Scale Types

The earliest scales were simple equal arm devices. Over time springs, counterbalancing weights, levers and beams were utilized to develop more sophisticated types of scales. The requirement for increased accuracy led to many highly engineered weighing systems. Modern scales weigh objects to an extremely high tolerance and often use computerized applications.


The following drawings and information are from the Handbook of Old Weighing Instruments by Michael A. Crawforth, one of the principle founders of ISASC. They are used with the generous permission of Diana Crawforth-Hitchins. Additional information may be found in this publication.

Select a type to see more examples

Equal-Arm Beam ScalesEqual-Arm Beam Scales

These scales have equal arms with the pans hanging below the beam. Weighing is achieved by placing known weights in one pan to balance the load in the other pan.

Steelyard ScalesSteelyard Scales

A steelyard has a beam with unequal arms. The long arm has a weight suspended from it, which is moved until equilibrium is obtained. The load is suspended from the short arm of the beam.

Bismar ScalesBismar Scales

A Bismar has a weight fixed permanently to one end of the beam. A load hook is fixed to the other end. The pivot is moved along the beam until equilibrium is obtained.


Pendulum ScalesPendulum Scales

A pendulum balance has a weight fixed to an arm which swings upward when a load Is being weighed. It continues swinging until a point of balance is achieved.

Roberval ScalesRoberval Scales

A roberval scale is an equal-arm beam with the pans above the beam.



Spring BalancesSpring Balances

This type of instrument uses the springiness of metal to balance the load being weighed. The weight is indicated according to the distortion of the spring.

Rocker BalancesRocker Balances

Most rockers are simple counterbalance devices which indicate whether or not the load is equal to a predetermined mass.


Platform ScalesPlatform Scales

A platform scale has a system of levers, below the platform, which transfer the load to the weighing resistance, no matter where the load is placed on the platform.

Miscellaneous ScalesMiscellaneous Scales

The scales shown in this section are unusual types, or combinations of two types, which do not readily fit into the general categories of specific scale types.


Equal-Arm Beam Scales

Equal-Arm Beam Examples

1.   English coin scale, c1770

8.  Bread scale by Davis & Southerton Ltd, Walsall, England, c1916

2.   Office letter scale by DeGrave & Co, London, c1890

9.  Shop scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, England, c1880

3.   Money scale by S. Henry, London, c1774 for weighing the guinea, half and quarter

10.  Ducat scale by unknown maker, Nuremberg, 18th century

4.   Money scale by unknown British maker, c1780

11.  Jockey scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, England, 1898

5.   Money scale by John Pickett of Marlborough, c1780, for weighing the guinea and half

12.  Precision balance by Paul Bunge of Hamburg, Germany, 1923

6.  Letter scale by unknown maker, c1880

13.  Apothecary scale by Doyle & Son, London, 1904

7.  Hydrostatical money scale by Charles & Luke Proctor, Sheffield, England, c1780


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Steelyard Scales

Steelyard Examples

1.  Trader’s steelyard, French, 18th century

11.  Candy scale by Henry Troemner, Philadelphia,1926

2.  Chondrometer or grain scale by Payne of London, c1820

12.  Letter steelyard by unknown maker, English, c1880

3.  Bread scale by W. & T. Avery, Birmingham, patented in 1885

13.  Coin steelyard, as advertised by John Joseph Merlin, London, c1780

4.  Guinea scale, known as “folding gold balances” by T. Houghton, England, c1780

14.  Double-beam steelyard by Fucoma, Berlin, Germany, 20th century

5.  Unusual steelyard by A. Prutscher, Sonthofen, Germany, 20th century

15.  Jeweler’s estimating balance by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, 1916

6.  “Shelf-edge” type of coin balance by Bradford, Derby and Hulls, England, patented in 1753

16.  Coal scale by J. White & Son of Scotland, c1910

7.  Sovereign balance by F. Sheldon, Birmingham, c1845

17.  Westphal laboratory balance to determine specific gravity

8.  Letter scale by unknown maker, British, marked S. TURNER’S PATENT, postage rates for the period 1871 to 1897, patented in 1871

