Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

WHY IS 20 GAUGE IS THINNER THAN 16 GAUGE?

March 22nd, 2022 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter

It’s confusing to many people that steel cable, rod and sheet stock are measured using a system that appears counter-intuitive. As conventional measurements increase in number, so does weight and thickness, right? In fact, not right! The thickness of metal cable, rod and sheet stock is often measured in gauge, and gauge refers back to a system in which the physical properties actually decrease as the rating number increases. It’s uncommon knowledge!

Few people know why the thickness of steel diminishes as the gauge increases (ie: 16 gauge steel is thicker than 20 gauge steel). The explanation comes from the early development of a steel gauge measurement system in which the control measurement was based on a 1? thick steel plate. The 1? thickness of the steel was measured in diminishing fractions such as 1/14? thick, 1/16? thick, 1/20? thick, and so on. The bottom number of the fraction became an easy identifier and eventually was adopted as the “gauge number.” Thus, 1/16? became 16 gauge and the thinner 1/20? became 20 gauge. The concept makes sense but without explanation, the converse number is often confusing. By taking the gauge number and returning it back to a fractional format, one can discover the actual nominal thickness dimension, in inches, of sheet steel.

Skolnik Industries manufacturers steel drums from 16, 18 and 20 gauge steel. Check out the online steel drum product catalog.

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