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Episode 2013: the imperial system strikes back

Small boy with a measuring tape and pencil

The imperial measurement system is not just still alive – it may be staging a comeback, according to reports. Should school children be taught to use both imperial and metric measurements?

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is apparently making plans to reintroduce the teaching of imperial units in schools. The draft curriculum for England is set to teach pupils how to convert between imperial and metric

I can see some logic for doing this in maths classes; the interview for my first job in a DIY chain had questions on converting feet into centimetres. My customers were a real mix of imperial and metric users, but I don’t recall imperial being taught at school. My knowledge was probably more down to my ruler using both measurements – it was a 12″ one with a rather odd 31cm on the other side.

So, should we just ditch imperial and spend time teaching kids about something else? JD Baines told us on our last imperial vs metric debate:

‘Few teachers now understand imperial, whereas in schools in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s decimal was taught in schools alongside imperial. One was taught the conversion factors as well, which were “simplified” on the official decimalisation on the UK – thus one could not go to a timber yard and get 50mm x 100mm – it was still 2″×4″. (50mm x 100mm is actually smaller!).’

Wavechange offered an alternative solution:

‘I am happy for kids to learn about imperial measures – but it should be in history classes.’

Your thoughts on the imperial march

When we last had a conversation about measurement systems, almost half of the voters in our poll thought we should ditch imperial units altogether, while a third thought we should keep our current mix. Over a fifth preferred a return to imperial. Some of the comments showed hard lines on the debate. Seares was ready to go metric; ‘It’s about bloody time.’

While David Ramsay spoke for imperial users:

‘NOOOOOOOOOO. I will refuse to use anything other than imperial and will ask for all purchases to be measured accordingly.’

John Knox was equally emphatic:

‘Imperial all the way! I still do everything pretty much in imperial. You know that the jars of jam and honey, etc. you buy are a pound in weight in the supermarket despite them putting the diabolical French measurements on instead.

‘A pint of milk is still a pint of milk and same for beer! We also know our quarter-pounder and half-pounder burgers!’

Popular abroad, the metric system is

The UK is not the only place to have converted from imperial to metric. Michael Glass offered a viewpoint from a country far, far away:

‘As an Australian I find all this angst about metrication quite appalling. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and a whole lot of other countries changed without all this fuss and bother.’

Seares thinks we should go Dutch:

‘I’m in Holland – there doesn’t seem to be any problem here with metric, and they still have their own culture (and cheese). Why would we alone in our island lose our ‘nationality’ or ‘history’ or whatever if we used the system most other countries do?’

Finally, Swanseasteve pointed out that Sandringham listed its size in hectares:

‘If metric values are good enough for the Queen they’re good enough for us!’

What are your thoughts? Is the proposed move to teach imperial putting the best foot forward or taking us back by miles?

Should imperial measurements be taught in schools?

No, it's time to go fully metric (51%, 287 Votes)

Yes, they are helpful for daily life (38%, 215 Votes)

Only if they are taught in history lessons (11%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 566

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Peter Hargreaves says:
30 April 2013

Author: Peter Hargreaves
W J G, Your Comment:

“The mixed measurement situation is divisive. It diivides this country, and arguably more than any other country, it divides the community, society, and the nation. It is unneeded, unwanted, and makes this country look backward, instead of forward, it makes this country weaker not stronger.
The popularity of Imperial measures only occurs, because people are given a choice”

Sorry wjg; but who’s talking about a mixed measurement system here, you need to know when to get the best out of each measurement system, which to a large extent is influenced by each individuals profession and hobbies, which I have already mentioned in earlier comments. In the last paragraph you mention that imperial measures only occur because people are given a choice. This is precisely what governments are elected for, to address the needs of the electorate. Most British people want to retain use of imperial measurements in certain situations. Speaking to the younger generation coming out of schools, colleges and universities they prefer to use imperial measurements when relating to the natural world. These are intelligent, articulate young people who are making an informed choice. But as I have said before they prefer metric when the topics of science and engineering are mentioned. To say that this makes our country weaker and backward is nonsense. Most of our international trade is conducted in metric anyway. The medical profession, post office, paper industry and printing industry to name a few. Crucially all health and safety legislation is in metric, which is in line with European directives. It is an easy option to blame government. Most people in this country are not really interested in this debate and would be both surprised by your comments and amused.

Finally, I wonder how many people actually order their petrol by the litre. Most people I know will say “twenty or thirty pounds worth of petrol please”. Whereas previously they would have said “ten gallons of petrol please”. So much for the popularity of the metric system.

Peter – you claim “This is precisely what governments are elected for, to address the needs of the electorate.”

Oh come on now! If that was true, we’d have capital punishment back, all immigrants would be rounded up and deported, and we’d not have been involved in recent wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. No – the government is elected to run the country as best it can for the country’s general benefit. What that means does depend on what party/parties get elected. But individual peoples’ whims are not likely to get taken seriously into account once they’re up and running.

Then, later “I wonder how many people actually order their petrol by the litre.”

Dunno about you, but I’ve never seen anyone “order petrol”. It’s all self-serve these days. You get out and put whatever you want into your tank. I typically put about 30 litres into mine on a fill. Others might put in £50’s worth or whatever. It’s up to them, but they never actually “order” it.

Stimpy says:
2 May 2013


You honestly and purposely put 30 (or any other number) litres in? I have never seen that. So you would slow down the pump at – say – 27 litres and dribble the rest needed for 30? Then you pay the obscure/un-round-able cash? Wow – there’s commitment. Gimme gallons and I would’t do that.

My methods are

1) create intercourse betwixt car and ‘liquid gold machine’ pump. Grip the handle to start the fill. Check out the weather. Check out the girl at pump ‘2’. Check out the teenager with a Lambo. Then “CLUNK”. Stop. Wiggle. Holster. Cry at the numbers next to ‘£’ – then drive away or walk to the pay part.

2) “I’m in a hurry” – so I splosh 20 quid in – without accuracy – pay – drive to the urgency.

3) ..is abroad. The hire car contract states that you must leave the car with the key under the carpet with the same level petrol as when you picked it up. So I drive to the garage – put in a fiver’s worth, pay, then swear profusely as you beg the needle to move a bit more up – tapping it gently then hoping the hire company doesn’t notice.

I’ve only heard of another person who actually states/delivers a perfect ‘X’ litres – but he was slightly unhinged.

Here’s a tip. If you drive a diesel car look at the pump. If there is a black button (unmarked) above or under the holster then push it. The delivery is then in ‘Lorry-mode’. Only do this if you know your car can accept high speed dispensing.

When I fill my fuel can for the lawnmower, I put in exactly 10 litres. When the supermarket offers five or ten pence off per litre, I put in an exact number of litres.


“You honestly and purposely put 30 (or any other number) litres in? I have never seen that.”

Well, now you’ve heard of it, even if you haven’t seen it. Yes I do that regularly. 30L is a half a tank. For a while I was monitoring my fuel usage and round numbers of litres just made the sums come out looking neater. Turned out I was using 8.5L/100km in the end which is roughly what the car manual said I should expect, so nothing much wrong with the engine there….

“So you would slow down the pump at – say – 27 litres and dribble the rest needed for 30? Then you pay the obscure/un-round-able cash?”

Yeah – you just hand over your card and they debit what you’ve spent. It doesn’t matter what that amount is, as such.

“Wow – there’s commitment. Gimme gallons and I would’t do that.”

What, filling up with gallons is somehow different?? It’s just fuel, dude. Put in a given amount of fuel, or a given value of fuel or brim your tank or randomly put some fuel in – the units that count up on the pump have nothing to do with it!

Stimpy says:
4 May 2013


Well you’ve just proved to me that there are all sorts out there. I literally know of no-one who uses capacity of a fuel tank (which will have redial fuel in it) and then put a perfect number of decimally spot on litres to join an unknown quantity of ‘left overs’ in the tank.

Please forgive me for saying ‘odd’.

Stimpy says:
4 May 2013


Wow – that’s just – well – “weird” ! Do you engage in Chemistry or something?

I’m sorry to tell you that 30L is only half a tank if you completely use up all your petrol. Oh PLEASE don’t tell me you use recovery trucks so you can retain accuracy? No way!

And then you use the data to generate a statistic that almost no-one will understand.

If you REALLY wanted to know info in modern UK speak you should-

1 – go to petrol station
2 – fill up untill it goes ‘clunk’
3 – reset your mileometer and do a load of driving
4 – do number ‘2’ again but keep note of the litre things and your mileage
5 – go to browser and ask ‘mpg from x litres and Y miles’ and you’ll get the mpg

Using the refill method does away with ‘reserve’ or unused petrol (unless you use a truck etc).

To your gallons remark about my gallons remark – it’s quite simple… The single overiding factor that is most important to almost every car driver is the numbers next to “£”. Nothing more/nothing less. Even if it was gallons (unless I wanted to make up a daft story that elevates the word “gallons” to more than a legal data requirement (unless, again, I was checking the mpg/

You lot are causing sparks in my brain box and as such cannot go near a petrol station!



I don’t measure the amount of fuel every time I fill up, though I do every time I fill up fuel cans, simply because over-filling can cause leakage. In the past, I used to lug around 20 litre cans of red diesel for various purposes, and invariably filled them with the exact amount of fuel, which is very easy.

I’ve been described as a ‘maniac’ on Which? Conversation, so calling me ‘odd’ is very restrained. Perhaps you should re-read all your postings in opposition to completion of metrication, because that does not seem quite normal behaviour to me.

Stimpy says:
6 May 2013


Your reasoning makes sense – it’s not something I’ve thought of before. I was imagining someone putting petrol in their car and filling it to the drop of a rounded litre.

Sorry if my use of ‘odd’ offended you – it was not my intention, it was more a throwaway remark for the circumstances.

You ask me to re-read my posts under the same ‘oddnicity’ (I just made a new word).Although my personal view is that I prefer imperial but use both depending on application. I cannot work in fractions of an inch except half and quarter; I use celsius when it gets cold and Fahrenheit when summer finally arrives (I believe the UK is the only place where such behaviour occurs).

