Understanding Wire Gauge

Wire gauge is a measurement of the thickness of the wire. Using the system is easy, if not immediately intuitive. What you need to know is

Wire gauge gets higher as the wire thickness gets smaller

    • For example
16 gauge = 1.29mm diameter
18 gauge = 1.02mm diameter
20 gauge = 0.813mm diameter
22 gauge = 0.643mm diameter


    • In other words, the thinner the wire is, the higher the gauge will be.
    • Or, the thicker the wire is, the lower the gauge will be.

Wire gauge can be measured using two different systems

    • American Wire Gauge (AWG) and Standard Wire Gauge(SWG) are the two different standards for measuring wire thickness
    • AWG is used exclusively in my store unless otherwise stated
    • SWG is common in chainmaille instructions and used in Canada as well as some other formerly British countries.
    • I use AWG because UnkamenSupplies is an American company.  I also find that although it does not match up perfectly with metric scaling, it is often closer than SWG.

Wire gauges are not always exactly what they’re supposed to be

    • Trust me on this.  Like I’ve told you before, I love my calipers and they are rarely far from hand.  One of the main reasons I do not use aspect ratio in my store is that imperfect wire gauges can throw wrenches into your calculations.

The most common wire gauges for jewelry & chainmaille are between 14 gauge and 22 gauge

    • Chainmaille most commonly uses 16, 18, or 20 gauge wire.  22 gauge and higher are often used for wire wrappping.  Gauges smaller than 14 (remember, smaller means thicker) are commonly used for applications where strength is more important than fine details.


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