Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canna hand a man a better spanna

I have been following an ongoing discussion in a group with interest. The subject started innocently enough, as they do, about a metric to imperial measurement conversion. The dialogue became a little heated at times and critical of US and UK and old people who want to live in the past.

The UK and the US have not forced people to switch to metric. Australia was forced. Imperial became illegal. While you can now buy a ruler with both measurements, for a long time you could only buy a metric ruler. I really think being forced was the best option, even though it was very difficult for older people and perhaps manufacturers at the time.

Like, aren't units of ten so much easier to work with?

I am bi when it comes to many measurements. I can do both. Well, maybe not. I pick and choose.

The measurement of eight inches is very meaningful to gay men, but I readily recognise that 20cm is just as good. But be it 8" or 20cm, the measurement is usually taken with a wrongly calibrated measuring instrument. That can be the only explanation for the invariable inaccuracies.

Stones, pounds and ounces are meaningless to me. I can still do miles, but I don't think in miles. I have nearly forgotten gallons, pints, quarts and fluid ounces. My mind works in litres and millilitres.

I have gone backwards with tyre pressure. I have reverted to psi because that is what all the modern garage tyre gauges indicate. I did know that tyres needed to be inflated to at least 200........200 what? Hectopascals?

I can perhaps visualise one foot better than its metric equivalent, but then a metre is more meaningful to me than a yard. I do a reverse calculation. Ok, a yard is a bit less than a metre.

As for calories or kilojoules, I have no idea about either except that I think I take in too much of them.

On the backs of school exercise books when I was using them, there were some measurement charts. No, not imperial to metric, but to convert chains to miles or furlongs or nautical miles and other such conversions. I can only recall chains, 22 feet to the chain. I expect I only know this because I was interested when I heard of the great three chain wide Dandenong Road.

While they don't so much now, oh what trouble spanners caused me when I had stuff to do with autos. We had Whitworth spanners, A/F, no idea what that stood for but it seemed to be Australian, and some foreign loving types had cars that used metric. My Humber car was Whitworth sized.

I have a full set of A/F spanners and metric spanners and a couple of Whitworth spanners. They were all different. I can only recall that you could get away with interchanging an A/F 1/2 inch with a 13mm spanner, so long as you did not need a tight fit.

I won't even go down the road of nut and bolt thread sizes, US or Europe sizing for shoes, how clothing size has altered. What an absolute mess and after reading the internet discussion I mentioned earlier, it so much worse than you can possibly imagine. World wide differences are a serious restriction on trade and a huge impost on business.

My time for becoming ruler of the world has passed, but if I was, I would fully impose the metric system on the world. Australia does not get off scot free. We will ditch millimetres and millilitres in general use and use centimetres and centilitres to the first decimal place, unless a greater accuracy is needed.

As for the spanner problem, let us bless whoever invented the shifting spanner.

Later edit: Daniel also found the same discussion on the same group interesting.


  1. That tool on the left (Vicegrips) is the best you can have, especially if you've rounded a nut. It's versatile: plier and spanner combined.
    'Footprints' (funny name, a plumbers tool) are handy as well, but they don't lock.

  2. Oh my goodness: towbars, and now spanners.

    What a butch site this is!

  3. Cant ever see America changing, to change would get called a socialist plot or something like that

  4. LOL
    I'm with you and Daniel - I was brought up metric in school but imperial at home so I can be bi with measurements :P
    As for 20 cm...isn't it measured like a cats tail....?

  5. "The UK and the US have not forced people to switch to metric."

    Actually, it became law in Britain some years ago for shop keepers, craftsmen etc. not to advertise/weigh/measure etc. in imperial, but to use metric instead under threat of gaol/fines et al. Regardless of this, imperial persists, probably because the police, to be honest, have better things to do than go round arresting shopkeepers for displaying signs in ounces rather than grammes.

    However...I seriously wish they would convert to metric properly. It's a far more sensible system.

  6. Anonymous10:05 pm

    A new baby is ALWAYS measured in pounds and ounces, as far as I am concerned.

  7. I like vicegrips RH. Very useful. Footprints? Not what we call a Stilson?

    Yep Ian, BO has enough trouble at the moment with something very important.

    Jayne, more like the fish that got away I would have thought.

    Brian, doesn't your interest involve a lot of rods and perches?

    Judge, that is another one I have gone backwards on and I think generally many have too.

