Welcome to another post in the series by Nick Locke, of Nicab Ltd, who has over 15 years experience in the electronics manufacturing industry specialising in interconnection cable assembly.This week’s blog post is all about trying to make sense of the conversion between American Wire Gauge (AWG) and our beloved metric system.

We still live in an engineering environment where the use of AWG standard cables are prevalent mainly due to the fact that just like the US $, the American UL (United Laboratories) system is dominant world wide and generally more accepted globally than the British standards.

(UL is a bit like our BS standard but is specifically governed and registered in the US. So, for example, say you are a manufacturer of wire: you send it off to UL, they test it, and approve it, and provide a E-Number, which means the manufacturer holds the rights to that standard a bit like intellectual property.)

In the cable assembly business you learn your conversion tables off by heart much like your ABC, and times tables.



Whether or not you like the idea of working in the Imperial System it is with us to stay, so to make things easy I have listed a simple conversion guide.

AWG is defined for single solid round conductors, and the AWG of a stranded conductor is that of a single solid round conductor with the same conductive cross-sectional area – so, as stranded cable has gaps between the strands, 20AWG stranded conductor is fatter than 20AWG single conductor.

The above table is not an exact science as you can’t exactly convert imperial to metric, however, you get the idea. The other caveat is the above table is based on stranded cable (the vast majority of cables are made up of stranded conductors). The conversion for solid cores, however, involves differed figures (I have not listed them since most people don’t use solid cores).

Still confused? Don’t worry you are not alone. When I speak to people about what cables are best to use there are really only three things that matter. These are:

If you think this has been useful then please let us know. I hope that you can put this simple guide to good use.

Thanks to Paul, Mark and Stef. I have up-dated and corrected the table. If you spot any further errors, please comment again.

the (diameter) must be removed it are all surfaces (mm²) thats why there is that ‘²’ and not units of lengt so it can be replaced by “cross section” or even surface.

Thanks Mark, and sorry to everyone. I had not seen this before, and I believe you are correct. I am going to label the table as containing errors right now, and hopefully correct it after the busy patch we are in at the moment. Thanks again

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