How to Measure Beads

Written by morgan owens
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How to Measure Beads
(Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Beads are measured using a specially designed tool called a sliding bead gauge. This tool is a type of caliper rule. A caliper rule is a measuring device which consists of a pair of jaws and a ruler. The top jaw is fixed, and the lower jaw slides down the length of the ruler. The jaws can be opened and then clamped lightly onto a bead to accurately measure its size. Beads are typically measured in millimetres, although many bead gauges provide measurements in both millimetres and inches. Bead gauges can be purchased at most craft stores or online.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Sliding bead gauge

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  1. 1

    Loosen the screw or press down on the button on the side of the gauge to open the jaws.

  2. 2

    Place the bead inside the jaws, with the side of the bead touching the stationary jaw. The "side" of the bead refers to the portion of the bead with the hole.

  3. 3

    Tighten the lower jaw until it is lightly clamped on the other side of the bead.

  4. 4

    Read the number displayed on the ruler portion of the gauge where it meets the flat portion of the lower jaw.

Tips and warnings

  • “Seed beads” or small beads are often measured in terms of the number of beads that can fit on a given length (usually one inch) of string. This is referred to as ought size and is written as “number/0” (i.e. 12/0). There is an inverse correlation between ought number and bead size: The larger the ought size number, the smaller the bead.
  • You can also lay the bead on a standard ruler to get a good idea of the approximate size of a bead.
  • If you tighten the jaws of the bead gauge too tightly around the bead, they may cause the bead to shatter.

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