The USA is only one of three countries which don't approve of metrication

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Blog entry by Don Butler posted 06-18-2015 02:05 PM 3035 reads 1 time favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Metrication, or metrification, if you will, is now in use all over the world with only three holdouts. They are Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Liberia and the United States.
As far back as the 1800s metric standards were considered as the basis for a worldwide standard.
SI as it is known (short for Le Système International d’Unités) is actually being practiced by many manufacturers and service companies in the US. and metric measures are now recognized in the common market place. Almost everyone knows what a liter of soda is, for example. Its interesting to note that the contents of that unopened one liter bottle weigh about one kilogram (commonly call a “kilo”).
But is it practical? Is it hard to use? Is it a natural way to think about things?

Consider these facts:
Water freezes at ZERO degrees Celsius and boils at 100º C.
One millimeter is about the thickness of a dime.
One centimeter (10 millimeters) is about the width of a fingernail.
Most footraces are now measured in kilometers. A kilometer is 1000 meters.
Most automobile engines are now described in terms of liters.
The smallest common metric unit of length is the millimeter and there are 10 mm to the centimeter and 10 cm in a meter. 1000 meters is a kilometer.
Notice that they are all related to each other by units of ten

On the other hand:
In traditional measurements,
We measure small things by 1/1000th of an inch but then we also use 16ths, 32nds, 64ths of an inch.
There are 12 inches in a foot, 36 inches (3ft) in a yard, 5,286 feet in a mile.
At least nine different meanings for the unit we know as a “ton”: short ton, displacement ton, refrigeration ton, nuclear ton, freight ton, register ton, metric ton, assay ton and ton of coal equivalent.

We could go on and on ad nauseum about the lack of uniformity in the traditional measurement system, but by now we should be able to see that the metric system is a usable, sensible one.
I’m not just a kid who grew up with metrics, either. I was born in the Great Depression and we never heard of metrics then or for decades later. But when I first started working in the imported automobile business I jus made it my business to learn and use the system.
If I can do, anybody can.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

25 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

9859 posts in 3383 days

#1 posted 06-18-2015 02:25 PM

SI units are alive and well in American industry and manufacturing…. and they are taught in school. But there is a serious cost associated with switching over 100%. Just think about all the items you buy that are manufactured by machinery that is designed and indexed around English units…. pretty much everything at Home Depot. Who’s going to eat the cost of re-tooling all of those products?

Jimmy Carter tried to switch the country to metric in the 70s and for whatever reason, it was a total flop.

I guess people just don’t like, or cope well with change.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3379 days

#2 posted 06-18-2015 02:37 PM

In a meter there are 100 cm not 10cm. Must be a typo error.

View BigAl98's profile


265 posts in 4094 days

#3 posted 06-18-2015 02:40 PM

Yet, when someone says its 1/8th of an inch…I instantly know how thick that is….when someone says 1mm, It takes me a minute, and I’m an engineer with 35 years of experience. Sure metric has got the mm,cm,m easy conversion, but the American units work for me. The fact that American industry has largely already converted to SI indicates that we are slowly moving to it…it will probably be another 20 years, and then well suddenly make the big leap to it. I remember when I joined industry, metric penetration was nill, now its recognized and used in many places.

-- Al,Midwest -To thine own self be true

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 4450 days

#4 posted 06-18-2015 02:41 PM

My Mistake

-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View shipwright's profile


8703 posts in 3852 days

#5 posted 06-18-2015 02:48 PM

There was an experiment a while back on I-19 south of Tucson. You can still see signs that say next exit 2 Km followed by ones that say exit speed in mph.
I’m of the transition generation of Canadians who got through school in the British system just before the country switched to metric so I’m quite at home with I-19 when I’m in Green Valley in the winter. :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Julian's profile


1632 posts in 3745 days

#6 posted 06-18-2015 03:13 PM

Don, I totally agree with you. I prefer to use metric measurements when making segmented turning. Calculating the length of a segment is much simpler with millimeters than fractions.
It is much easier to use base 10 than base 12. There is also a cost to not changing.