  8. No, a stilson is a long heavy wrench handy for dealing with road rage I'm told. Footprints have teeth like vicegrips and the curved jaws grip very well with hand pressure. They were essential for holding the old galvanised water pipe but are probably not so essential now as copper tubing takes over. Years ago when I worked at Mont Park Mental Hospital a hand basin blocked up and nothing was done about it. I was good friends with a patient there, Big Lance. He was a plumber and one Sunday when his mother was visiting I half-jokingly asked him if he could fix the basin and he told her to bring in a pair of footprints, but nothing came of it because he was a brain damage case (car accident) who wasn't allowed to drink and when shortly afterwards the consultant found out he was sneaking down to the pub she cancelled his weekend leave whereupon he grabbed her in a headlock and did she yell!
    They locked him up in A Ward, poor bugger: pacing the yard in Bombay Bloomers.
    Terrifying sight.

  9. I thought I knew about all tools RH, but clearly not. I remember gal pipe in a vice having thread cut but footprint has me scratching my head. Cruel I know, but re Mont Park, is that like my friend who was a 'receptionist' in a brothel?

  10. Anonymous11:28 pm

    Footprint is a brand, as is Stilson. They are both the same thing, and the only legitimate use is to unscrew/screw old imperial galvanized pipe.
    The Yanks wont convert to metric, because, well, their Yanks. The rest of the world has. And I had Imperial literally beaten into me in school, so have never forgotten it, still visualise it. But prefer to work in metric, such a better system! Especially as there were multiple imperial systems, especially in engineering, and it was a pain in the arse to have to have so many different size bloody spanners!
    BTW - because of the Yanks, we still have aeroplanes flying in feet altitude. This, in a perverse way, is good - after all, 40,000feet is high, but not nearly as high as being told its really 12km....

  11. Anonymous11:31 pm

    Sorry, vagued out and forgot to sign the previous RANT. But you probably figured out who it was anyway.

  12. Footprints and stilson wrenches are totally different tools. They look nothing like each other, except for the teeth. Stilson is more like an adjustable spanner, tending to be large, heavy and very expensive. Footprints are simpler, cheaper. They look a bit like large pliers and the jaws only close via hand pressure. They adjust up and down by means of a knurled screw through holes.
    The only illegitimate use for any tool is when you commit a crime with it. We used jemmies a lot in my day.
    I'm a bit of a collector of tools. I've got four footprints, the largest is 14 inches long (max adjustment) the smallest seven inches. With some tools it's a challenge to guess their purpose and I've had no idea. Recently I saw one that turned out to be for removing the link in bicycle chains.
    I started as a Ward Assistant at Mont Park and after one of the endless (and quite useless) staff/patient conferences was appointed "Recreation Officer".
    I was in the main ward: M/F (Male Female) 12, which was short term; patients often went home after a few weeks. The back wards were M1 to M6 (males) and F1 to F6 (females). Some never left, except to be fired off to country hospitals like Ararat. We worked 12 hour shifts of two days on, two days off. The night shift was skeletal, one bloke had been on night shift (7pm to 7 am) in M1 for about thirty years, he made up his bed on the office floor every night about 10 pm. During the day he drove a bread truck.
    There were a lot of gays on the nursing staff, disproportionate to anywhere I've ever been (except Oxford Street).

  13. If someone wants footprints to change a tap washer I won't give them a stilson, they're different things. Vice grips are best for changing tap washers anyway
    -unless you have the correct-sized spanner.
    Adjustable spanners (as pictured above) are nut-damaging things used by "butchers".
    All I've ever wanted in life is a steady job that's a good bludge. I've especially wanted it when saving up to get a rest from this stupid country by travelling overseas. That's why I got a job at Mont Park. They were so cavalier that with no medical training I sometimes interviewed newcomers by filling out a standard form ("is patient suicidal?"). I had a pass key to the main door of all the wards. This key also opened the drug room door in MF12, giving me access to everything from valium to Mogadon to Largactil. After swallowing Largactil prolonged exposure to sunlight turns your skin purple, some of the nurses for a lark would take it then lie on the beach all afternoon. The nursing staff at Mont Park Mental Hospital were the worst thieves I've ever known in my life, going out the back door with huge slabs of butter and multiple loaves of bread. One of the rotating charge nurses in MF12 was a lesbian, allowing gays coming to work with a hangover to sleep it off in the ECT room. Fair enough, but why should non gays have to sign on and creep off to sleep in the shrubbery? Equal rights, that's what I say.

  14. Did guess it was you Michael. So they are just different brands of the same tool. Twelve km up sounds better to me. Gives the pilot more time to glide when the engines fail.

    RH, I don't think I have ever seen this Footprint tool. I can't visualise it all. Just as well Mont Park was closed then. Used to be a spur railway line go there.

