How to Measure the Thickness of Paper

by Chris & Marry

From packaging to the different uses of paper, paper thickness can be a crucial thing to familiarize yourself with. Thickness determines the durability, strength, and usage of the paper overall. But the question that arises is: how can we measure the thickness of paper? A single sheet of paper is generally relatively thin, so how is it possible to measure its thickness? Surely, a ruler would not be able to do the job? The answer to that might come as a baffling one: yes! It is quite possible to measure the thickness of paper with a ruler, and this is how:

Measuring the Thickness of Paper with a Ruler

While measuring the length and breadth of a sheet of paper using a ruler is no hassle at all, finding out the thickness can be tricky. But what we can do to figure out the thickness of a single sheet of paper is simply stacking 100 sheets of paper and making a bundle out of them. Using a ruler, the stack of 100 sheets of paper can be measured relatively easily. So, now that you have the measurement for 100 sheets of paper, by simple arithmetic, the thickness of a single sheet of paper can be calculated. You can do this by dividing the height of the paper bundles by the number of sheets used to make the bundle. For example, if 100 sheets of paper are used to create a bundle and using a ruler, the height of the bundle was found to be 10mm, then the thickness of a single sheet of paper is going to be 0.1mm.

While this method is an easy one, it is not exactly recommended. The likelihood of inaccuracy is mostly large with this one, but it’s perhaps the easiest method out there.

Measuring the Thickness of Paper using a Caliper

Measuring the Thickness of Paper using a Caliper
Measuring the Thickness of Paper using a Caliper

A caliper can measure the thickness of paper in a relatively more accurate way compared to using just a ruler. Firstly, let’s familiarise ourselves with what a caliper is:

A caliper is a device that is used to measure external or internal dimensions. Using this, we should be able to measure the thickness of the paper accurately. A caliper contains two jaws that can hold the paper, and a reading can be calculated.

Initially, calibrate the caliper, setting it to either mm or inches. Reset it and bring about a standard measurement by rotating the wheel on the caliper piece and set it to 0, assuming the caliper is an electronic one. Measure anything random like a stone or spoon and reset it back to 0. Doing this will ensure the caliper gets accurate results.

Secondly, get around 100 pieces of paper and stack them on top of each other. Using the caliper, make adjustments and match the thickness of the ream of the stack of papers being measured. Rotating the jaws will help fit the ream inside. Secure the stack of papers, but not too tight to not tear or crush down. This can increase measurement inaccuracy. Assuming the caliper is electronic, the measurement will show up on the display panel. This will give you the thickness measurement of the whole stack. From this, you can calculate for a single sheet of paper like we have done when measuring with a ruler.

An example: Say the measurement on the caliper shows up as 1mm or 1 inch. Divide this 1mm or inch with the number of papers stacked. So if the number of papers stacked is 100, the thickness of a single sheet of paper will be 1/100 = 0.01mm or inch.

Measuring the Thickness of Paper using a Micrometer

Alternatively to the two methods mentioned above, a micrometer can be used to measure the thickness of paper as well. It is a lot more accurate than using a caliper and it also requires more precision when using it.

So, what is a micrometer? It’s a caliper of some sort but for micro-measurements. This means the measurements of the thickness of paper are bound to be a lot more accurate than the measurements you may get with a ruler and a caliper.

To use a micrometer, move the dial on the micrometer to adjust its jaws. This will move the shafts of the micrometer up and down accordingly. Measure anything to test the micrometer and see whether everything can be read easily from the micrometer. Once the micrometer has been successfully calibrated, you can proceed to measure the thickness of the paper.

Stack around 100 sheets of paper, set the micrometer up at the ideal thickness of the paper, and observe how the shaft moves upon how much the jaw opens. Adjust the jaws and get the marks on the shaft gauge. The shaft gauge is a set of lines going from 0 to 25. The shaft gauge measure should go perfectly with the lines on the tube shaft.

Get the first measurement by making adjustments to the jaws of the micrometer to the stack of papers. Observe which lines on the gauge go hand in hand with the opposite lines of the shaft tube to get the second measurement. The lines will give you the information on the paper stack thickness. The two measurements will enable you to calculate the thickness of the paper.

Add the two numbers. The resulting number will give you the total thickness of the paper stack. Now, divide this number by the number of sheets used. So, if we use 100 sheets of paper in our stack and the total thickness we get is 0.106 inches, then the thickness of a single sheet of paper will be 0.106/100 = 1.06 x 10^-3 inches per sheet.

Conclusion

While all three methods can measure the thickness of paper, the most accurate one would be using the micrometre method. If you want an easy method, the ruler method is a viable option. So, while measurements are easier to make with just a ruler, using a micrometre would be a better alternative option to avoid any risks of making inaccuracy.

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About Chris & Marry

From the coolest couple "We met in April 2015. We were each pulled by friends out to dinner. We sat across from one other, started a witty banter and spent the next 270 days together. We began discussions about not wanting to separate what we love and what we do. We love to create, to share and to make people smile."

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