-- Julian

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 2231 days

#7 posted 06-18-2015 03:16 PM

I use both. Science uses the SI system.

Having been raised on the English system of mile, foot, inch, fraction I find that is what is easiest for me to think in. Then I have to convert back and forth to the SI value.

Practically, it will be another generation (or more) before our grand kids will be thinking more in SI than English.

From a practical standpoint in woodworking although the SI system would make math easier, how about the cost of replacing all of those rulers and the scales on the table saw, band saw, drill press fence, router table fence, miter saw fence, drill bits, taps, bolts, etc.? Then after the conversion will all of the magazine, book and plan publishers go back and update previous publications to include metric measurements or will we be having to convert a measurement from 3/16 to the millimeter equivalent?

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View whope's profile


243 posts in 3500 days

#8 posted 06-18-2015 03:28 PM

Any manufacturers that do business outside the US have metric variants or can be changed by the consumer. I doubt the cost is very much. Most everything that is labelled has both (groceries). The cost is mostly the change in highway signage. Which we did in the 70s and then switched back (to save money).

Imported products use metric bolts, etc. So most of us have US & Metric sockets, hex wrenches, etc. already.

The conversion in the 70s was voluntary. It should have been manditory. It would create some short term jobs.

-- Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with chalk, cut it with an Hammer.

View BigYin's profile


421 posts in 3471 days

#9 posted 06-18-2015 04:16 PM

England is dedicated to the metric system however I avoid using it wherever possible.
I entered detailed directions for the position of a water meter in a farm field, it didnt make life easier for everyone…Three “furlongs” past the second gate, two “chains” into field, one “rod” from stump. (220 yards, 22 yards, 5 1/2 yards)
my toolkit includes whitworth spanners, and taps & dies (BSW &BSF) and BSP
And I fondly remember having 12 pennies to the shilling and 144 to the Pound but will admit that 100 pennies makes being broke easier to work out.

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3921 days

#10 posted 06-18-2015 05:30 PM

I went to engineering school and have been using both for long time. However, it doesn’t matter to me that much what they do. I don’t see why we don’t just keep using both. For example, a football field is 100 yards long. What does 10 yards become? Now are we really ready to change that? Everybody knows what a mile is and they know how long it takes them to go here or there. Why change? If people will just learn both they will get along just fine. If they do change just leave American sports alone. I would also like to see the road signs stay in miles. Hey, I’ll make a deal with everybody, just wait till I’m gone and then they can change it. ;-|

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Gazould's profile


3 posts in 2166 days

#11 posted 06-18-2015 05:30 PM

Totally agree with you. Building would be SO much easier and buying Festool products wouldn’t require a translator….

-- Gazould

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2285 days

#12 posted 06-18-2015 05:45 PM

Background: dad was a machinest and he taught me. Was a cabinet maker and furniture maker. Became a model maker. Transitioned into design engineering for the last 16 years. I don’t have a formal degree.

Metric blows.
what next? Metric Angles? 100 degrees with 100 minutes. I hate inconsistencies more than hitler. You can’t nut bash water freezing at 0 and boiling at 100 but love 360 degrees in a circle.

Oh, and time too. 10, 100 minute hours in a day. 100 seconds to a minute. And don’t get me started on the months and days.

Guess what we can do with the New Metric Bible. Yep, 100 books with 100 chapters consisting of 100 verses each.

Reductio Ad Absurdum

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4286 days

#13 posted 06-18-2015 05:51 PM

A 427 Chevy big block makes my heart go zinng! So does the 426 HEMI. I have no idea what they mean in metric. :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17272 posts in 3673 days

#14 posted 06-18-2015 06:10 PM

I’ll vote to keep imperial measures forever, if given the chance.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View ScottKaye's profile


797 posts in 3007 days

#15 posted 06-18-2015 06:23 PM

We should have converted 40 years ago back when we were talking about it when I was in grade school in the 70’s. I’m too set in my was now so I’ll keep what I know and use on a daily basis.. I’ll have to admit though, It has been temping to use that metric scale on the bottom of my Unisaw saw scale. That is so much easier to read with out glasses.

-- "Nothing happens until you build it"

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