What standard is the standard?

In the latest Ganoksin “Tips from…” an article mentions 28 gauge
wire. I looked in Machinery’s Handbook (the engineer’s bible) and
found a table of wire gauges that lists the size of 28 gauge as

  • American Wire or Brown & Sharpe Gage: 0.0126"
  • Steel Wire Gage (US): 0.0162"
  • British Standard Wire Gage (Imperial Wire Gage): 0.0149"
  • Music or Piano Wire Gage: 0.071"
  • Birmingham or Stub’s Wire Gage: 0.0140"
  • Stub’s Steel Wire Gage: 0.139"

Which raises the obvious question, what size is 28 gauge?

The best thing about standards is that there are so many to choose

Regards, Gary Wooding

Usually depends on the writer and suppliers. In the US and from US
suppliers AWS (American Wire Standard)/B&S is the standard for
precious metals. In Australia (and probably England too although I
haven’t ordered from an English supplier) the standard is the British
Standard Wire gauge. Sometimes a millimeter measurement of diameter
for the wire is given to clarify what standard the writer is using.


American Wire or Brown and Sharpe is the “standard” that precious
metals are manufactured to in the US


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


Granted if you look at all the different gauges they represent
different measurements The common denominator is they all can be
converted to thousandths of an inch. So until you get used to
with a company and how they measure it is safest to order by
of an inch and let them figure the conversion to their scale.

There’s a tool called a micrometer that will measure in thousandths
of an inch easily.

.004" = four thousandths
.040" = forty thousandths
.100" = one hundred thousandths



The problem with dealing with ‘thousandths’ is seeing it!!! I am a
’visual’ type of person…I like to see things in my mind.
But…even though I trained as a machinest many years ago, I cannot
for some reason see a ‘thousandth’ of anything, let along .040!

Since my life as a jeweler began some 35 years ago, I have worked
only in the metric system (whenever possible that is). Tell me
something is a mm and I can see it. Short of getting into the ‘micro,
deco’ and smaller metric sizes that are used routinely in scientific
ventures, if you describe something to me in 1/2 or 1/4 a mm size, I
can actually visualize it!

Why can’t the US get serious about moving into the metric system? We
are one of only three countries in the entire world that does not use
it officially!

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

All measurements are relative! While you worked and can see in
metric, many people work and see in english. Two simple problems stop
metric in the US. All metric supplies cost more, so there is no
incentive to purchase metric, and for people who work with close
(thousandths) or very close (ten thousandth or millionths)
tolerances; they find some difficulty in conference (verbal) as the
tolerance goes down the fractional denominator (metric) goes up and
it becomes increasingly difficult to converse(speed wise; and time is
money). If you would like to become visual in both systems you will
have to practice starting at a mm and it is easiest to round up to.
045". You then measure twice in both systems, but only start at first
with measurements near one mm and then increase in both directions
(larger and smaller) until you are comfortable. You can increase in
you measurement standards at the same time using finer instruments.
As you work toward smaller and smaller units you will have to develop
a secondary visual acuity for magnifying lenses.

Daniel Culver

Why can't the US get serious about moving into the metric system?
We are one of only three countries in the entire world that does
not use it officially! 

Back to the old chestnut again… The biggest problem with
changing to a new standard is that you never lose the old one - just
gain another to add to the list! In the past, the UK probably had
the most measurement standards of any country but, in its infinite
wisdom, our government declared in 1971 that we should change to the
metric standard as part of our ‘integration’ with the rest of Europe
(or, at least, the parts we consider to be part of the European
community) and made most of it mandatory in 1973. As a result of
this it is now very difficult to buy nuts, bolts, taps and dies in
the ‘old’ imperial system - all that the suppliers stock routinely
is a ‘standard’ range of metric parts from 3mm up to 12mm in
diameter ( 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 & 12 ). However, older equipment is
still very much in use, employing fasteners of the older systems and
repairing it has become a nightmare - no longer can you find a 4BA
screw to replace one in an electrical terminal - the nearest one is
a 3.5mm but this is ‘non-standard’ and so can only be found as
screws to fix a light switch plate to the wall and, since these go
into factory produced fittings, no one stocks taps to cut a new
thread. Depending on where your car was made, its engine may use AF,
UNC or UNF threads but you can’t just go and buy a new nut to replace
a stripped one… The change to the metric system was driven
largely, I think, by shopkeepers who wanted to reduce the amount of
inventory they needed to stock and little thought was given to its
effect on the real world of engineering.

Another problem is in the way it is taught. In the ‘old days’ we were
taught that an inch was about the distance from the first knuckle to
the tip of the thumb, that 4 inches was the span across the hand,
that a yard was the distance from the nose to the tip of an
outstretched arm etc. etc.- all measurements we carry around with us
and which we can relate to; but how do you teach a child what a
millimetre looks like, or how to estimate in metres? The answer is,
you don’t - firstly you forget the millimetre altogether until the
young person has to encounter it in science and, instead, you use the
non-standard unit (as far as SSI units are concerned) of a
centimetre. This, then gives the child something visible but which it
has no real bodily reference to ( generally the width of the
forefinger is used but, of course, this varies a lot with age and,
particularly, with body mass ). The metre is taught as the length of
a stride but, of course, these vary as the height of the child
increases! They are also taught about the kilometre but, due to what
some percieve as stubbornness but which is related to all sorts of
other international reasons such as air traffic control, shipping
etc., distance is still routinely measured and displayed on road
signs etc in miles. As far as the supply of many goods are concerned,
most measurements are still simply converted from the imperial - so,
a brick is still generally 9" x 41/2" x 3" but it sold as 229x114x75
and 2" x 2" planed timber is sold as 44x44mm in 2.4metre lengths (6
foot!) - manufactureres don’t want to have to change all their
tooling until it is worn out and a lot of finished goods are imported
from the many countries which still use variations of the Imperial
sytem (we didn’t colonise half the world without leaving them some
lasting legacies!!) - all very confusing!