In truth I’m more fascinated in the argument than in the detail. Essentially it’s about what numbers people use when they describe tallness, short distance, long distance, volume, etc etc. For whatever reason the subject matter can get as heated as a real hot topic like abortion or rape. I also recognise that only few people really like to argue about the subject. The majority doesn’t even know people debate this so passionately sometimes.

This is why I like this particular debate.


Thanks to various contributors (mainly David Ramsay in the previous Conversation, Peter Hargreaves and yourself), I have switched to using metric measures in conversation with older people, and this is working very well. Previously I had used imperial measures when talking to people of my age (I’m 61) or older, who have not had the benefit of learning the metric system at school. I will use metric measures when I revise an instruction booklet that is mainly used by retired people in a charity that I work for, and I have already updated the charity’s website to make these changes.

It’s great to find how well older people cope with the metric system. Your efforts to promote the imperial system are merely helping to remind me not to use it. If anyone struggles, I can use my experience of teaching to help get them on the right track.

I try to use metric values so far as possible. I’m doing a lot of DIY jobs at the moment and I thought everything would be in metric measurements. The actuality is entirely irrational. Timber seems to either be metricated to the absurd millimetre or sold as [say] 2″x1″ in curious lengths approximating to feet. Boxed woodscrews stick to inches for length. Try buying a garden shed – they are categorised in Imperial dimensions that are not even close to their actual sizes in some instances. I think this is all probably because retailers fear that the population just will not adapt, but if they started to use sensible and modular metric units life would be so much simpler and comprehensible with the relationship between sizes, weights and volumes more obvious. I also get tired of the assumption that anyone over fifty is totally incapable of coping with modern technology, new ideas and people from abroad, and any changes to the traditional “British” way of life [I shall resist the temptation to read anything into recent election results]. My view is that if I can manage it then practically anyone can.

Stimpy says:
8 May 2013

John Ward, your post wandered into scientific approaches at one point (ie relationships between different metric units. All quite interesting but not very important when buying a shed. Can’t you see that shed sizes are mentioned in ft/in because people can relate it to body sizes. Without guessing you’d know exactly how useful a 6 ft tall 4 ft depth shed when comparing to a shed that’s 4ft tall and 6ft deep. Attempt it in millimetres.

Ok. Here’s a practical example of me trying to / wanting to try to / use metric some time ago. I wanted to put a cat flap in the back door (please don’t look for any euphemisms!). Initially I tried using the mm to gauge where to cut and how far etc. At this point I must say I am not good at numbers or people’s names! I still don’t know my wife’s mobile nr. So I tried to keep sets of 3 figure sizes, all different, in my head. I genuinely tried (please believe me!). Eventually I gave up and used the imperial instructions on the reverse of the form. 5 by 8 was the main figures I think. Anyway- imperial worked for me better on that occasion. But that’s the beauty of being in (what about 6 people call ‘mess’) a mixed unit democracy(-ish). I can still almost always choose.

Stimpy – Thanks for that response.

I suppose I am hoping for common sense and consistency across related categories, whether it’s cat flaps or flat caps, not the confusion that prevails at the moment where it depends which chain retailer you are in whether you have to switch on the requisite conversion formula in your brain. A local hardware store sells 50mm nails by the pound; given a choice I would buy fifty.

John – I thought it was illegal to trade in imperial units, so I wonder if your nails were marked in price per 454 g.

I always buy metric screws – which are readily available – and unlike nails, you can change your mind. 🙂

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

Go for self tapping – as you screw (ahem) you’d be going – mm – inches – mm – inches – mm – inches – LOL

Stimpy says:
4 January 2014

Well – you are the first person I know of that fills the car up in exact quantities rather than ‘to full’ or an amount in £

Stimpy says:
30 April 2013

@PeterH – cheers for that post.
I want to add to your point if I may?
I know about the policy stuff.There are 2 systems in the UK. Metric & Imperial. I thank all the pro-mets here for not doing the ‘which imperial’ stuff. That’s silly. But back to those points. First biggy WJG – PLEASE realise that this is NOT divisive. It’s only ever ‘hot’ for measurement loons like ourselves. Right now – if you ask what’s wrong with Britain I will guarantee you that only a tiny minority or none will mention miles and stuff. It does not harm our domestic interests. International trade might be impacted – from 50-inch TVs to Kilos of Cocaine 🙂 but in the scheme of things people really don’t care – enough to ‘not noticeable’ (except ‘odd’ usage to make a point). There is a confusion over force and choice. People are forced to use litres of petrol – that does not mean they prefer it. In fact we still only use mpg, not mpl – think about that – forced to have litres of petrol yet choose to stick with mpg. The HUGE MAIN thing, of course, is casual usage. No-one says “I am going to buy two hundred and fifty grammes of butter” – the product is (forced) metric but people would just say “get some butter”. Ok – go to the deli and you can use anything – even “two inches of salami please” !! Can’t comment on the ‘gallon preference usage when it was at the pumps’ – I was too young. I hold my breath and go for the ‘clunk’ after which I look at the £ and I internally rage about how they get away with it – a full tank is a designer jacket, if you get my drift.
Back to usage..There are some odd figures that come up – like the biggest ‘supporters’ of imperial are those in the 20-to-30y/o band. The moaners are 50+ y/o. I wonder if younger people base their preferences on dislike of the EU (who are involved in certain things).
Being a natural libertarian I tend to believe in choice EXCEPT on two things. Medication in metric and roads in imperial. Both on safety grounds (although medication should be VERY carefully labeled in milligrammes only – microgrammes causes confuse and misplaced decimal points could be fatal)

Stimpy wrote: (although medication should be VERY carefully labeled in milligrammes only – microgrammes causes confuse and misplaced decimal points could be fatal)

Sorry, but this is another example of where you are completely wrong. I am an asthmatic and I use three common inhalers: salbutamol (100 microgram per dose), salmeterol (25 microgram) and beclometasone (100 micrograms). That is 0.1, 0.025 and 0.1 milligrams, respectively. As you say, decimal points could cause confusion – which is why the units are micrograms.

Stimpy says:
1 May 2013

You say I am completely wrong and then drift to the middle ground. What was I wrong about? Can observations be wrong? To who?

I don’t think I can explain myself more clearly. Incidentally, microgram is abbreviated as mcg rather than the official symbol (containing the Greek letter mu) in recording drug doses. As you say, mistakes could be fatal.

Stimpy says:
2 May 2013

@wavechange – the micro symbol to which you refer is quite abstract – I don’t even know how to ‘compose’ it on my Mac. The trouble with ‘mcg’ is that it’s not strictly SI, not even tolerated. Correct me if I’m wrong but ‘c’ is the symbol for candela? calorie? Anyway- it is not metric. But you – being a reasonable chap – would say that it’s ‘loosely correct and tolerable to use mcg as a rule bender.’.
More importantly – I’m sorry to hear of your health issue and I hope the drugs allow you to keep it in remission enough to enjoy life as normal as possible.


To produce the Greek letter mu in Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac, hold down Alt and press m , or choose Insert > Symbol and find mu.

The SI symbol for candela is cd.

Just look up microgram in Wikipedia and you will see that mcg is an acceptable abbreviation, though not the SI abbreviation. As a scientist, I have never once used mcg, but if it can avoid giving someone a drug overdose, that makes sense. The British National Formulary (a list of drugs and doses available for prescription that is on every GPs desk) advises that ‘micrograms’ is written in full on prescription forms.

Using mcg is not the only example of use of an alternative to the SI unit. When writing papers and reports, scientists often use L instead of l for litres because the lower case version looks like the number one in many fonts.

It’s best to use kJ instead of calories since in the context of food, calorie generally refers to 1000 calories or 1 kcal. Moving to kJ is one area where we are actually making some progress.

If you had chosen science subject at school, I think you would have seen the benefits of getting rid of the imperial system.

Stimpy says:
4 May 2013

wavechange – I take on what you say with some interest and I would definitely spell out the whole word to be on the safe side.

I did science at school and naturally I expected and got metric stuff. They’re just numbers,

I see no benefit whatsoever in ‘getting rid’ of imperial units. Like it or not imperial is preferred over metric when out of the science block or not being forced. Even GP/doctors would revert to stones, feet, etc when shovelling the money into their boots. It’s the UK. it’s how people talk about how long things are or what stuff weighs. It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away. Cymraeg (Welsh) is a language used by many people in the UK/Wales. Why don’t we “get rid” of that while we’re at it.

Seares says:
4 May 2013

What a load of codswallop!
” It’s the UK. it’s how people talk about how long things are or what stuff weighs. It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away.”
Well, I’m 82 now, and it’s 150 years since the Select Committee in Queen Victoria’s reign recommended metrication. Do I have to wait another 150 years for a sensible measuring system? As she might well have said “We are not amused”

Stimpy says:
6 May 2013


Do you know what ‘Codswallop’ is? It’s not a criticism – it’s a real question. ‘Spose a quick look on Wikipedia will tell me.

Anyhow – you seems to poo-poo my quote and then go on to subliminally agree with it by stating whether you’d have to live another….etc etc

Totally different angle for the moment – It’s nice to see a 80+ year old without technophobia and using the web. You have become the oldest person I know that does this.

Seares says:
6 May 2013

Of course I know what codswallop is, and up with it I will not put. It’s the use of old nonsensical measures as if our very cultural identity depends on them. I used to make commercial documentary films and showing one made in Syria in 1963 to the Geographical Association recently I had to admit to my shame that the distances, temperatures and weights were in those parochial imperial measurements. It really seemed very odd and to my mind made the film now seem very amateurish. Slight saving grace- the film had foreign language versions using universal metric measures. Gott sei Dank! (OK, I may be 82, but what’s that got to do with use of the metric system? Just used it to show how slowly grind the wheels of reform in this country)

“Like it or not imperial is preferred over metric”

Oh, rubbish! It’s nothing to do with preference, it’s to do with familiarity. Loads of under-30s habitually use imperial measurements for things because their parents did that and because they get bombarded with imperial measures with every news bulletin on Radio 1, or any time a Radio 1 DJ mentions anything involving measurement. If you look at some rare aspect of life where the BBC *has* metricated (like with temperatures on weather forecasts for instance) you find the entire population has happily switched to using those same units with no fuss and no bother. When did you last hear anyone refer to the temperature in Fahrenheit?

