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3 Interesting Tidbits From the History of Fixed Limit Thread Gages

If you have used thread gages for decades in your daily work, you know that these simple objects offer a quick and easy way to test inside major diameter, outside major diameter, and pitch diameter limits on threaded parts. But you may not know the facts about these gages listed below. Read on to discover some cool-to-know tidbits about these valuable tools.

1. What's the Difference Between "Gage" and "Gauge"?

Thread gages (and many other types of gages) typically use the g-a-g-e spelling, but for most English speakers and writers, g-a-u-g-e is the more common spelling. Why the discrepancy?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, both spellings of gage were widely used in the 1400s. At that time, English spelling had not been standardized by dictionaries and linguists as it has today. People used both "gage" and "gauge" to mean the same thing. (And, of course, when they spoke, spelling didn't matter.)

By the late 1800s, "gauge" became the preferred spelling in common usage for the word that means an instrument or standard for measuring. However, the "gage" spelling remains common in more technical fields, such as manufacturing and engineering. Thus, thread gages still use the spelling without the "u"-and likely will for the foreseeable future.

2. When Did Thread Gages First Appear?

It's almost impossible to pinpoint a specific date in history when thread gages (and other types of fixed limit gages) were invented. Rather, they came to exist as a logical necessity during the Industrial Revolution.

In the USA, the story begins with Eli Whitney, the inventor known for creating the cotton gin. In 1801, he built 10 guns that all used the exact same size and shape of parts. He took them apart and put them back together in front of Congress to demonstrate the practical value of interchangeable parts.

In truth, Whitney wasn't the first to show that interchangeable parts could save governments money on guns. A French man named Honore Blanc had performed a similar demonstration a few decades earlier. Also, Whitney's gun were actually handmade, rather than made by machines and tested with gages for conformity to a specific size standard.

Still, Whitney's demonstration popularized the idea of creating parts to fit standard sizes. In the ensuing decades, engineers and inventors created methods for building clocks, sewing machines, steam engines, typewriters, guns, cars, and many other products with interchangeable parts. This development allowed goods to be produced faster and cheaper.

Thread gages are one method manufacturers use to determine that parts are interchangeable, or, more precisely, manufactured to reliable and exacting standards. Thread gages test whether internal or external threads meet the requirements for a specific part that serves a specialized purpose.

3. What Makes Thread Gages So Important Today?

Today's thread gages can test threaded parts to within very precise accuracy limits. For many industries, these parts must meet those exacting standards so the machines that use them can operate safely.

For example, many car components are held together with nuts, screws, and bolts, as are airplanes. Those vehicles transport people and goods over long distances. If the individual parts of those vehicles don't meet exact standards, they may not operate correctly or even arrive at their destinations. Manufacturers use thread gages (and other fixed limit gages) to test various parts to ensure they make reliable, safe vehicles.

Of course, thread gages have advantages beyond their ability to prevent crashes and machine malfunction. They also offer upfront cost-saving benefits to the manufacturer for the following reasons:

  • Thread gages are portable, so you can move them from place to place easily for testing purposes.
  • Thread gages are certified to meet industry standards.
  • Thread gages cost less per tested piece than any other testing method.
  • Thread gages are made from wear-resistant materials like carbide, steel, and chrome, so they will last and not require replacement very often.

If you need high-quality thread gages, talk to our team at WESTport Corp. We serve clients worldwide who rely on precision measuring instruments.

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