The various systems of measurement were mostly developed for a
particular purpose - the Whitworth thread was designed to be the
most efficient for use in iron castings etc. while the BA system was
designed to give the strongest connection in brass fittings. The
British Standard Gas thread was a tapered thread to enable gas-tight
connections in small copper pipes and brass fittings while the Steam
Pipe thread did the same for larger steel pipes and iron fittings.
Each thread had its own pitch angle, thread profile and overall size
to maximise the holding torque in a particular range of materials
whilst still allowing joints to be undone easily if needed. As far as
I am aware, the metric system doesn’t have a tapered thread and it
uses an ‘average’ thread form and pitches which are less than ideal
in any situation. Even though I use the metric system routinely now
and have done since well before ‘metrication’ in my watchmaking
endeavours as it has always been the basis of the Swiss watchmaking
industry measurement (although still with various ‘sub standards’
within the metric system) I still hate it and the most cherished part
of my tool collection is the assemblage of ‘old standards’ taps and
dies and the tins of old nuts and bolts without which I couldn’t

Best wishes,

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

But Don, I’ll give you a degree of the difficulty to do so… Make
everyone on Ganoksin use the metric system. Sorry, couldn’t

Hans Meevis

I disagree that the supplies cost more I buy metric ends all the time
down to .125mm ( .005" approx) they cost the same as there SAE
bothers the cost would come in the education or re-education of
everybody but it would be nice for the whole world to be on one
system/ (size language) even with that said I do not see the united
states changing any time in the future I have had to be able to
converse in both system for many years some customers use the SAE
system and some the metric and as a business person I will not tell
a customer that orders in a SAE size that they must convert it to
metric or vice versa but there are more of us out there that can use
either system so there is still hope of one day coming to one system

Rodney Abel

I find it rather handy to use both metric and decimal inch. Stones I
think of in mm, metals in inches. Of course, it helps that my stone
gauge is metric and my caliper in inches. Whenever I have to order
wire by B&S gauge I visualize in inches and convert on the charts to

Creature of habit I suppose.

gauge is metric and my caliper in inches. Whenever I have to order
wire by B&S gauge I visualize in inches and convert on the charts
to gauge. 

This is just the problem. I can both think and visualize in mm
(European by birth and habit) but I have no big problem with inches
or tens or thousands thereof BUT…

…then you have to convert to one of the gauge standards or a
drillbit to a number…

I looked at the B & S table McCreight has in The Complete Metalsmith
reference section. B&S 2=1/4 inch and B&S 8 =1/8 inch and so on, add
6 to the gauge and your sheet thickness is thinned by half. So the
six “unit” difference between 20 and 26 equals 1/64 inch. Now, let’s
visualize the thickness of a gauge 16. It is 1/20 of an inch but how
do you figure that out without the table or a gift for algebra.

The problem here is that the gauge numbers are not in a linear
relationship to thickness.

Neither drillsizes have a linear relation. If we look up a #46 and a
#56 drillbit we find that #46 (.08 inch) makes twice the hole
(diameter) than #56 (.04 inch). So what does a #51 do? A logical
(since it is midway between).06 inch hole? No, actually.064 inch. 8%

In fully metric countries we choose drillbits wihtin a tenth of a mm
of the shelf in the store. If I want a M3 threaded hole I’ll drill
with a 2.6 or 2.7 drill depending on the material. Then I can take a
3 mm wire, cut a M3 thread on it and it all fits. I can even choose
a FINE metric thread if I want more threads in the hole.

Let’s take 1 mm wire and a 2 mm wire. The diameter is twice, the
area is 4 times greater. Elementary, yes. If this is silver wire, an
ounze would equal approx. 4 meters length of the thin wire and only 1
meter (or 25 inches) of the thick. Still elementary? All relations
are linear (works with sheet too).

Now, if this had been gauge this and that I guess we need the tables
again (and a calculator because this math I will not do in my head).


As a result of this it is now very difficult to buy nuts, bolts,
taps and dies in the 'old' imperial system - all that the suppliers
stock routinely is a 'standard' range of metric parts from 3mm up
to 12mm in 

Ian wrote a very thoughtful and truthful letter there about metrics.
All of it was true, and most of what he says is the reason the US
hasn’t converted, though we are 1/2 way, maybe. Was a time when
nobody knew what a meter was, now most people do, and most wrench
kits come metric/SAE now. As for pipe, that will always be a chore.
Here in the US we have FIP (fixed iron pipe), copper pipe, and even
others - tapered thread -, none of which match each other. However, I
am a proponent of the metric system - I believe it’s the standard for
the world for all of the usual reasons - being decimal, mostly. I
think the things Ian mentions are inevitable and necessary growing
pains, and I think the US will just have to bite the bullet one day
and do the same. There are already some who are involved in industry
who are big into it already - they are the ones hardest hit, and look
much farther forward than government. Right behind that sometime in
the future will be money - dollars, euros or something will be world
currency - assuming there’s a world, of course…Same reason -