We, the pro-metric brigade, are merely fed up that our youth can visibly be seen throwing away the expensive education that *we* paid for, making themselves less employable on the international stage because they feel they have to conform with Radio 1, their own parents and their peer group (all of whom suffer the same problem). Thay could gang up and go “stuff this, we’re 21st century kids – enough with the granny units”. But that takes organisation, and no-one’s providing it.

” It was a non issue before brussels wrestled grey John Major into signing even more sovereignty away.”

Oh, come on! Don’t try and blame it on the bloody E.U. Thay’ve got nothing to do with metric. It’s a world system. Sure the other countries of the E.U. use metric exclusively, but that’s just because they consider themselves “part of the world”.

As should we.

Stimpy says:
8 May 2013

I had to look up cods wallop on Wiktionary and I’m still not sure!
The use of ‘old nonsensible measures’ *IS* part of our culture. And I’m not just referring to the pint of beer or milk. The measurements are interweaved into conversation in an ‘official’ way and in a colloquial way. It’s just the way it is. It’s like foreign pop-groups use English despite being Norwegian or Italian and using ‘miles’ in their lyrics. Even THINKING about using km in a song seems clinical. If ‘foreigners’ use our measurement units then WE should at least teach our kids what it all means. They’re going to learn it in ‘life’ anyway (and please don’t do the ‘ask them how many yards in a mile’ thing – when would such a conversation come up?). I was schooled in the Thatcher years (Thatcher’s babies) and – ironically – imperial was dropped from the curriculum. We still knew it though. Peer pressure and family. Tony Blair’s govt brought it back in. Wow – Tony Blair and good thing in the same sentence.

That film you were talking about – ever known where ‘footage’ comes from? 🙂

Please don’t take my remark about age as being noteworthy to the topic – nor was it a form of abuse. I was encouraged and delighted to see Macs (and PC’s) being used by – erm – the more senior in society and I actively encourage it. Unfortunately my Nan has only recently got to grips with a landline phone. We can forget internet! Thus – please see my remark as a remark of (non-patronising) respect.

Stimpy says:
8 May 2013

Familiarity = choice = preference. Metric is there to be used, sometimes even forced.
See it like Welsh (I’m Welsh btw). In West and North West Wales people of all ages choose to talk in Welsh. They have the choice of English as that is in the curriculum (as is Welsh) however they could converse in English because EVERYONE knows English. Why do they do that? To p*ss off English people ‘entering the shop’? Nope – very few people use nationalism within a dull subject that hardly anyone can be bothered with (eg – the turnout of having a Welsh assembly). They do it because Welsh is very melodic and consistent and, if you can speak it, feels more poetic than ‘standard English’. Embarrassingly cymro ydw i but my grammar lets me down.

“If you look at some rare aspect of life where the BBC *has* metricated (like with temperatures on weather forecasts for instance) ”

Don’t you notice the emphasis on Fahrenheit by some forecasters if it’s going to be warm – granted it’s usually like ‘mid eighties’. I do hear from people returning from hols mentioning it being OTT and in the high 90’s. Come winter and I totally agree – 32 F is rare to hear – although Sian Lloyd does mention ‘F’ regardless of year position. I believe it is up to the forecaster if he/she wants to include it (except LBC who force the use of C-only).

“they feel they have to conform with Radio 1, their own parents and their peer group (all of whom suffer the same problem). Thay could gang up and go “stuff this, we’re 21st century kids – enough with the granny units”. But that takes organisation, and no-one’s providing it.”

You talk of conformity and problems – do people REALLY think like that? Ok – I agree that enforced ‘conformity’ exists (no prize for which ‘side’). What do you suggest then? Ban Radio 1? Fine them for using words not allowed by the state? How about the parents – do they get put on a training course or risk the local authorities stepping in regarding family matters? Do you police peer groups? I would hate to live in that country. I really cannot see kids ‘ganging up’ and saying ‘stuff this we’re gonna use different terms and an alternative decimal based cool thang!’ You can see the reason why no-one’s agreeing with it because nature and nurture overtake enforcement.

“Oh, come on! Don’t try and blame it on the bloody E.U.”
Major signed Maastricht – that’s where the ‘come down heavy on the market stalls who speak British’. Funnily enough I do not believe the topic was included in any manifesto.

And we all know the ‘UKIP-factor’ (lets not branch down that route!)

Stimpy says:
1 May 2013


@stimpy imperial is not around purely because it is “popular”, it is still around because businesses are allowed to continue using it.

“Businesses are allowed” LOL – how gracious – can we have some more sir? 🙂

Interesting thought – Canadian roads – metric signs – did the specific govt put that in their manifesto?

You say “When we switched to decimal currency we retained some of the old coinage and some of the older generation at the time also retained some of the old language”

Erm – that’s news for me. I was too young to notice but I don’t know of keeping old money. I don’t buy the money/metric thing (excuse the pun)

Just look at Wikipedia and you can discover which of the old coins remained valid after decimalization, on 15 February 1971.


‘“Businesses are allowed” LOL – how gracious – can we have some more sir? :-)’

Stimpy, obviously you and I weren’t around at the time, but when Imperial was the dominant system throughout most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was *enforced*. There were stiff fines for failing to sell in approved Imperial amounts, there were fines for using non-officially calibrated scales. That’s what trading standards officers were there for – they raided businesses on a random basis checking up on these sorts of things. If you wanted to sell potatoes by the bushel after 1826 you were likely to end up with a fine or in jail.

These days, trading standards officials seem to have been told to forget about enforcing metric as a system, an therefore we see all the persistent nonsense of two systems running side-by-side, messing up our children and making Romanian immigrants’ children a better employment bet than local kids for certain jobs. This isn’t what I pay my taxes for!

If you “choose” to celebrate Bastille day by driving on the right hand side of the road, I suspect you won’t get far before you have a mighty accident, and (assuming you survive) will be arrested and thrown in the clink. People don’t (and mustn’t) have the freedom to choose which side of the road they drive on – but I bet I don’t hear you complain about that. You shouldn’t have the freedom (as a shop owner) to sell things in anything other than the approved measurement system of the day.

From 1826 – 1965 that was Imperial.
From 1965 – present that should have been metric.

And if it had been done like that no-one would have batted an eyelid, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion now!

As an aside: James May’s Man Lab (Series 3) featured an article in which the hapless Rory got to run a Whelk Stall. He had a poster on his stall advertising “3oz whelks – £4”.


He got raided by the street market’s Trading Standards man who *ignored* that, but had noticed that the hapless Rory wasn’t displaying a Food Safety and Hygine certificate. So Rory had to close his stall for half a day and get such a certificate. When he resumed that afternoon, he continued trying to sell by the illegal 3oz and no-one stopped him. If he’d tried the equivalent in 1826 (i.e selling in Queen Anne units, not imperial) he would have copped it.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

You miss my point – and that is forcing change when no-one (internally) asked for it. I say ‘no-one’ based on severe probability figures.

Also – don’t you find it good that TSO’s are ticking people off on hygiene rather than arriving with police to take scales away? I’m more than happy for them to put health before little numbers.

A great example of Imperial and metric living harmony.
We were abroad visiting our Grandson and my wife could not believe how tall he had grown since she last saw him and asked if someone would measure him to acertain what height he was. So with the aid of an Ikea metric tape the task was carried out. ‘He is one centimetre short of three foot!! came the reply. Priceless.

cvs says:
2 May 2013

From Wikepedia:
In the metric system, a microgram (µg or mcg) is a unit of mass equal to one millionth (1/1,000,000) of a gram (1 × 10−6), or 1/1000 of a milligram. It is one of the smallest units of mass (or weight) used in a macroscopic context. The symbol “µg” (mu-g) conforms to the International System of Units and is often used in scientific literature, but the United States-based JCAHO recommends that hospitals do not use this symbol in handwritten orders due to the risk that the symbol µ might be misread as the prefix m, resulting in a thousandfold overdose. The abbreviation mcg is recommended instead

Seares says:
7 May 2013

You think we’re in a mess?
Try this from India: (just for amusement- this was 1962; might be- hope it is- metricated by now)

As from today M.M.U. fresh milk rikotta will be sold at the summer price of 3s. 6d. per rotolo. Wholesalers collecting rikotta from the Milk Marketing Undertaking are allowed a commission of lOd. per rotolo; while on rikotta delivered to the wholesaler the commission is 8d. per rotolo. The tare allowed is one fourth of a rotolo per basket.”

Stimpy says:
8 May 2013

The two best known systems of measure are Imperial and metric and assumptions are usually made – however you have drifted into localised measures used by other countries that are neither of the two. Good luck to them.
I believe that in Sweden a mile is 10km (I think it’s Sweden). That’s one hell of a mile but there you go.
I think it was malaysia or south Korea that recently decided to push for full metrication. How? You got it! By force! “Metrication is so popular it has to be forced on people”. I think there were v.large fines for using local measures (remind you of anyone?). I suspect that North Korea will be steadfastly metric!
Anyway – mines 1 rotolo of Magners, if you’re asking…..

Peter Hargreaves says:
8 May 2013

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: John Ward

“I try to use metric values so far as possible. I’m doing a lot of DIY jobs at the moment and I thought everything would be in metric measurements. The actuality is entirely irrational. Timber seems to either be metricated to the absurd millimetre or sold as [say] 2″x1″ in curious lengths approximating to feet. Boxed woodscrews stick to inches for length. Try buying a garden shed – they are categorised in Imperial dimensions that are not even close to their actual sizes in some instances. I think this is all probably because retailers fear that the population just will not adapt”.