  15. They are NOT different brands of the same tool for Christ's sake, they are DIFFERENT TOOLS!

  16. Google "footprint tools reece plumbing". Then click on "footprint plumbing tools". There's photos of them in a range of sizes.

  17. Got it now. I have not seen it before, but I recall something similar that had a slide handle with holes for pins to adjust. Gee, my father has been dead ten years and finally I have a question to ask him if he was still around.

  18. They're called adjustable pliers, I've got a pair and just went to look but can't find them, haven't used them in a long time. They're handy but fiddly, sliding out of adjustment sometimes. Footprints have a knurled screw that you turn to lock into threaded holes.
    I've got a question for my dad too.

  19. Anonymous10:09 pm

    Wow, shot down in flames on that one - sorry - for years, when I was working using these tools, Footprint was the same TYPE of tool as a Stilson, and used for the same purpose. It even had Footprint cast into it. The pliers you describe, as per Google, - seen them before, used them, no idea they were called Stilsons. Not a good tool - had a nasty habit of suddenly slipping and crushing your fingers.
    But the FootPrint Pipe Wrench - now, that was ripper tool! Did only one thing, but did it well. The only tool you could operate properly with your feet.
    And I guess this comes from having actually DONE this sort of work, where I was told they were Footprints and Stilsons. Thats what I was told it was called, and I used it. I guess lack of theoretical background could be construed as a sign of ignorance. ...... no doubt there is now a university degree on this subject.... (HECS applicable of course)

    PS - you use tube spanners to remove taps - anyone wanna argue about it? The shifting spanner, AKA "American Screwdriver" is used only when you dont have the right size spanner. Generations of British bike owners used them exclusively as their main, or indeed, only tool. Consequently, ANY British bike you buy has been through 20 of these owners, and thus every nut is rounded, every thread will be stripped. And, since their usually some weird variant of an imperial standard (sometimes, they even put 2 or 3 different types in there!..for Fun!)its a pain to get the right tools. (Witworth was common I remember - but could be wrong)

    PPS Vice grips are a GOOD tool, come in endless shapes and functions. The serrated jaws, while providing a good grip, can mark or damage a surface. (Not good on old bike ignition coil(s) cam lobes)An old trick is to cut up a tin can, make strips to go between the jaws and the (chronically) stuck object.

    PPPS - is this going to turn into a "give the Yanks heaps" type of discussion, or can I go back to being relaxed and comfortable... (Yes, I do arc up sometimes, sorry. Its the Bogan in me....)

  20. Michael, it seems to me that more than one tool is branded Footprint. Indeed you should use tube spanners for taps. Sometimes essential when they are behind tiles. I do avoid using shifters where I can and if I do, I make sure I get them tightly done up. I damaged a tab cover with vice grips. I had protective cloth but it slipped. I think we leave it there :)

  21. No one gets shot down in flames; we just get things atraightened out. I realise there's specialised tools but not everyone has them so you need to improvise or pay some expensive tradesman, many of whom are downright crooks. You'll do no harm even using a shifter if you're careful, and patient. What I like about modern life is the freedom of information, anyone who doesn't know how to change a tap washer can go to Bunnings and get shown.

  22. I comment under only one condition: to be honest.

  23. Anonymous4:54 pm

    "Stillsons" with two L's .. not a brand as suggested, but named after the inventor.
    As for imperial vs metric measures, anyone within construction or manufacturing industry not involved with dresses will be taunted for using centimetres. That's an old one which new recruits learn very quickly.
    There's really no problem with using both systems. The only problems arise from people a bit hard of thinking. I use both on a daily basis, and under various standards(EN,BS,ISO,ABSME,ANSI,AS,SAE,JASO)and have no problem. To suggest forcing metric only measures on Australia would be detrimental. There's enough confusion and mistakes made in the steel industry with the changeover between two metric systems(EN,ISO) without adding more confusion with soft conversions. The metric systems(plural) are not quite the 'be all end all'which the average joe believes it to be. Hard conversions are an impossibility unless we ban the import of all American made auto, mining/earthmoving, ag and processing equipment and even then the current machinery in Oz will be doomed to rot without the necessary imperial sized parts and materials needed to keep it running. Basically it will force Australia to grind to a halt. This is why the ridiculously conceived 'metric only' laws were repealed.
    The reason both systems still exist within Australia is NOT because of old timers who resist change, it's because it is necessary.

  24. Thanks for the info. It sounds like a nightmare. Yes, I see you point. As long as you are matching things up correctly, things should work. We will have to wait for a few countries to change before there can really be consistency. Probably not in my life time.