Thank you so much for your quick reply, especially for putting links to each blog up. These were the same three sites I started with too. (Maybe because that is all there are?) I keep thinking the manufacturers would have the exact diameter posted somewhere, but have not come across it. With so many amazing cookie blogs out there, it has been a challenge to stay focused on my goal of creating the Ultimate Tip Comparison Chart without getting distracted!
SweetSugarBell's blog is what inspired me to get involved in artful cookie decorating. She is so great! As a new cookier, I have to say that her clean lines and simple instructions are super helpful... I did read her post about some of the tip sizes, and highly recommend everyone to check it out, but still wanted more info.
The Pastry Sampler tip comparison chart is wonderful, and would be especially helpful to someone who has or is planning to purchase Magic Line or Ateco tips. Unfortunately, I have never seen any of that brand in real life. I also noted that it says a Wilton 2 and an Ateco 2 are the same size. (Perhaps she does not usually decorate tiny little cookies, so it seems equivalent?) Plus, the chart is copywrited, so I am reluctant to use it while trying to make a new list for everyone.
Karens Cookie Blog, with the wonderful post comparing photos of writing with different tips, is what finally convinced me to look for information about something similar on a larger scale. The hundreds of comments following it were what made me realize I was not the only one with questions. I had wondered at first if anyone else really cared, but looking around online showed me that some people are fanatically loyal when it comes to their favorite tips. It's amazing how much passion people have about a little tube with a hole poked in the middle.*
So many newer decorators commented that they weren't familiar with PME or other brands, or could not afford to purchase several at once just to try them out, etc. Most of them mentioned either loving their PME Supatubes, or being very interested in trying them. The PME 1.5 tip is especially adored. I could probably raise a lot of money for charity if I auctioned off a night with one.
It seems like many of us new to decorating cookies want to know what sizes and brands to purchase, and a lot of us have Wilton tips to use as a basis for comparison. I suspect this is because Wilton is readily available in many craft stores and areas. I'll bet almost every size or brand has something unique about it, and would be preferable depending on the situation. Sort of how a cheap scruffy paintbrush can help create a look that a perfect new one can't replicate? Both have value, but only once you know the differences.
Other than Wilton and PME, I have seen references to tips by Bekenal, Savouy, Erring, Tala, and other brands, and there are both clear and opaque plastic as well as metal generic ones. Or maybe the clear ones I saw were glass? They might all have some differences. For example, the Marpol 47 (basketweave) I have looks to be about the same as the Wilton 47 in quality, but the generic 47 is made from soft cheap metal, and the seam has pronounced overlaps. My Wilton 47 is taller, the opening in the tip is a bit wider, and it has longer, narrower teeth than the Marpol 47.
The plastic tips I have seen online look very cheap, but for all I know they may not conduct heat while piping with chocolate or somesuch other feature. If you would like to follow me down the rabbit hole, we can discuss how baking at a higher elevation or different humidity changes the dew point for condensation on different types of metals versus plastic... on the other hand, maybe I should just try to get a grant from NASA, to see if running an electrical charge through the metal tips while piping makes the electrons in the icing become polarized, thus causing it to heal faster and bond better with the cookie surface...
I have heard that Bekenal in the UK makes the best tips anywhere, but I read somewhere that they went out of business. I can't remember which site, but someone did comment on a post somewhere, saying that PME bought Bekenal and still makes tips under their name. Does anyone know if this is true? Then I could stop lusting after them if I picked up some PME tips, lol.
Even if I was able to compare materials, brands, sizes, and shapes side by side, the information doesn't do me much good unless I know how those differences change the performance of each. I really think it would be interesting to see photos or video of how they pipe next to each other, and hear the opinions of other decorators.
It wonder how two of the same size tips from different brands/styles compare? If I had a Wilton tip and a PME tip of the exact same size, would it be worth it to purchase a more expensive PME because there is an obvious difference between how the icing behaves when using it? Or maybe the only difference is simply that the PME tip is available in a size that is between two Ateco or Wilton sizes? I know PME are longer and narrower, which is good for tight spots, but does the shape change the quality of the line or need a dfferent amount of pressure?
I would cheerfully do the work of comparing them all myself with the same icing and posting my results, but it is cost prohibitive for me right now. There are other things I am curious about as well, such as which surface is best for removing RI transfers (parchment/wax/acetate/greased/silicone?), which liquid mixed with metallic luster dust works best (which proof/alcohol/extract/airbrush paint/etc.), and if that changes for different icing types or recipes, etc.
I would love to start a blog and do "Mythbusters" style cookie experiments, lol! I have no idea how to even start a blog though, or if anyone else would be interested in my results or what I have to say. Decorating is as much an art as it is a science, and I am not sure how much is about getting a feel for the medium yet. If everyone wants to each send me a few tips so I can compare them all, feel free. (Yeah, right. I could use a stand mixer and paddle attachment too, if anyone has an extra Kitchenaid sitting around gathering dust, ha ha!)
Thanks in great part to SweetSugarBelle, what I have been able to piece together seems to be this:
I have heard it mentioned that a PME 000 is the very smallest available, but have never seen someone actually using one. I have also seen a tip for sale described as an Ateco 000 round tip, but it looked suspiciously like an unmarked PME in the photo. The myth of the 000 may never be solved...
The next smallest tips are likely a 00 and 0 by PME, but I need to confirm. Other very small round tips are the Wilton 1s and 1L, but are a complete mystery to me. (I thought the "L" meant left-handed, but obviously that makes no sense in a round tip.) I don't know if there is a Wilton or Ateco or other brand 0 that is smaller than PME size 0, or if there is a .5 size out there.
Next (smallest to largest) is the PME 1, Wilton 1, PME 1.5,Wilton 2, Ateco 1, Ateco 2, PME 2.5, and Wilton 3. My Ateco 4 is larger than my Wilton 3, and much smaller than my Wilton 5. If anyone knows different, please correct me. I do not have some of these to compare, and I have very little information about other brands.
Right now CountryKitchenSA has a tall, narrow size 0 tip stamped "England" for sale for $1.10, and the order number starts with PME, but their other PME tip numbers don't. (And are $4.40 each) They also have a tip that's only stamped "00" in a more standard shape for $1.30.
Throughout all this, I learned that Wilton also makes a tiny 101s petal tip and a 59s petal tip, both of which make very small flower petals. I don't know what the smallest leaf tip of any brand is. Wilton has a very small oval no. 55, but my garbage disposal makes those for me for free. I have learned to either put my tips in a net lingerie bag from the laundry, or thread my tips and couplers onto a length of soft plastic-coated wire first if I need to soak them in hot water before washing, and now very few make it down the drain.
Fyi, the small Wilton tip cleaning brushes with the purple handles are great, but only for the larger tips. The end of the wire is too large to fit through most of my round tips, so the bristles can't reach inside the narrower half of the tip. They are also not very stiff, so best for icing that has not crusted yet.
I am not sure if any of the sizes of different brands have changed over the years, or which might be discontinued or unavailable. I can say that there are tons of people selling tips online that are most definitely not the brand they claim to be.
So there you have it. Basically everything useful I know or ever have known about icing tips, plus a lot of questions. If you have read this far, I hope some of it was worth the trip.
*I found information online about some icing tubes by Terrington and Sons on display in a museum at Castle Drogo, a historic castle being renovated in Devon, UK. They were even cataloged in the national trust.