In answer to your question many retailers have tried to go along the completely metric route. But many in the trade and the general public are opposed. The reasons are quite simple; in a number of cases the imperial measurements are easier to follow. What you also have to remember is that in some cases there really is no satisfactory metric alternative. Large “Do it yourself” stores who often employ older people because of their maturity and knowledge, will naturally be familiar with the imperial system. But talk to many youngsters who have just left school and they actually prefer dealing in imperial when talking to customers about certain products. Items such as woodscrews, paints brushes, abrasive papers (density of grit per inch), and saw teeth per inch, to name a few.

Let me give you four examples of why people prefer imperial and sometimes a mixture of both.

Example One

Imperial size paint brushes 1” 2” 3” 4”
Metric size paint brushes 25mm 50mm 75mm 100mm
Most people will quote imperial because quite simply it is easier to say.

Example Two

Hanging a fire door: I will pull out my tape measure to 78 inches for the height by 30 inches for the width to 1½ inches for the thickness. It is easier locate on the tape measure, the clearer markings of the imperial measurement and I know that this door is a standard size based on imperial measurements. But when I router the intumescent strip around the edge I will use my metric size router bits.

Example Three

Fencing: My fence is 5 ft high and I order 4 by 4 inch fence posts. Most fencing companies prefer to use imperial with fewer numbers involved. As untreated timber is a variable substrate why would you need the accuracy of the millimetre? It is quite simply over the top with too many numbers involved when making calculations.

Example Four

Cabinet Making: When I design and make a chest of draws I will generally use metric. You are working with hard woods and you need that level of accuracy with draws and dovetail joints. But if I want to buy a chest of draws for my house, I will pull out my tape measure and measure the height, depth and width using inches, because again it is quicker to locate on the ruler. I don’t need absolute accuracy just an approximation. Most of my own engineering tools are metric, but most of my carpentry tools are imperial.
This is how a large proportion of the population works. Yes of course engineers and scientists would disagree and would fail to see the logic with the imperial system as they live in a logical world. But what you have to respect is how other trades and people work. For a quick assessment, an approximation of your own immediate dimensions, the imperial is the preferred option.

Stimpy says:
8 May 2013

Nice post. I recently saw the absurdity of forcing metric. There was a car park (you can check it out – it’s the Swan in High Wycombe) which shows height clearance in feet and then in millimetres right down to the unrounded millimetre). I have no doubt the comedy is common.

Alex B says:
8 May 2013

Nice post indeed… but in my mind you actually pointed out what much of the problem is. I have a tape measure, rulers and bathroom scales that ONLY measure in metric, they were purchased in France and there was no imperial option on any of then. What this means is that when I measure something there are no imperial measures to get in the way or cause any confusion.

In example 1 you quote the size of paint brushes… I find no problems with 25, 50, 75 and 100 mm sized, in fact if they didn’t show the ” on the other side of any of the brands nobody would know there was a problem. In fact I would use screw lengths as a better example… it’s easy to know that 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 mm are increasing in size but what about 1″, 1 1/8″, 1 1/4″ 1 3/8″, 1 1/2″, 1 5/8″… looks complicated to me.

Example 2 you’re hanging a fire door… my tape measure has no inches so it is easy to see both cm and mm markings. What precision do we need? 0.5 or 1 cm precision?

Example 3 is the same… I’m sure your 5 foot high fence isn’t exactly 5 foot in the same way as my 1.8 metre high fence is not exactly 1.8 metres… if I measure something like that at 1854 mm I’m just going to write 1.8 metres, you don’t need any better precision than that for a fence any more than you need to know it’s 5 foot 3/8 inch.

Example 4 is no different. You choose the level of precision you need depending on the job you’re doing. If you need to machine parts to they fit snugly then you use mm… even if it’s something big like a window you may need to do this but if you’re going to drive a car through a hole in a wall then rounded to the nearest .1 metres will be sufficient, the only reason why people insist on writing 1800 mm is because there seems to be an obsession with some Brits with equating metric with absolute precision when this is not actually the case. Yes, metric is ideal when precision is preferred because of the millimetre and the fact that fractions are not used but that doesn’t mean you have to use it in every case.

After all, my bathroom scales say I weigh 79 kg, I’m not interested in knowing it to the nearest .1 kg in the same way as I’m happy to say I’m 1.8 metres tall, measuring myself to the nearest mm isn’t important. On the other hand that few mm might make the difference between that new pane of glass fitting or not, I’m not going to mess about with x/y of an inch because I’m just going to get confused!

As has been said elsewhere, remove the constant references to imperial measures in media and people would soon stop using them… this would not change our culture and theatre fans could still have their pound of flesh.

Alex – Every tape measure I own has the imperial scale at the top, which is very annoying. It is fairly easy to buy steel rules that are metric-only or the metric and imperial scales are on opposite sides. It should not be necessary to go to France or order a tape measure online.

Alex B says:
8 May 2013

Which is precisely why I wanted a metric-only tape measure, on one trip to France there was an opportunity to get one so I took it and haven’t regretted it.

I have noted that occasionally the budget tape measures sold by the supermarkets are metric only but you just cannot get anything more heavy duty in DIY stores… I know, I’ve asked. Obtaining metric-only kitchen implements is just as hard, if not harder. The “pint” and “fl oz” markings on measuring jugs get in the way much more than inches on tape measures!

I use digital scales to measure the weight of liquid ingredients when cooking, and assume that 1 gram is equivalent to 1 ml. It can save time and cut down on washing-up.

It’s a long time since I last looked at tape measures, so I will have a look in B&Q this afternoon.

Thank you, Peter, for your extensive response to my previous post [06/05/13 @ 11:09]. I can see what you’re saying but I tend to side with Alex on this one. It is curious that you mention “large DIY stores who often employ older people”, because I was thinking about B&Q when I wrote about dimensions to “the absurd millimetre”; they have metricated in a quite unhelpful fashion and I think this is the root of the problem in the UK. In the absence of determination to use either one system or the other universally it has become a free-for-all with common sense going out of the window.

I can save you some bother in B&Q. All their measures are imperial on the top and metric underneath. I’ve complained to them about that before. What’s the point in selling 5 different brands of tape measure that are all effectively the same thing??

It would be more sensible if some measures were metric on top, imperial underneath. And if some were metric-only.

I managed to buy a nice 5m metric-only tape in Tesco’s of all places, and it’s my tape of choice when doing anything. You can read it starting from the left or starting fron the right, those pesky inch things don’t get in the way either way!

I would expect that Aldi and Lidl are good places to look for metric-only tapes, but your best online bet for buying them is Amazon. I found several on offer there – Stanley “Fat Max” amongst the brands I recall.

I bought a 50m metric-only surveyors’ tape in Lidl once, BTW.

I forgot about the tape measures when I went to B&Q. I visit Lidl for their cheap hardware, so will keep my eyes open and also look in Tesco. Thanks for the tip.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

Sorry to nip into another chat – although thats what forums are for.
You seem to be coming to the middle a bit and in many cases state that either imperial or metric is fine and the super-accuracy is the big issue. That and fractionalised inches – which I don’t like too (except the easy fractions!)
Your french measure – have you noticed that the UK tapes show imperial as the prominent measure – ie on the most convenient side?

Paint brushes — Prior to entering the store I will have a picture in my mind of which paint brush to get. I can ‘see’ 2 inches, 6 inches etc. Give me mm and I’ll either wait and see the visable side or do some divisions.

Doors – correct me if I’m wrong but the professionals know that a standard door height is 72 (?) inches high and also inch depth. I actually don’t like ‘big inches’ because you may as well use metric. Imperial allows sub sizes – so 6 foot 4 in. gives me a mind image better than XX inches.

“After all, my bathroom scales say I weigh 79 kg”
I will put a tenner on the fact that over 90% of Brits will focus on the st/lb (or switched the digital ones accordingly). This includes Mr Farage’s figures 😉

“As has been said elsewhere, remove the constant references to imperial measures in media and people would soon stop using them”

I strongly disagree. Sometimes the media ‘pretends’ we are all happy with metric and uses it to the detriment of the viewer/listener. Casual conversation might be almost entirely imperial though (but you can’t force people to stop…..err….can you?)

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

@wavechange – ebay is the way!!!

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

@John Ward – ’tis funny because I find the teen to 40 staff go with imperial default and middle-age-plus are the ‘metricons’ as it were. Maybe it’s regional.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013


Be honest – if you entered Lidl or Aldi would you wear a disguise?


Stanley do make metric only metal (builders) retractible tape measures, but they are hard to find in the UK but are common in Australia and NZ. The following are Stanley part numbers

33-732 Stanley Fat Max 8m (has both millimetre markings and millimetre numbering)
33-966 Stanley Max 8m (same as above)
30-528 Stanley Leverlock 8m (same as above) this is the one I have and I find the magnetic leverlock very handly.

The tape measures above are 8 m but they also make the 5 m as above but I dont have the part numbers for them.

I hope this helps anyone wanting to purchase metric only builders tapes.

Peter and Stimpy

I invite you both to join some of the other discussions on Which? Conversation.


Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

I might well do that

Where most posts are right is that metric is the system we should use “professionally”. As far as my experience goes, industry and commerce have used it from many years ago, so I see nothing that holds us back as a trading nation.
As far as education goes, an understanding of older things – whether historic or more recent – has some merit providing the core subjects are properly taught (I wish we could just decide how to teach subjects and not keep changing methods). While we still use miles and pints then there needs to be knowledge of imperial.
But it is my choice how I choose to use measurements in my personal life. Others can make their choice, but not impose on anyone what they should and should not do – thankfully. As it happens, as an engineer I worked in metric, of course, and still do largely. However there are times when I revert to imperial – probably because I still visualise some things better in feet and inches. Buying curtains recently, 72 inch drop was slightly easier for me to visualise than 1820mm – only just. In metric I still prefer mm to cm – which is generally the correct measure anyway.

