24 inch Gauge
by Terry Paget &
David Porteous PG Std Br
GL of South Australia and Northern Territory

Terry has this to say about the 24 inch gauge.
It is purely symbolic and adopted as a symbol by speculative Masonry. As such, it refers to the 24 hours in a day. I am unaware of any credible evidence to show that the "24-inch gauge" was used by operative masons. There are many other symbols adopted by Masonry as "tools."

The skirret for example. The cabletow is another.

They are all speculative-Masonry "manufactured," or created, tools or pieces of equipment which, although given a physical shape and property, are simply manifestations of speculative-Masonry symbolism.

There are yet other "genuine" items used within our ceremonies which, so far as speculative Masonry is concerned, are expressed identified as being symbolic within our rituals. As such, their "genuine" usage and purpose is hardly relevant beyond them offering a direct and visual reminder of their symbolic significance: the square, the compasses, the level, the plumb, the ashlars, the tracing boards, and so on. In short, everything in Masonry so far as tools, equipment, the lodge room/temple itself and, it needs to be said, many of the actions performed within the context of the rituals themselves, they are all symbolic.

David adds this piece of education.
Here is an extract from an old ritual relative to the 24 inch gauge:

"I now present to you the working tools of an Entered Apprentice Freemason,which are the 24-inch Gauge, the Common Gavel, and the Chisel.

The 24 inch Gauge, or 2 foot rule, is the first implement placed in the hands of the Operative Mason to enable him to measure the work and prepare its several parts in their proper proportions. By it, he can form a fair estimate of the quantity of material and also compute the time required for the execution of the work and its probable cost.

...We are not, however, here assembled as operative, but rather as Free and Accepted, or Speculative Masons, and to us these tools are delivered as vehicles of moral instruction, and thus we apply them.

From the 24 inch Gauge, we derive daily admonition and instruction, for, as it is divided into twenty-four equal parts, it reminds us of the division of the natural day into twenty-four hours, and admonishes us so to apportion them that the time given to necessary refreshment and rest shall not interfere with the legitimate occupations of life, or the claims of civil duty, or cause us to neglect the primary duty of prayer and meditation, and the exercise of kindly aid and charity to our brethren in need. Truly does it warn us ever to measure time with unswerving regard to eternity."

Wilmshurst in his paper, "The Ceremony of Initiation - Analysis and Comment" has this to say about the 24 Inch Gauge:
One of these three tools, the measuring gauge, is itself threefold in its application. It allocates one's daily time to the performance of three distinct duties, duties not necessarily involving equal expenditure of time,but duties each of which is of equal value.

It inculcates (1) a duty to God and a persistent devotion to spiritualthings, (2) a duty to oneself, involving due attention to material pursuitsand the care of one's own person, and (3) an altruistic duty to those less happily placed than oneself; as it were an equilateral triangle of duties each of which is as important as the other two, indeed it will be helpful to think of the sides of such a triangle as signifying God, oneself, and one's neighbour respectively, and constituting a unity, a whole of which each part is necessary to the others.

The Mason must find a way of balancing his performance of these three duties so as to make of them an equilateral and not an unequally- sided triangle. Equal attention is called for to spiritual things, to himself, and to what is other than himself, I. E., his neighbour; undue preponderance in either direction will prevent a true balance. That is why, whilst told to give altruistic help to his neighbour, he is also told that he should not do so unless he can do it without detriment to himself or connections." At first blush these qualifying words sound selfish, contrary to the spirit of self-sacrifice. But there is great wisdom in them. For only he can really serve and help another who has first discharged his duty to himself and made himself competent to serve. "Self-love (says Shakespeare) is not so vile a sin as self-neglect"; and there are many people who neglect to improvethemselves, whilst fussily trying to improve others. But selfishness will itself disappear if devotion be habitually accorded to what is higher than self, and this attainment will then in turn qualify him to help his neighbour.

In Ezekiel XL and XLII mention is made of the `measuring reed' (or measuring rod). Such a rod, rule, or gauge, however marked or graduated, is a tool going back into antiquity, a gauge graduated in inches being an old English measure. The English word `inch' originally meant a twelfth part that is a twelfth part of a foot. The 24-inch gauge symbolizes the twentyfour hours of the day, and is therefore a symbol of the passage of time, in particular, of time well spent.