The Dimensions of a NEMA 56C

••• outdated machinery image by Yali Shi from

When electrical devices were in their infancy, every manufacturer set their own standards. This was as inefficient as every train company setting their own width for tracks. In 1926 trade groups merged, organized and created the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). NEMA set standards of height, width and length for electrical devices so that one manufacturer's products could easily interchange with another's. Standard 56C defines the bolt hole spacing of mounting face plates for electrical devices, and these measurements are closely adhered to by all NEMA members.

Bolt Hole Spacing

First, four bolt holes are drilled on the mounting flange, spaced 90 degrees apart. In other words, the holes are on the corners of a square. Then, the center of the holes is placed on a circle 5.875 inches in diameter. In fractions, this is a circle diameter of 5-7/8 inch. To visualize this, first draw a 5-7/8-inch circle with a compass, or set the radius at 2-15/16 inch. Draw two diameter lines, 90 degrees apart from each other. Place the bolt holes where the diameter lines intersect the circumference line drawn by the compass. The shaft of the motor is at the center of the circle.

Bolt Hole Size

Use drafting tools to lay out the hole spacing and size.
••• drafting image by Kimberly Reinick from

The size of the hole is 3/8-16. This means the bolt hole size is 3/8 inch. The thread per inch count is 16 threads per inch. This is a very common size, and most hardware stores carry the tap to cut the threads. If you are going to drill and tap the holes, Carbide Depot recommends a drill size of 5/16 inch.

Flange Mounting Defined

Machine builder Richard J. Kinch says the "C" in "56C" stands for a flange or faceplate mounting system. The four mounting points are on the face of the motor, where the shaft comes out. This mounting arraignment is very useful. The motor can be mounted across its face, instead of having a platform built to hold up the weight. If you look at the cooling fan motor assembly in a computer, notice it is mounted by four screws across its face. It sits flush with the inside of the cabinet. If it did not have a "C" mounting, the motor would have to be mounted on a stand. This would take up a lot of room.


About the Author

Tony Oldhand has been technical writing since 1995. He has worked in the skilled trades and diversified into Human Services in 1998, working with the developmentally disabled. He is also heavily involved in auto restoration and in the do-it-yourself sector of craftsman trades. Oldhand has an associate degree in electronics and has studied management at the State University of New York.

Photo Credits

  • outdated machinery image by Yali Shi from