Sieves are a very ancient tool, at least as old as the open weave baskets used to separate grain from refuse. A later more sophisticated sieve was the medieval miller's bolting cloth. Even more precise sieves began to be made during the Industrial Revolution. In 1800, for example, to extend the supply of grain during an agricultural crisis the king of England forbade the baking of bread with flour that would pass through a sieve with 13 wires on each side of a square inch. (41 George III c 16, 1800)

Many occupations are concerned with the size of large numbers of small objects, such as grain, seeds or soil particles. If a graded series of sieves is available, a batch can be shaken through a stack of sieves with increasingly smaller holes. Weighing the amount left behind in each sieve gives a series of masses which is a size distribution for the particles in the batch. In such situations it is more accurate to describe the sizes of the particles in sieve numbers, rather than as particle diameters. For an example of how sieve numbers are used to grade a commercial product, see abrasives.

The sieves used in industry and the laboratory are precision products. The smaller the particle that is not to pass through the sieve, the finer the wires of the sieve–but despite that, the smaller the proportion of the sieve's area which is hole.

Test sieve apertures ISO (See note 1.) |
U.S. Alternate sieve designations, a survival of an older system. Mesh sizes are roughly the number of openings per inch. |
Tyler Screen Scale Equivalent Designation |
---|---|---|

125 mm | 5 inches | |

106 mm | (4.24 inches) | |

100 mm | 4 inches | |

90 mm | 3½ inches | |

75 mm | 3 inches | |

63 mm | 2½ inches | |

53 mm | 2.12 inches | |

50 mm | 2 inches | |

45 mm | 1¾ inches | |

37.5 mm | 1½ inches | |

31.5 mm | 1¼ inches | |

26.5 mm | 1.06 inches | |

25.00 mm | 1 inch | — |

19.00 mm | 3/4 inch | 0.742″ |

16.00 mm | 5/8 inch | 0.624″ |

14.00 mm | (0.53 inch) | |

13.20 mm | ||

12.50 mm | ½ inch | — |

11.20 mm | (7/16 inch) | |

10.00 mm | ||

9.50 mm | 3/8 inch | 0.371" |

9.00 mm | ||

8.00 mm | 5/16 inch | 2½ mesh |

7.10 mm | ||

6.70 mm | (0.265) | |

6.30 mm | ¼ inch | — |

Fine Sieves | ||

5.6 mm | #3½ mesh | 3½ mesh |

5.00 mm | ||

4.75 mm | #4 | 4 |

4.50 mm | ||

4.00 mm | #5 | 5 |

3.55 mm | ||

3.35 mm | #6 | 6 |

3.15 mm | ||

2.80 mm | #7 | 7 |

2.50 mm | ||

2.36 mm | #8 | 8 |

2.24 mm | ||

2.00 mm | #10 | 9 |

1.80 mm | ||

1.70 mm | #12 | 10 |

1.60 mm | ||

1.40 mm | #14 | 12 |

1.25 mm | ||

1.18 mm | #16 | 14 |

1.12 mm | ||

1.00 mm | #18 | 16 |

900 µm | ||

850 µm | #20 | 20 |

800 µm | ||

710 µm | #25 | 24 |

630 µm | ||

600 µm | #30 | 28 |

560 µm | ||

500 µm | #35 | 32 |

450 µm | ||

425 µm | #40 | 35 |

400 µm | ||

355 µm | #45 | 42 |

315 µm | ||

300 µm | #50 | 48 |

280 µm | ||

250 µm | #60 | 60 |

224 µm | ||

212 µm | #70 | 65 |

200 µm | ||

180 µm | #80 | 80 |

160 µm | ||

150 µm | #100 | 100 |

140 µm | ||

125 µm | #120 | 115 |

112 µm | ||

106 µm | #140 | 150 |

100 µm | ||

90 µm | #170 | 170 |

80 µm | ||

75 µm | #200 | 200 |

71 µm | ||

63 µm | #230 | 250 |

56 µm | ||

53 µm | #270 | 270 |

50 µm | ||

45 µm | #325 | 325 |

40 µm | ||

38 µm | #400 | 400 |

36 µm | — | |

32 µm | #450 | — |

28 µm | — | |

25 µm | #500 | 500 |

22 µm | — | |

20 µm | #635 | 625 |

15 µm | 800 | |

10 µm | 1250 | |

5 µm | 2500 |

**Notes:**

(1) The ratio between adjacent sizes is the fourth root of 2, so the aperture size doubles every 5th size. Red lettering identifies sizes in common use in the United States that are ASTM supplementary values.

ASTM E-11.

ANSI Z23.1.

AASHO M92.

Federal Spec. RR-S-366b.

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Last revised:1 July 2010.