and get real !

Isn’t it bad enough that we have such an illogical and inconsistent
language ? Ron at Mills Gem Co., Los Osos, Ca.

Just another anomoly, though. When I buy sizing stock from Stuller,
I select sizes by millimeter, but then buy it in inches… go


I was just reminded of a rather nice quirk of the metric system that
was regularly used in watchmaking as I was gauging the size of some
watch gear wheels. Its funny how you just accept things and I had
never really considered the markings on my wheel gauge as anything
but random numbers but, for some reason, I decided to think about it
(I had a wheel which didn’t fit the ‘standard’ gauge and needed to
cut a replacement). The gauge is marked as 12 1/8, 14 6/8, 10 3/8
etc., and when I actually checked the measurements, I found that they
are millimetres and eighths!!! - yes, eighths of millimetres -
fiendishly cunning those French and Swiss weren’t they!

Best Wishes,

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

I’ve run into a similar problem- in my real life I’m studying
astrophysics, and there they seem to prefer grams, centimeters and
seconds, even when referring to Stars, planets, and the distances
thereto appertaining- myself I prefer to keep the number/unit
combination at a convenient order of magnitude- 5 kilometers for a
walk circuit is so much easier to deal with than 500,000 centimeters,
but it is exactly the same distance.

(of course even the astronomers had to transfer unit systems- some
of their “legacy” units are foot-candles, solar and earth masses used
as a benchmark for other objects, and of course the ever popular
light-year!) Betsy

There was some discussion of late about driving on the “wrong” side
of the road ‘us’ to ‘them’. Well once many years ago I visited
Manchester, England, …(heard of this place?)…well with my Uncle
Laz we were about to cross the road, I looked at both sides…wrong
way to look FIRST! he pulled my arm out-of-my-socket quickly as a
lori (truck) ran by me within Mm’s hitting me! he proclaimed “you’re
in England, nephew, not your Canada, look at the right side
first:”…always remember that incident as I would have been in the
"Obituary" column the next day!..Gerry!

I have been using thousandths for 20 years and find them excellent
for measuring small dimensions, especially flatness, squareness,
runout, etc. This system is especially useful in machinery building,
but it also serves well in jewelry design and modelmaking, for me. A
thousandth(.001) is about a 1/4 of a human hair or a piece of paper,
so it works well with all tight tolerances. All very fine work done
in the u.s. is done in .001, once you get under half a mm, no one
stays with metric for .0001(tenths) and under, and when you get to
millionths we use angstroms. No industry in this country that deals
with these minute dimensions will be changing over in the next few
decades, at least, and i don’t see it my providence to try to
change the linear system with some great importance, as a matter
of fact buisness is what has ruined this country, not helped it. I
think that an important issue might be that our pollution laws have
been suspended, due to buisness and that there are supposedly helping
our world, and thousands of kids so poor in other countries running
around trying to make a living as an adult, getting paid one
thousandth, what you are getting, .25 cents a day, to serve you
and your buisnesses. Buisness is only in it for the money, and i
could care less about making measurement easier for supposed free
trade issues, because the kids that are faceting and polishing the
diamonds in india, or digging them in africa, or making the product
in china will not be available to make a fair wage, or even close to
it, because of buisness, and big buisness, so wake up and take a
look around, or a deep breath, dp

I know this is off topic but, as the subject has come up in a couple
of posts, does anyone know why the US and other countries took to
driving on the right? I know why we in England drive on the left and
it makes perfect sense but I can’t think of a good reason to
change… In our case, driving on the left is a legacy of days of
old when it was prudent to meet any oncoming knight with your sword
arm on the side of the horse nearest to him - that is, you could
defend yourself without having to reach right across your body (of
course everyone was right handed in those days ).

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Hi, Ian, I love your explanation of why drive on the left. Makes
sense to me! Maybe we drive on the right here in the US because in
drive-by shootings, it is helpful to be able to rest the barrell of
your semi-automatic on your left arm to steady it and fire with your
right. Very awkward if your “shooting arm” is right next to the car
door! Foresighted of us, indeed!