Malcolm – Having worked in teaching at university level, I would like to defend change in teaching methods, but I certainly do not support change for the sake of it. I could give plenty of examples, but that would not be relevant here. Anyone who has brought up children will know that a lot has changed since they were children themselves.

I’m not against change, but I would like to see stability – in both methods and in examinations. Brought up in an era of O, AS and A level and meaningful degrees, I wonder what was really wrong with them – except perhaps not letting under-achievers through. There were other qualifications available, ONC, HNC, apprenticeships and vocational for those more talented in trade skills for example.
My children were brought up in the post-imperial era, have become very imaginative engineers, and we communicate effectively!


There are many valid reasons for change in education. The ability to carry around information has been debased thanks to computers and the Internet. Our parents’ generation did more learning by rote than we did, so this change had started long before computers. Kids of today are surrounded by a vast amount of information and it’s important that they develop critical thinking skills to help evaluate the quality of what they read. It is so much easier to copy information that children have to learn what is acceptable at an earlier age.

Many people of our generation can do mental arithmetic and although I still feel that this is worthwhile learning, it is a bit of a lost cause. The introduction of the pocket calculator was probably the main reason for this change.

I could not agree more about the decline in degree standards, and that is the fault of successive governments pushing large numbers of school-leavers straight into higher education, often irrespective of their motivation and ability. Coping with weaker students often means that the better ones are not challenged and it is difficult for them to reach their full potential. Having said that, education at all levels has moved on to help people who would not have succeeded in our day. It is wonderful what people with dyslexia and other fairly common problems can achieve if their condition is recognised and some thought is give to teaching and assessment methods. Towards the end of my teaching career I specialised in modules with class sizes of around 250, making extensive use of learning support delivered online, peer support and interesting practicals to help engage with the students. It’s a lot more challenging than having classes of 30, which I experienced when I did my degree. I see no need for revolution, but plenty of reason for evolution.

Despite all the changes, understanding how to use units and remembering some conversions is an example of where Victorian teaching methods still have a place in education.

I agree about the apprenticeships and vocational skills too. I really don’t trust government (any government) to look after education.

cvs says:
9 May 2013

@Malcolm R
Re your comment “While we still use miles and pints then there needs to be knowledge of imperial”
Isn’t the simple answer to this to stop using miles and pints rather than letting the tail wag the dog?

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

“But it is my choice how I choose to use measurements in my personal life. Others can make their choice, but not impose on anyone what they should and should not do – thankfully.”

Hear hear!

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

@Malcolm – Are they STILL allowing calculators into maths exams?

Why not go the whole hog and let kids use Wikipedia in their history exams, “writes Mr Angry from Kent” (I had to add that last bit to prevent me looking like a Daily Mail worshipper).

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

@CVS – -you can see from other posters that ‘miles and pints’ is very abbreviated from ‘imperial generally’ although I do get your ultimate point.

CVS – I didn’t state that “simple” solution; but certainly if that is what everyone wants, then you are not wrong. My point was that while we have these units in use they need to be understood.

Stimpy, no idea about calculators, but I see no problem in using them – in my day it was a slide rule (but not for maths). If you were testing arithmetic (still taught?) then no calculators is my vote. We should still encourage mental arithmetic, so when you are shopping or comparing deals you can work out the answer without having to dig out your mobile phone. A number of Conversations show how a lack of numeracy is a real hindrance to making everyday choices.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

Rising A-level scores, etc. Could technology have something to do with it? Rhetorical (!)

Rising A level scores is down to reduced standards. What’s the point in that?

I phoned Arnold Laver to get a quotation for non-slip phenolic plywood. I’m familiar with plywood being sold in the metric equivalent of 8 foot x 4 foot sheets, but this is 2500 x 1220 mm – or 2.5 metres x 4 foot. Very strange.

Plywood sold as 2500 mm x 1220 mm is a bit strange. The width of 1220 mm is the equivalent of 4 foot which is the standard for the old Imperial 16 inch wall stud centre to centre spacing. ( 3x16inch=48inch or 4 feet). The old Imperial standard wall height was 8 foot ( 2440 mm ) and if the plywood was 2440 mm x 1220 mm (4 x 8 ) it could be mounted either vertical or horizontal becasue the length when mounted horrizontaly also matchs the 16 inch c/c stud spacing ( 6x 16inch=96inch or 8 feet) So if you are going to use it as wallboard it will need to be cut to 2440 mm (8 feet) for wall height or to match stud spacing.

Thanks. I appreciate the reason why we are still using old sizes for plywood, though I have never been involved in building work. This is intended for use as flooring that will be non-slip, even when wet. It’s called HeksaPly and is classed as a phenolic plywood. I was amused by the strange size.

While most panels are 2440/3050×1220, their are some Euro panels that seem equally curious: 2550×1250 and 3050 (= 10ft!) x 1250.

Peter Hargreaves says:
9 May 2013

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
Peter and Stimpy
I invite you both to join some of the other discussions on Which? Conversation.

I welcome any debate, but what I will stress as I have mentioned before, is that while I support the metric system, I am also trying to highlight the fact that a large proportion of the population prefer to use imperial measurements for certain applications. What I do not want to get involved in is a slanging match with words crap, rubbish and bloody used when comparing one system to another. I am also patriotic and resent statements such as:

“The imperial system is one of the most anoying things about living in the uk it is like a poltergeist on British socity .It makes the UK look arrogant and old fashioned and it is one on the main resons why Britian is hated arround the world .”

Keep the debate constructive and try to understand how others prefer to work. Perhaps we should also put spelling and grammar on the agenda as well!

It was not me that made the comment you have quoted, Peter, and I have not used the rude words you have referred to.

I’m patriotic too, and hate to see the country being held back because some don’t want to move on and complete metrication. We are both entitled to our views and I agree that there is no need for any slanging match. I am sorry if I have offended you with my invitation, but maybe Stimpy will be interested.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013


Your point is spot on.

I notice that there is no bullying or insults or name calling going on here – and there is a subtle tone of humour now and again. That is great.

I have been on similar forums where (and I’m afraid to say) some pro-mets are completely hostile.

I’m not going to name names as that gets us no-where but here is 2 honest different people’s thoughts (ie 2 people)

1… That imperial (and USC) versus metric will soon become civil war and the invasion of Iraq was to put a stop to an idea that Saddam was going to price up oil in Euros and use litres as a measure. The US and UK could not allow this to happen so they invaded. Apparently we are very close to this spilling on to our streets and there WILL be a physical measurement war (physical being fisticuffs !)

2.. An individual who would not accept that milk in cartons were pints and multiple pints thereof. If you were in the know then you’d know that for legal considerations the volume is measured in metric figures too and shown to a ridiculous accuracy. He would argue (with highly offensive personal insults) that they were selling XXXX litres and that’s it. It was the worse case of pedantry I have ever seen! LOL

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013


I’m very happy with the tone of this topic!

It takes a lot to annoy me.

While Wales are the best rugby side in the world I shall remain happy.

Who said ‘all blacks’? C’mon!


I’m glad that you are happy.
a bit off topic but..

Its nice to see that the Wales rugby team is the best in the world.

But a question for you

Where was the current Wales rugby team coach born?

a clue ..It wasnt in NZ.

Cliff says:
9 May 2013

Peter Hargreaves,
The reason that a large proportion of the population prefer to use imperial measurements for certain applications is because they are still not familiar with the alternative. Despite many years of metric education in schools the road signs outside the schools remain in imperial units. There’s little point in knowing a car’s fuel consumption in litres/100km or speeds in km/h when it’s illegal to show kilometres on sign posts.I would guess that there are many people in the UK that don’t even know that there are 1000 metres in a kilometre. The popular newspapers and commercial TV and radio rarely quote metric measurements and when they do it’s usually followed up with a conspiratorial …….” and that’s X (miles)(feet)(inches) in real money.” There is no incentive for anyone to change and the subliminal message from the establishment is to keep on resisting change. Of course people will go with the familiar rather than the unknown.
True patriots want what is best for their country. Being subservient to the past by clinging on to an outmoded form of measurement is not being patriotic. Refusing to change is not a virtue. It’s a weakness. A national SYSTEM of measurement (that also happens to be international) makes far more sense than a random collection of ancient measurements which is why the vast majority of countries in the world abandoned their own parochial weights and measures years ago. There is no point in clinging on to something purely because it’s old. An old bottle of Coca Cola is not a vintage bottle of Coca Cola, it’s just a soft drink that’s past it’s use-by date.
If some posters on this forum resort to mild profanities it’s probably out of frustration due to having to wait 50 years for the change that was promised but never delivered.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

Rugby coach. I have NOT pre-prepared myself for my answer. I thought he was Welsh but I cannot even remember his name. I love it when Neil Jenkins comes on whenever there’s a penalty to be kicked.

Realistically – we have to win against the all blacks IN NZ. I’d have a heart attack if I watched that game if it ever happened.

You forgot to mention – when France joined the 4 nations (aka home nations) the game switched to metric. Aren’t we pleasant (ahem). The commentators are still imperial – check the ‘per player’ stats.

Stimpy says:
9 May 2013


“If some posters on this forum resort to mild profanities it’s probably out of frustration due to having to wait 50 years for the change that was promised but never delivered.”

It works both ways – those who are pro-imp feel they are under attack and some might use fighting talk. I’m a pro-imp (not referring to the mini-challenger!) but I try to ‘keep it real’.

I think.

@Peter Hargreaves
With reference to the four examples in your post.

