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jenthepen
June 29th, 2018, 09:22 PM
Although I have been scarred by previous ventures into the macho world of wholesale building materials, I was in high spirits as I swung into the local Plumbing Supplies store. I had phoned ahead and knew that the cast iron elbow fitting that I needed for our antique garden pump was in stock. I had done my homework and knew that the connecting pipe was one-and-a-half-inch diameter, so I was able to order a matching size from the young girl at the counter with some confidence.

It began well. I had half expected that barely concealed scorn that usually greets any request involving good old-fashioned imperial measurements, now that we have been decimalised in line with the European Union but no, she beamed at me and nodded.

“It’s BSP.” she said pleasantly.

I presumed she was talking about the pipe fitting and not sharing some comment about the weather but, in truth, I hadn’t a clue what her little comment meant. Anxious not to disrupt the easy flow of our exchanges so far, I nodded and grinned back at her.

She reappeared from the stock room a minute later and handed me a substantial example of good British workmanship.

I gazed at the solid iron joint in my hand and couldn’t shake off the rising certainty that it was much too big for my needs. I read the moulded inscription carefully; BSP 1 1/2 inch. It was definitely what I had ordered but it was most certainly a lot bigger than the fitting I had so meticulously measured before setting out on this shopping trip. I sensed some sort of underhand plumbing conspiracy here, the way doctors write in Latin to stop any under-qualified interloper from gaining a foothold on their learning.

“Er, what does BSP stand for?” I finally asked with painful reluctance.

She smiled and I knew my credibility had evaporated.

“British standard pipe?” She raised her voice at the end of the short utterance, the way you do when explaining the self-explanatory.

Now I was even more confused. It was British and it was standard. This fitted well with my lifelong expectations and yet there was no escaping the self-evident fact that this joint was not going to fit.

I looked at her in helpless silence for a long moment, until she broke under the tension, took the part back and pointed at the inscription with a sad smile.

I wasn’t ready to give up all control just yet and picked up her tape measure, which happened to be laying on the counter between us. I carefully measure the diameter of the threaded end that would fit my pump’s one-and-a-half-inch pipe.

“This is one-and-three-quarter-inch!” I declared with some joy.”

She tried, and very nearly succeeded, to hide a sigh.

“It’s BSP,” she countered, not unkindly, “If you want to fit a one-and-a-half-inch pipe you need to buy a one-and-a-quarter-inch joint.”

I looked at her to make sure she wasn’t joking. “BSP pipe fittings that measure one-and-three-quarter-inch are marked one-and-a-half-inch and fittings that measure one-and-a-half-inch are marked one-and-a-quarter-inch?”

She seemed inordinately pleased that I’d manage to grasp this apparently quite obvious fact.

“That’s right! So do you actually want a one-and-a-quarter-inch elbow?”

I could only nod dumbly and accept the exchange part. I read the moulded inscription when I got it home: one-and-a-quarter-inch. I slipped it over the one-and-a-half-inch pipe on the garden pump and tightened the thread. It fitted perfectly.

I was still unhappy and determined to get to the bottom of this mystery of BSP measurements, so I looked it up on Google:


Take the O.D measurement (in inches) and subtract 1/4 inch (.25”). For example, a BSP parallel male thread measures out to O.D 1”. Subtracting 1/4 gives a thread size of 3/4, also known as “dash” 12. Once you have the thread size, you then need to determine the number of threads per inch to verify that it is a BSP fitting...


That’s when I switched off the computer, decided to forget all about it and have a cup of tea instead.

Jack of all trades
June 30th, 2018, 01:57 AM
Wonderful! Well done! I enjoyed this immensely.

Plasticweld
June 30th, 2018, 02:06 AM
Jen, never trust a man to measure anything. They either lie or give a reason why it's not as big as they let on. Measurements are dependent on temperature an a host of other factors, I am sure you are well aware of this.

This is the very reason you can have a woman measure something and come up with a completely different size than a man.

Well written, it flowed well and gave me smile

Underd0g
July 1st, 2018, 02:22 PM
I thought your story was funny. I speak as someone who would probably still try to force a metric Allen Wrench to work on a standard opening.

jenthepen
July 2nd, 2018, 07:03 PM
Jen, never trust a man to measure anything. They either lie or give a reason why it's not as big as they let on. Measurements are dependent on temperature an a host of other factors, I am sure you are well aware of this.

This is the very reason you can have a woman measure something and come up with a completely different size than a man.

Well written, it flowed well and gave me smile

Thanks, Bob. It turns out, with male and female threads, size really does matter. ;)


I thought your story was funny. I speak as someone who would probably still try to force a metric Allen Wrench to work on a standard opening.

I'm glad I'm not the only inventive engineer, Underdog. I usually try to get away with any handy household utensil - nail file, nutcrackers, barbecue tongs - all good if they get the job done. :)

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this and leave a like. :encouragement:

Thomas Norman
April 12th, 2019, 10:11 AM
Hello Jen - What a wonderful story. The dialogue and narrative flow along splendidly. A short piece but I was engrossed. Your way with language is impeccable and and a pleasure to read. The humour of this story is nicely done; not to obvious but clear enough. Skillful.

I could find no fault with it, perfectly done.

Thanks for sharing and making me smile with complete understanding.

Moose.H
November 4th, 2019, 10:30 PM
It spoke to me as a Quantity Surveyor who worked in a plumbing contractor for a time and still has issues with the incantations from the mystical cult of sanitary engineers.

jenthepen
November 7th, 2019, 09:07 PM
Hello Jen - What a wonderful story. The dialogue and narrative flow along splendidly. A short piece but I was engrossed. Your way with language is impeccable and and a pleasure to read. The humour of this story is nicely done; not to obvious but clear enough. Skillful.

I could find no fault with it, perfectly done.

Thanks for sharing and making me smile with complete understanding.

Thank you so much for the flattering comments, Thomas, and a thousand apologies for my tardy response. I'm glad it worked for you and gave you a smile.


It spoke to me as a Quantity Surveyor who worked in a plumbing contractor for a time and still has issues with the incantations from the mystical cult of sanitary engineers.

Thanks, Moose. It makes me feel much better that a professional like yourself also had difficulties with plumbing logic. :)

P.S. to Amnesiac.
Thank you for bringing my attention back to this resurrected thread by 'liking' this little story. :thumbr:

Asmoab
January 13th, 2020, 07:20 PM
I really enjoyed this. Perhaps it was the rising sense of recognition as it progressed. I parted ways at "looked it up on google." Opening computer usually starts a similar experience for me!

jenthepen
January 15th, 2020, 12:02 PM
Thanks for the positive comment, Asmoab. And yes, don't get me started on the problems around computers! :)