The 24 Inch Gauge

How Can I Divide My Time To Meet My Obligation?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Within each degree, the instruction on the Working Tools is one of the most beautifully written parts of ritual. In the first degree the use of the 24-inch gauge continues to fascinate me. Every time I hear the breakdown of the twenty four inches into 24 hours, further divided into 3 equal parts of 8 hours, which are to be allocated for serving God, a worthy distressed Brother, our work, and refreshment and sleep — I always think, “How is that literally possible?” At some point in the history of our Craft there must have been a time when men had time in their day to live like this, right?

Those words were created back when we didn’t sleep in one eight hour chunk but in two shorter periods, overnight. Dating back to medieval times two-piece sleeping as it was called, was standard practice. Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And what did people do between their first and second sleep? Everything from reading a book (most likely their Bible), talk, or go for a walk in the countryside to visit with their neighbors.

Keep in mind this is back when time was still kept by burning a candle. Your day began, literally, at daybreak and you were in bed by sundown. Dividing your time into three equal parts wasn’t hard when your day was made up of eat, sleep, work, and repeat. Church wasn’t just something you did on Sunday morning: it was your Sunday. Take away my Netflix binging on Sunday afternoon when I finally get to watch TV for a few uninterrupted hours, and instead,  give me a few hours every night between Midnight at 2AM for reading and I would have that service to God box checked!

Fast forward to 2018
If I was to compare dividing my time to the Activity Rings on my Apple Watch, the large ring would definitely be my work hours, the medium ring my sleep, and the smaller ring the time invested in the service to God or my Brothers. I’m being very generous here with my math. I pulled up a random day on my calendar this month… Wednesday, April 11th. Workday for job #1 started at 8AM (up for work by 6:45AM). Work schedule has a couple conference calls, a meeting, lunch, and time at my desk to work on my daily task list. End of workday for job #1 is at 4:30PM. Job #2 starts at 5PM and goes until 11PM. Home by 11:30PM and in bed (hopefully) before Midnight.

My “Work” ring is dominating my life
And this isn’t just happening on Wednesday of last week, this is pretty much every weekday. The more I investigate the breakdown of my time, the only time I really dedicate to “Masonic” service are my nights at Lodge. Hmm. That’s like four hours a week.

I’m being literal on purpose because it’s impossible to literally divide your time into 8 hour parts every day. It is also important to remember that the working tools of an EA are the 24-inch gauge AND the common gavel. One to divide your time, the other to clear your life of distractions. That’s the important part of the Working Tools lesson: do you examine how you spend your time? If your time is not prioritized, how can you fix the areas that are lacking?

There is an advantage to living in 2018 versus 1518
Besides the warm shower to start my day or the fresh, brewed cup of coffee that is set to go off at 7:15AM, I also have this little blue book that was given to me when I was raised as a Master Mason that contains ALL of the standard work and lectures from the degrees I took. I carry this little blue book to work to read during my lunch break or downtime. On my drive to and from work I listen to my favorite masonic podcast (Whence Came You?) to get my weekly dose of masonic education and discussion. I also have a cell phone in my pocket and strapped to my wrist as a watch, which allows me to text or call my Brothers throughout the day. It might seem trivial but when I ask them how their day is going or converse with them about their daily dilemma, isn’t that service to a distressed worthy Brother?

When I re-evaluate my day through the lens of present day, yes, work still dominates my life (for now) but I can “steal” a few hours here and there to meet my masonic obligations. Instead of literally dividing my time into 3 “start/stop” parts I use a combined/running clock. Really what depresses me now is the fact that my sleep circle is pretty much non-existent. Until I start taking naps under my desk or retire, I don’t see how I’m going to catch up in that area. Perhaps that’s why we call them the “Working Tools.”


Michael Arce is JW of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at


  1. Texas ritual does not divide the 24 hours of the day into "3 equal parts." It only divides the 24 hours of the day into "3 parts." As a result, each of us is able to decide how to divide those 24 hours. You might have 10 hours for work, 7 hours for the service of your fellow man, and seven hours for refreshment and sleep. I wonder how many other US grand lodge rituals do not divide the 24 hours of the day into 3 "equal" parts.

  2. David, one thing that amazes me about the craft are the variances of our ritual. You bring up a great point, one that I hope others will expand on. Thanks for reading the article and sharing some feedback! Sincerely and Fraternally, Bro. Arce


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