Example One

Imperial size paint brushes 1” 2” 3” 4”
Metric size paint brushes 25mm 50mm 75mm 100mm
Most people will quote imperial because quite simply it is easier to say.
I fully agree. There is no doubt that one syllable words, such as inch, foot, yard, and mile, are easier to say, than multiple syllable words such as millimetre, centimetre or kilometre. But why? Because unit names like inch, yard, foot, and mile, are unit names that standalone, whille unit names like millimetre, centimetre, and kilometre do not standalone.
For example.. compare inch to millimetre. The name “inch” stands alone. The name has no reference to the foot. Its not 1/12th of a foot (the measure is, but NOT the name) and for the same reason, it has no reference to the yard.
However the unit name millimetre, is actually two words.. milli (the prefix) meaning 1/1000 and the metre, the base unit for length/distance. It does not standalone. Its connected to the metre. Whereas the inch (in name only), has no connection to the foot or yard. By using prefixs, metric units are easier to understand and use, (one of the advantages of metric), but its also a disadvantge, because they will have at least two syllables, whereas Imperial units generally are only one syllable, and easier on the tongue than metric units.

Example Two

Two of the advantages of metric measures, are, 1) Being able to remove decimal fractions and use whole units, and 2) Being able to use one unit only.
If you are measuring a 6 foot 6 inch door, or 6.5 foot door, as 78 inchs, you are using Imperial measures, like metric measures are used. You are using the inch (one unit, not two, feet and inchs) You are also removing the fraction, 6.5 feet or 6 1/2 feet. This is a good way to use Imperial measures.
Also I think most people when doing DIY, would find it best to use Imperial measures, and Imperial only measuring tapes, instruments, etc, when woking on doors fixtures etc, that have been biult in Imperial measures, and using metric only tapes, etc, on buildings, doors etc that have been built using metric measures.
I agree, also that Imperial tape measures are easier to read, than metric tape measures. Lay them side by side and one will see a big difference. On the metric tape the 1,2,3,4 6,7,8,9 mm markings and their multiples of ten, are the same length, making it hard to read. On the Imperial tape, fractions of an inch have markings of different lengths, making it easier to read. Its one of the little hurdles that the tape manufactuers have made to turn people off metric. There are others.

Example Three

I agree, that one does not need the accuracy of the small millimetre when buiding a fence But also, one does not need the accuracy of the 1/16 inch, or the 1/8 inch either.
Metric does use larger numbers than Imperial. This is because metric uses one unit, and removes decimal fractions, by moving the decimal point, and therefore moving to smaller units. For example .. 10 feet 3 inchs and 3/8 inch (thats 2 units and a fraction), although it could be 123 inchs and 3/8 inch, is equal to 3140 mm, (one unit and no fraction). However, I would have to disagree with you, that allthough metric uses larger numbers, it is easier to use for calculations, because it uses one unit and no fraction. Especially when measureing for area, floor area for example.

Example Four

I will pull out my tape measure and measure the height, depth and width using inches, because again it is quicker to locate on the ruler.
As stated above, Imperial tape measures are easier to read, than metric tape measures. But I would also suggest, that you are more used to using the Imperial tape. I use a metric only tape (hybrid tapes are awkward to use) that has millimetres, because I’m used to it.
What measures one is used to, will almost always, be the measures one will use. Other measures are difficult to understand and use.

As a cabinet maker you may be interested in this link. Its from the US, but could equally apply in the UK.


Stimpy says:
9 May 2013

Handy post there and you are right about simple word names. Note that songs that include measures use imperial (even ‘foreign’ ones). I can think of one that opposes that assumption – “Freestlyer (rock the microphone)” a (dutch?) dance band called Bomfunk MCs.:-

“Styles, steelos, we bring many kilos”

You may have an idea of wtf they’re talking about.

BTW – the kilo(gramme) is the metric/SI unit of mass – NOT the gramme! The ever decreasing kilo prototype sits in France somewhere.

Peter Hargreaves says:
9 May 2013

My comments wavechange were not directed at you, but I felt that the tone of some comments shows that people are really stressed out about using imperial measurements. I have never thought that people could get so passionate about numbers. I have pursued various different hobbies, sports and met many people from different backgrounds and professions. From engineers, craftsman, gardener’s and the hospitality trade to name a few. None of them are really bothered about which measurement they use, which is why I find the blinkered approach of the UK Metric Association hard to fathom (or should I use the word metre here). I prefer to highlight on this website the positive side of using both metric and imperial by giving examples. These are related from my own experience in working with various trades. The carpentry points I raised earlier are not just from my own handiwork, but also from speaking to carpenters and retailers.
Perhaps a better way to highlight the advantages of using two measurements would be to use the paper industry as a clearer example. Most people over forty will remember that foolscap folio paper was 8 by 13 inches. But I wonder how many will know what size an A4 sheet of paper is. If you do, then you can calculate the complete range of the A series of metric paper sizes. By folding the sheet in half or adding by two, you have got all your sizes from AO (one square metre) right down to A10. A wonderfully simple system with short easy to remember reference numbers and letters. This system is universally accepted as the standard worldwide, (except the United States) by the domestic home users and the print and publishing industries. I don’t think anyone will miss the complex structure and names of the old imperial system. However where the metric system wins on printed papers, it fails in the photographic paper industry. On this the imperial measurement system has the upper hand.

Look at the two following examples:

6 x 4 7 x 5 8 x 6

152mm x 102mm 178mm x 127mm 203mm x 152mm

Even a class of five year olds will find the imperial system much easier here. Too many syllables to pronounce and too many figures. To add further to the problem of using metric, these sizes can sometimes be quoted in centremetres.
I have discussed this with professional photographers and retailers and they and their customers demand imperial. Even in Australia where they were supposed to have completed metrication in 1988, they still use imperial measurements for photographic prints and frames. Since when has this system held the photographic industry back? It is certainly not unneeded, unwanted, or backward. Good reasons, why you will find it hard to purchase a metric only tape measure or ruler. People actually want the choice. Incidentally corrugated box sizes are also generally referred to in imperial size for the very same reasons as stated above. Finally for those who have forgotten A4 size is 297mm by 210mm.

I am very familiar with the paper sizes you mention, Peter, having produced artwork at every size from A6 to A0. In fact I have offered to go in to the university where I used to work to help a former colleague who is struggling with an A0 roll printer. It is a brilliant system for paper sizes and that more than makes up for having the most commonly used size of 297 x 210 mm.

The main consideration when buying photographic paper (paper for printing photos is more common these days) is to choose a 4:3 or 2:1 aspect ratio, to match the camera settings. Maybe there is scope to use coding, like the A series of paper sizes.

Stimpy says:
11 May 2013

Here’s an example of ‘measurement redundancy’. You could measure paper as whatever by whatever.
Interestingly – in the UK A4 (etc) sometimes comes by ‘mm’ in the labelling.
And then go to the photo place/shop/paper aisle and it’s 4 by 6 or 5 by 3 (or whatever, these days pictures are mostly what fills the monitor screens, probably unfortunately).

I can cope fine with paper sizes in millimetres, even if they look a bit odd.

Have you had a look at boxes of drill bits? Metric ones are often 1 – 10 mm in 0.5 mm steps. Imperial ones have 1/4, 17/64, 9/32 and 3/8 inch sizes, for example. Fortunately they are nicely organised, but here the metric sizes are just so much easier to visualise.

Stimpy says:
11 May 2013


First, I am a ‘that looks about right’ DIY. So I end up with a big mixture at home – so they could be metric or imperial without knowing it. It seems to have worked so far 🙂

Your point is slightly irritating (the point, not your post). With all the (more extreme members of ) official beurocrats who talk about ‘metric NOT imperial’ yet I can’t see why they don’t allow decimal inches. 0.2 inches, 0.7 inches, 0.5 OR half an inch. It’s like “you should be using metric,metric,metric and not imperial but make sure you express inches in accurate fractions thereof’

Don’t you just love officialdom in Britain?

Another non measure specific officialdom. First – the EU are adding more and more to our MOT rules as if there’s one unelected person getting bored in euroland hq and passes his day dreaming up daft ideas (check out with your local frustrated MOT person).

My car failed becausethe passenger side wiper wasn’t very good and the battery had to have a construction to sit on the battery (EU requirement).

But…… I had a propshaft which did not sit properly (due to age). He was VERY concerned and told me the results of the propshaft becoming free while driving – he almost didn’t want me to drive away!! And guess what? This bit PASSED the MOT.

(I got it fixed btw)

Sorry for the OT twist


There are plenty of imperial rulers that have subdivisions of a tenth of an inch. I agree that this is to be preferred – though a poor substitute for centimetres and millimetres.

In the 1970s, integrated circuits became a popular way of replacing numerous individual components. I remember being very disappointed that these new-fangled dual-in-line packages had imperial pin spacings, with 0.1 inch between pins and 0.3 inch between rows. In these days I made my own circuit boards, designing the layout on graph paper. It was easy to get metric graph paper but imperial graph paper was very difficult to get hold of. I remember thinking how stupid someone must have been to even think of using imperial units. I’m out of touch but I think integrated circuit design has moved on.

I’m afraid that I won’t agree with you about the MOT rules being daft.

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

Re MOT – I was highlighting that a battery top failed while a extremely important part of the car – mechanically – was v. dangerous BUT PASSED. I won’t say lethal but the flaying propshaft would have made mincemeat of the back of the car as all the power would go through the diff and off to the broken part. 145 horses ripping my car boot to bets. Actually, at 70 mph it might have endangered people as the car would lose all power while all the acrobatics at the back was going on. My ‘onward’ point is that 1) I prefer our government and authorities to choose laws and 2) There seems to be a new rule every week. In fact I believe that one new law has come in during this forum. I’m not positive but I believe a new MOT failure is if your car amber coloured ‘engine management’ light comes on. BTW – just a quick ‘did you know’…. amber warnings are ‘do something about this’ whereas red warnings mean stop the vehicle.

Previous point:
I believe they attempted a whole decimisation of imperial during Queen Vic’a time – something like 10 inches in a foot etc. I’ve seen a document but nothing (obv) happened.

Naturally I disagree with your sentiment but you’d expect that.

Talking about circuit boards and chips and all the new stuff in the 70’s. I remembered having to work in binary or hex in the late 80’s. That was ‘fun’.

