Get to Know Your Hand Tools – The B+S Gauge – By Helen I. Driggs

By on May 22, 2017
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by Judy Ellis,

Wire Jewelry Tip for May 23rd, 2017

Get to Know Your Hand Tools

by Helen I. Driggs


Gauges and Guides: The B+S Gauge


The B+S gauge is also known as the American Standard wire gauge, meaning it gauges wire and metal sheet using the Brown & Sharpe system of measurement. It is important not to confuse this wire gauge with the British version, otherwise known as the Standard Wire Gauge, as the two measuring tools differ drastically.

Typical B+S Gauges can measure from size 1 to 36 gauge (0.30–7.92mm) wire, and are usually made of very thick steel. Though they seem expensive, you will use your gauge for a lifetime, so protect it from drops, dents or scratches by storing it in a safe place in your bench or toolbox to protect your investment.

What to know about the B+S Gauge

A quality gauge will have tolerances of plus 0.003″ to minus 0.003″ and will also list the gauge decimal equivalents, usually marked on the reverse side of the tool.

Gauging wire can be challenging because, well, it’s round. A B+S gauge is designed with slotted openings that terminate in round openings. You might think that inserting wire into those round openings is how the gauge works, but believe it or not, those round opening have nothing to do with measuring round wire!

Tips for using

  1. To use the gauge for wire, slide the chosen wire well into the slot. When the wire diameter just fits in a slot, that is the proper gauge — look at the corresponding number next to the slot to find it.
  1. Test the gauge slot that is the next smaller size, too, just to verify you have chosen correctly before you commit to a gauge.
  1. For measuring metal sheet, be sure to slide the sheet all the way into the slot until it touches the wall of the round opening. The reason for this is because sheet that has been cut with a metal shear will be compressed at the edge. To get a true read, you must measure the metal well past where it may have become compressed.

HELEN I. DRIGGS is an experienced metalsmith, lapidary and studio jewelry instructor and has appeared in 6 instructional jewelry technique videos. Her book, The Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide was published in 2013.

Click Here to pick up your very own Wire Gauge by Euro Tool.

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