Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Metric System

The arguments I’ve read for using the inch, foot, etc. system is
that it’s based on generations of human physiology and earth-bound
activity - mostly farming when it was done by hand. I’ve lost track
of the design book in which I read this, but I remember it being
convincing at the time. The book was by an architect but it was a
general design book.

Catherine Jo Morgan

Dear John and others who joined in on this topic. I am certain the
reason we in the US have not converted to all metric is the high
cost to some very powerful groups. Auto manufacturers, machinists
and builders. But I’m sure if they would bite the bullet, they would
reap the benefits ultimately in faster production which would offset
the initial cost. Perhaps starting a movement to urge the changeover
by writing to our legislators might be in order once again.

Are metric wire gauges used in Europe? 

Certainly, and a whole bunch of other gauges as well (leastways, in
this part of Europe). Precious metal wire is supplied exclusively
(I think) in metric sizes, but iron wire (here) is mainly SWG or
Standard Wire Gauge.

Kevin (NW England, UK)

The automotive business has been converting to metrics for the last
twelve years. All of the new cars are now metric measurements. It
took a while because of some of the old engines had to be changed
over, but now those are gone and all engines are entirely metric.
All of the prints for parts that I work with now are metric.

Now if we could get the construction trades to go metric, which is
much larger hurdle then the auto industry.

Warren Townsend

Hi Warren,

Now if we could get the construction trades to go metric, which is
much larger hurdle then the auto industry. 

I don’t think the problem is the building tradesmen, but the
material suppliers & the architects/designers.

About the only new tools the tradesman needs is measuring tools
(tape measures, squares etc.). The problem is getting the material
suppliers to standardize on metric size material, i.e… 4 x 8 sheets
of plywood etc., 1x4, 2x4, 2x6, etc.

A saw will cut the same whether the piece is measured in inches or

It’s interesting to note that when a new Federal courthouse was
built in Tucson a few years ago there were signs posted in front of
the build during construction that proclaimed, ‘This Is A Metric
Construction Site’.


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

10mm it is easier to say 1cm not .1m 

I’m sure this was just an oversight, Don, but 1cm would be .01m or
.1 decimeter. But this brings up an observation. Even though I
live in the US where the metric system is used only sparsely, I
rarely see the use of the decimeter. Metric measurements I see
usually are in millimeters, centimeters, and then jump to meters.
Am I just missing them or has anyone else noticed this also? Why
aren’t decimeters used more, when appropriate?

Best Regards,

In Germany, and probably in the whole European Union, cm is not a
legal dimension any more. Legal dimensions are incremented by the
factor 1000: km, m, mm, micrometer, nanometer. This is done to avoid
numerical mistakes as we have seen them occur even here in our
discussion. If you get used to a single factor in conversions,
mistakes are less likely.


I have always wondered why motor bikes engines are always measured
in cc’s and car engines are almost always measured in litre’s Come to
think of it Coke ( the soft drink) is measured as 33cl’s when it is
in a can yet you can buy a 500ml plastic bottle of the stuff.

Neil KilBane,

Where the distance between towns is measured in kilometres
(incidentally it is officially measured as the distance between the
head Post Office in each town) but the official speed limits are in
miles per hour. But we are changing all that later this year.

One of the points that hasn’t been loudly voiced and yet has been
ably demonstrated on this list is the ease with which the magnitude
of units can be confused. Because only a tiny full stop is used to
indicate the order of magnitude, there is plenty of scope for
confusion, particularly in written form. I remember seeing a joke
commercial on the TV where a prototype doll had been ordered from
drawings faxed from another country and, when it arrived, it was
taller than the building. In the electronics industry, this problem
has been largely solved by changing the way the units are written -
for example, where the value of a resistor would previously have been
written as 4.7K it is now written as 4K7. This instantly removes the
possibility of it being confused with 47K or .47K - it doesn’t,
however, prevent mental confusion in the operator calculating the
value initially! For that we have computer programs . I haven’t
seen this principle used in other industries yet but it would make a
lot of sense to do so…

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Ian, You can find great answers to your driving question at,, and I won’t post it all here
because it would take up too much space. Basically it boils down to
the evolution of carriages and wagons and their specific applications
in different countries. For what it’s worth: I’m an American, but I
lived in Australia for a while; I personally like driving on the left
side of the road better. It seems more natural once you’ve done
both. Several friends of mine have moved from the U.S. to Cyprus
(where they drive on the left) and they all agree, as well.

Kind Regards,
Ben Adams
Western Wax