I agree that a car should fail the MOT if the tester finds anything dangerous, even if this is not itemised on their list of points to check. Maybe if people stopped complaining about the current test being full of daft ideas we could do this. There are Conversations about the MOT if you want to continue the discussion.

Decimalisation of the foot would not help bring us in line with the countries we trade with.

wavechange, let’s not lose sight of the fact that from a trading / manufacturing standpoint this country is metric, and has been for a long time. The issues mainly relate to residual imperial measures that some either use personally, or linger on such as miles and pints. We should be able to tolerate those without assuming the UK is destined for the scrap heap.

The original topic was whether schools should make pupils aware of imperial – we seem not to know whether this is a real issue or not. I would rather policy proposals were put in front of the public for debate first, and withdrawn or modified as a result, than decided irrevocably behind closed doors. Perhaps Which could confirm the current status of this proposal?

I think that it would be great help if more people were to use metric measurements in their everyday life. It is working for me and in conversation I now only use imperial measurements if someone is confused. That has happened only twice in the last three months, and on one occasion it was just because someone had not picked up what I was saying. We may be officially using the metric system, but it is unhelpful if people go into shops and refer to imperial sizes.

I agree it would be good to get back to discussing education, and I have also asked for an update earlier on this page. It is disappointing that we have not had a lot more input from those in education.

Malcolm – I forgot to say that I agree that the public should have the opportunity to make an input before decisions concerning education are made.

wavechange, thought I’d email the Dept for Education to see what the current position is. They aim to respond within 15 working days (is such speed consistent with the government’s case for HS2?)

That’s a lot more use than all of us sitting here speculating, Malcolm. 🙂

My guess is that Mr Gove has shelved his plans.

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

My point was borne from a chap who recently wanted to buy a different car off me. His reasons were ‘at least I know it’s completely safe’.

And yes – decimalised ft are not comparable – I just thought I’d add a ‘did you know’ into the mix by digging out this oddity

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

@MR – What about all those lovely 60″ plasmas?! 😉

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

@wg – this is close to forcing other to conform. Think about John Cleese shouting loudly, in English, to a German person to get what I mean. Let’ get our act together before we pretend to engineer other people’s lives as some political monoliths do.

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

Re- printing pictures – there is also DPI (dots per inch).
I think this is used to compare quality.
Reasonably I cannot imagine someone working out when their cartridge life left by how much text would mean how many dpi !!! 🙂

Even a retailer like Marks and Spencer is confused as to whither they use imperial or metric measurements. Their website shows trouser lengths in imperial but I had to recently email an inquiry to them on the length of cropped jeans and they replied in metric. I had to get out my tape measure to understand the length.

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

@Figgerty – This is what I call an example of companies “pretending we’re all metric now”. I once heard – then rewound (sky) heard – then rewound to hear that large bottomed Nigella lawson talk about cutting something into 2.54 cm squares. *THAT’S* when it gets embarrassing

Stimpy says:
12 May 2013

You may be horrified to know that this post has niggled me all day (when I found myself thinking about it). Bizarre eh?

Anyway – I think the treatment you got from M&S was putting petty beurocracy above customer care (does that still exist?).

Anyhow – I’m going to write to them “on your behalf”. I use quotes because the moan is from me at the end of the day. I thought M&S was one of the trusted quality places.

Which makes you a toff 😉

I have not bought anything from the M&S website but their shops have labelled trousers in metric and imperial units for many years. I don’t understand the comment about bureaucracy.

Stimpy says:
14 May 2013

I always find that strange that M&S insist on using metric where personal remembered sizes are as imperial as the answer to how tall are you.

Real story – I went to Germany some years ago – it was Cologne (Koln to be precise) and I bought a pair of Armani jeans as 1) They were unbelievably cheap and 2) It p*ssed my mate off because *has* to wear the best labels. He’s 6’6 thus no stock. When they measured me up a very smart but terribly effeminate chap used the tape measure in ‘zoll’. You’ve probably guessed – tat’s “Inch”

Peter Hargreaves says:
12 May 2013

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
“The main consideration when buying photographic paper (paper for printing photos is more common these days) is to choose a 4:3 or 2:1 aspect ratio, to match the camera settings. Maybe there is scope to use coding, like the A series of paper sizes”.

You have a point here and it is something that has crossed my mind. But the problem becomes more complex when you start doing oval apertures for mounts. Here I use inches again, but instead of a two-inch difference between the long and short edge, I allow a one-inch difference to give that oval effect. I think what you have to bear in mind, is that the complete range of A and B series of paper sizes are only fully appreciated by those in the trade. With photographic papers you are dealing with the general public, involving all generations from the old to the very young. There is no point in changing something for the sake of it. If it isn’t broken don’t meddle with it.

You also mention in brackets that paper for printing photos is more common these days. I take that to mean printing your photos at home. I did some sums on this and worked out that with the cost of paper and in particular ink jet cartridges, it was cheaper for me to take my photos into Jessops to get them professionally printed. This worked well until they went out of business.

The imperial measurement system for photographic prints works well because it offers a simple easy to understand format. A pattern that people can follow. This same principle also applies to something completely different like wooden sheds. These come in popular sizes of 6 x 4, 7 x 5 and 8 x 6 mirroring the pattern of photographic paper sizes. The only difference of course, is that we are now talking in feet.


I’ve been playing with images since Photoshop 2, around 20 years ago, though I still regard myself as a novice. As far as I can remember, I’ve always worked in metric units, oval images and all. Paper may be sold in imperial sizes, but I can cope.

My next job is to print a family photo to display in a photo frame that I have been given by my nephew. I’m pleased to see that it is for a 20 x 25 cm photo and the approximate imperial equivalent is relegated to being given in parentheses.

I don’t understand why we have 7″ x 5″ paper because that does not correspond with the common 4 x 3 or 2 x 1 aspect ratios that seem to be the choice on many digital cameras.

Stimpy says:
13 May 2013


Most – if not all – photo shops (N.B. one would have thought they might be obsolete since colour printers are so cheap that it’s more expensive to run out of ink!) show the imperial size. Some packs show metric alongside or in brackets. It doesn’t matter much as you can measure it yourself with whatever side of the ruler you choose.

Anyhow – my Q is – how much is a ‘ream’? And is it outside imperial and metric – erm – or in both…..

A ream of paper is normally 500 sheets, though Wikipedia explains alternatives. It is neither metric or imperial.

Peter Hargreaves says:
14 May 2013

Author: Peter Hargreaves
Comment: wavechange
“I’ve been playing with images since Photoshop 2, around 20 years ago, though I still regard myself as a novice. As far as I can remember, I’ve always worked in metric units, oval images and all. Paper may be sold in imperial sizes, but I can cope.
My next job is to print a family photo to display in a photo frame that I have been given by my nephew. I’m pleased to see that it is for a 20 x 25 cm photo and the approximate imperial equivalent is relegated to being given in parentheses.”

For family photographs old and new, I size these in photoshop in imperial measurements because the paper sizes are supplied by the retailers in imperial. I prefer to use oval apertures for family portraits because I think this enhances the image. When I design the oval apertures on to a mount I will produce this on my Apple Mac in illustrator using vector graphics to give me a perfect curve. This avoids the jagged edges of a pixel-based programme like photoshop. If am making a collage of photos then I will lay them out on a piece of card and send this to the art shop, who will then produce an exact replica on 1000-micron board. I could buy a machine to do this myself, but at £200 and a very steady hand, it is just not worth the effort. I tend to use imperial on the mac for photos and mounts because I prefer the simplicity of using single figures and it avoids all the multiple calculations of using six figures with millimetres. This only works well if you stick to the inch and don’t enter into fractions. All my spacing between each picture and the frame will be one inch so that everything is in proportion. I recently produced a circular image with a seven-foot diameter. As the image was a steam locomotive it was better for me to replicate this using imperial dimensions. For doing illustrations I also have in my possession a typographers scale ruler, this only comes in imperial. The traditional typographic units are based on non-metric units of the French royal inch (pouce) they did try to introduce a metric system of typographic or typesetting units, but it did not catch on.

I notice that in your example you used centimetres. I am used to working in millimetres for paper sizes. I tend to avoid centimetres if I can. I have over the years used the following imperial and metric measurements when dealing with the printing, publishing and photographic industry.

Grammes per square metre for paper weights up to 200.
Over 200 grammes I use a micrometer and measure card by thickness in microns
The A series of printed paper sizes, B series for poster and C series for envelopes, I always use millimetres never centimetres.
Only very occasionally have nanometres come up for discussion and this is in respect of laser and scanning technology.

Typographic or Typesetting units (6 picas equal approximately 1 inch, there are 12 points to 1 pica)
Dots per inch (DPI) to measure the output resolution of a printer
Lines per inch (LPI) to measure print resolution for halftone images
Pixels per inch (to measure pixels per inch in your image)
Photographic paper sizes
Photograph apertures, mounts and frames
Corrugated boxes

I am sure that I have probably forgotten a few others here. But getting back to the core subject of this debate, this is another important reason why children at school should have a basic understanding of the imperial system.


I started using Aldus Freehand, a vector drawing program, on my Mac Classic II (with a b/w screen smaller than an iPad) and now use Illustrator. I do like scaleable graphics and small file sizes.

I’m familiar with the items in your ‘imperial’ list, with the exception of corrugated boxes. There are other examples, such as pixels per inch. I’m familiar with the terms and the history, but give them little thought. I don’t mind whether lengths are quoted in mm or cm because I’ve spent many years teaching people that you must always give units when quoting numbers. In the example I quoted, the size of the photo frame is given in cm. It irritates that a local chap who produces banners for me gives prices for 6 ft x 2 ft, etc., but the price is good and his little workshop is just up the road. InDesign would handle inches and decimal inches, but I do conversions and work in millimetres. The rulers in Microsoft Word are set to display in centimetres – millimetres would not be practical for this purpose.

As I have said before, it would be more useful for kids to learn about the imperial system than Greek mythology, but in both cases you can look up what you need to know.

I’ve been working in metric since I was a schoolkid and I’m now over 60. I’m sorry, but you are not going to convince me to see much value in the imperial system in the 21st century.

Seares says:
14 May 2013

Metric should be the bedrock of any education curriculum with other oddities picked up on a ‘Need to know’ basis later. For example: hands (for horses), fathoms (for seafarers), light-years (for astronomers), horsepower (for vintage car enthusiasts), cups and spoons (for American recipes) poles, rods, yards, acres (for history researchers) and so on. Only a masochist would choose to learn all these oddities at school.

Stimpy says:
15 May 2013

You’re half there (IMO).
hands are important (not for me personally) for those who have an interest in horses.
horsepower – I suspect you’re not a keen car enthusiast? Look at the mags that cover all things ‘car’. Most will have HP, other PS (German translation for horse power although their horses are slightly more powerful that ours! I preferred ‘BHP’ as you knew it was from a dyno from the Wheels

Second BUT….
I wash’t aware that light years was imperial
cups ‘n’ spoons – yep, thats the Americans (although it rids the usuage of imp v met.
Poles and rods (and chains) should be skimmed into class room as a ‘did you know’. Cricket players use all three.
Yards – go for a drive
Acres – go for a drive and note the measures used in advertising land (I believe that acres are more rounded and fits into a farm ‘square’ (that you see when you are landing in the uK.

The use of metric instead of acres just makes me laugh (think about it, think about it)!!

The metric conversion of hand is very simple – as a first approximation, 10 hands equal one metre. (Actually it is 102 cm).

Please explain where rods and poles are used in cricket – they certainly do not appear in the “laws of cricket”. I agree that the distance between the stumps is one chain.

Seares says:
15 May 2013

Exactly! Learn these oddities as and when you need them. But not by being taught them at school (with the inevitable examinations)

In our information age, it is not even necessary to learn things unless they are needed regularly.

I have never bothered to learn A0 and A1 paper sizes because I don’t use them regularly. When I need to print a poster I look them up or calculate them from the size of A4 paper – which I use regularly and remember the dimensions.

What everyone needs to learn is that the metric system usually makes our lives very much easier.

Stimpy says:
16 May 2013

I thought they used rods & poles – pls accept my apology if I’m wrong – I thought it was something to do with the 35 yard line or one of the distances to do with that.

Most people won’t know after the 6th jug of Pimms anyway.

Stimpy says:
16 May 2013

This is why I ‘approve’ (as if I had the power!!) of the idea of ‘teaching measurements that are imperial and are common use today’.

The fancier measures could be a ‘did you know?’ style teaching

Stimpy says:
16 May 2013

You make a valid point – you ‘know” what A4 is. It’s just…just…well ‘normal’ as in a normal sheet of paper. fold it to make A5 then fold again for A6. Don’t fold 7 times though because it’s impossible.

Units – within daily life – become and ARE our language.

“Mine returns 50 mpg” – no one is going to drive out 50 miles and look at a gallon to see how it is. We know 50 is good, 60 better. We also know that supercars could be below 15mpg

Here’s another one – your tyres. Almost ALWAYS shown as PSI. Go to a petrol station and unless they have the analogue measure on the screen you’ll find anything but PSI missing. It’s just how it is.

I remember one day a lady came to me for some help at the Esso (or BP?) in Beaconsfield. She said she wanted to make sure her tyres were ok but her data only referred to bars (bars of what? gold? I I digress).

I told her that (from my Father’s company in the 80’s 90’s that dealt with mechanics) the majority was about 26 psi – so this is what I told her. She was very thankful to me (and now I know there’s a place in heaven for me ====WAIT=== not yet please)

Her car was a VW.

This swing back to petrol and prices – not – litres.
“I filled up from empty and it cost £20”. Your reaction?
“I filled up from empty and it cost £120”. Your reaction?

Numbers. They mean so much more than the units used when use in context.

Right – moving on.
I have a 50″ Pioneer plasma. It was the best of it’s kind but won’t do 3D. Any offers?!?! 😉

My car (also a VW) shows tyre pressures in bars, conveniently under the fuel filler cover. The SI unit of pressure is the Pascal and a bar is around 101 kPa. Incidentally, tyre pressures should be checked when cold, so doing the job at a garage is not good practice.

Since Easter, my (diesel) car is averaging 4.7 litres per 100 km.

Many people dont see the advantage of measureing fuel efficiency by recording ..fuel used/set distance traveled ..compared to.. distance travelled/set fuel quanity.
Fuel consumption ..is litres consumed/100 km travelled,.. or.. gallons consumed per 100 miles travelled.
Fuel economy ..is km travelled/litre ..or.. miles travelled per gallon.
The problem with using the fuel economy equation is that it in an inverse equation. The fuel consumption equation is not inverse.
However the metric litres/100km is not used by many, because speedometers (the odometer) only record in miles.

wavechange,your new car? After how many miles is that.
My Espace does between 36 and 42mpg. Its tyre size ( currently Continental) is 225/55 R17 – that is 225mm wide with a tyre wall 55% of the tyre width, for a 17 inch wheel, . I still have an old Espace with the temperature gauge (for outside) in Farenheit. What can I say.

6736 miles (10,840 km) and it’s 10 months old.

Stimpy says:
17 May 2013

@wc –
The point is – I found it odd that one firm does this. Next time you you go to Esso or whatever – check if they have digital air pressure machines.

You are indeed correct about tyre temps (I used to be in the tyre service industry – a ‘family thing’, so I’m not patronising you).

If your petrol st is less than 2 miles away then pressure checks will be ok (based upon not doing 0-60 timing repeatedly all the way there).
So your point would be best ‘exampled’ in regards to motorway SStations. Underinflating is massively more dangerous than over inflating – checking you tyres on the M/way could lead to you letting air out of your tyres!

I’ve got a gadget that tells me the tyre’s PSI (default) and temp in C (default). It is quite remarkable how the heat goes up. I wish everyone had this device – it could save your life.

Stimpy says:
17 May 2013

@wjg – another fine post and handy guide.

I like to visualise a gallon (a green 5 L container if you wish) and seeing how much travel you’d get.
If the computer says 1gal on the readout then I try to stay at 50mph and know that I have 20 miles till badness.
Ok ok – I know that 1) it’s not that accurate and 2) they leave some spare EVEN IF the screen says 1 gal)

Stimpy says:
17 May 2013

You picked up a very good example of one thing using both systems. Wheels are imperial though – like 6j 15. I’ve never worked out why a ‘j’ is put there.

Also – BMW’s (used to?) let you choose between F and C for outside temp but that then changed the distances to km etc – you could not choose (maybe they do now).

Incidentally – in the US and UK PSI is used….in Europe the l/100km (or whatever it is ) is used….in the far east km per litre is used.

I have a pump with an accurate digital gauge and prefer to check my tyres at home, when cold. I’ve seen the results of running a tyre (not mine) under-inflated, and it was frightening. I check my tyres weekly and even feel the tread temperature if I stop for a break in a motorway service area.

The pressure is approximately proportional to the absolute temperature (in Kelvin – an SI unit), according to the Gas Laws.

I cannot remember when I last measured tyre pressures in PSI – probably nearly 20 years ago.

Stimpy says:
17 May 2013

– that’s some dedication there, or one of those obsessional wotsits

You avoid station tyre air machines.
Trust me – if it’s a digital one it will be PSI down to 0.5
If it’s one where you hold a unit prior to the tyre valve then it will have a window on the ‘gun’ – it has all the foreign stuff you refer to.

To cap it all – the MICHELIN tyre metal poster with every known car on it shows PSI only and that’s a FRENCH company.

I don’t like ‘bar’. Not granular enough.

You’ll find that PSI is quite a handy unit and is used in more places than you’d ever think.

I drove one of my cars with a rear tyre at 8 — yes EIGHT — PSI. It’s a tiny Riley Elf so with 10″ tyres you might not notice but I was horrified at first.

Another thing regarding tyres (sorry that this has flipped off the topic but it is still straining to be with imperial teachings etc)
Aquaplaning – or Waterplaning,
With wife + 3 y/o plus me using a hire car (an extremely boring Chrysler Spark) we turned to go down a long straight road. Then the heavens opened and water came down like a tap in the bath.
I felt a twitch on the steering (that would have been the tyre finding tarmac as we did not know we were aquaplaning) – I took my foot of the accelerator (we were only doing 30mph). Then all hell broke loose. My gentle use of the brake caught another tyre purchasing tarmac (the road – although looking straight for more than a mile – had rises (gentle – not like a speed hump).
Whilst spinning I was trying to find a crash point for the car as it was leaving tarmac, Then the worst happened – it span to 90-degree – hit a minor bump – and it rolled around it’s axis – it flipped in the air once.

I was thinking ‘Why wont this end! Why wont this end!’ and bad thoughts about how long it was going for and the probability of fatality. The noise was sickening. It ended up on its side with me at the bottom. My adrenalin based first instinct was to reach round (with an arm that had been twisted) and see if little one was safe. The crying was ‘good’ if you get me but than I was horrified as I saw blood over his t-short. I was then relieved that the blood was mine. My wife managed to get on the left hand side of the car by pulling trough the ‘missing’ window – we got the little-un up that way. i was helped out by being pulled through a gap. My arm and hand were cut due to me fighting the steering wheel and then sliding sideways. I wish I took pictures for proof/reason etc. I forgot to check the tyre depth. I won’t forget again. But it’s a phenomenon- once you’re aqua-planing there’s not much left to do – it’s worse than ice (at least you can pick out safer areas with snow).

This all happened on Monday and as tyre safety was getting a grilling I thought I’d warn readers of this sort of thing. We were driving slow. The safest thing we could (/should?) have done was to pull over (good old retrospect ! If only I’d …, I could have…, etc).

My leg and ankle are almost back to normal (the cuts will sort themselves out). It was annoying that airbags didn’t deploy.

Anyway – I thought it would be mildly entertaining to say it and mildly on/off topic