18.  Counter scale by E. & T. Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont, 1919

9.  British steelyard by T. Beach of Birmingham, c1780

19.  Prescription scale by E. & T. Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont, c1910

10.  Letter balance marked H.B. WRIGHT No. 130 LONDON Dec. 20th 1839

20.  Laboratory scale marked CENCO Triple Beam Balance by the Central Scientific Co. Chicago

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Bismar Scales

Bismar Examples

1.  Traditional bismar

6.  Tobacco balance

2.  Combined letter balance, ruler and paper knife

7.  Letter balance made by Silvester & Co, London, for Henry Hooper, who registered the design in 1839

3.  Roman bismar made of bronze

8.  Weighing spoon marked HARTLEY

4.  Letter balance marked J. Rodgers & Sons, c1890

9.  Late 19th century Swedish bismar

5.  Letter balance by Edward Greaves, Sheffield, England, c1900


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Pendulum Scales

Pendulum Examples

1.  Coin balance by Anscheutz & Co, London, c1765

8.  Letter balance by N.B. Paris, c 1900

2.  Egg balance, probably by P. J. Maul of Hamburg, Germany, for the British market, c1930

9.  Market scale by Testut of Paris

3.  Letter balance by N.B. Paris, markings indicate date 1869-1875

10.  Letter scale by J. Cooke & Sons, London, c1865

4.  Letter balance by G. Riddle, London, Registered Design No. 113 of 1839

11.  Stylus balance by Lenco, Switzerland, 1977

5.  Letter balance by unknown maker, probably German, for the British market, c1910

12.  Letter balance by Thorne-Foster Inc, New York, c1934

6.  Letter balance by unknown maker, patented in Germany in 1911

13.  Confectioner’s scale marked Cooperative Wholesale Society Ltd, Scale Dept, Manchester

7.  Letter balance by unknown maker, patented in Germany in 1900

14.  Paper testing scale by Louis Schopper of Leipzig, Germany, c1900

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Roberval Scales

Roberval Examples

1.  Letter scale by S. Mordan & Co, London, c1870

5.  Trade scale by Hizar of Istanbul, 1976, Beranger system, based on design patented by Joseph Beranger in 1849

2.  English trade scale by Joseph & Jesse Siddons Ltd, West Bromwich, England, 1924

6.  Butcher scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, 1898

3.  Trade scale by Henry Pooley & Son Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1907

7.  Butter trip scale by E & T Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont

4.  “Equity” butcher scale by Cooperative Wholesale Society Ltd, Scale Dept, Manchester, England, 1935


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Spring Scales

Spring Examples

1.  Mancur spring balance used for rough weighing on farms, in kitchens and on hunting trips for animals or hides

10.  Trade Circular Balance No. 80T by Geo. Salter & Co, West Bromwich, England, 1912

2.  Early type of spring balance by W. Day, c1820

11.  “Bow-front” type of letter balance by Pelouze Mfg. Co, Chicago, c1910

3.  Tubular spring balance by Geo. Salter & Co, West Bromwich, England

12.  “Straight-face” type of letter balance by Salter, postage rates for period 1871 to 1897

4.  Sector or “V” spring balance, French, used for general weighing

13.  Person scale marked JARASO Made in England, patented in 1910

5.  Postal spring balance by Geo. Salter & Co, c1910, larger ones made for parcels

14.  Coin balance patented by C. Leni in 1892

6.  Modern version of a candlestick type (a), top is reversible for storage (b)

15.  Combined spring letter balance and stamp case, design registered in 1888

7.  Candlestick type letter spring balance by J & E Ratcliff, Birmingham, c1840

16.  Combined letter balance with pen and seal, John Sheldon, Birmingham, design registered in 1858

8.  Postal scale by Triner Scale & Mfg, Co, USA, 1910

17.  Trade spring balance which combines a dial with a pull-down slide, Morton & Bremner, New York, c1900

9.  Letter spring balance, the PRESTO by Metal Specialty Manufacturing Co, Chicago

18.  Market scale by John Chatillon & Sons, New York, c1900

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Rocker Balances

Rocker Examples

1.  Coin rocker for coins of Turkey, Greece and Egypt with marks in Middle Eastern and Western numerals

11.  Coin rocker patented by John Allender, USA, Nov 27th, 1855

2.  Sovereign rocker marked “Martineau & Smith”, Birmingham, England, c1840

12.  Egg rocker by unknown British maker, c1935

3.  Unusual equal-arm rocker by S. Mordan & Co, London, weights for 1843

13.  Cruciform rocker for coins of Turkey, Greece and Egypt, late 19th century

4.  Sovereign rocker by B. Cattle, Birmingham, England, c1830

14.  “Martini Scale”, American, 20th century, bismar type rocker

5.  ”Base Coin Detector” by unknown British maker, patented in 1853

15.  Sovereign rocker marked M. Hammond. Registered Jan 5.1845

6.  Coin rocker by unknown French maker, marked “Depose. Numismetre. Etalon”

16.  Coin rocker patented by H. Maranville of America in 1857

7.  Sovereign rocker By Charles Simmons, Birmingham, c1845

17.  Rocker for an unidentified single coin, 19th century

8.  Letter balance by William Poupard, London, c1850

18.  Sovereign rocker, English, 19th century

9.  Medicine rocker marked “Dr. Fitch’s Prescription Scale”, USA. “Patented Sept. 29th . 1885”

19.  Coin rocker by the Berrian Mfg Co, New York, for weighing US gold and silver coins, patented by J. A. Thompson in 1877

10.  Triple coin rocker by unknown maker, mid 19th century for weighing the half-crown, shilling and sixpence


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Platform Scales

Platform Examples

1.  Decimal scale made in Germany, late 19th century

6.  Kitchen scale marked “Royal. A Tower Product. Made in Germany”, c1958

2.  “One Horse Scale” made by Jones of Binghamton, New York, c1885

7.  “Mayfair” bathroom scale by Geo. Salter & Co. Ltd, c1960

3.  Early type of platform scale called the “Caledonian Scale”

8.  Person scale marked “Weeks’ Museum, Tichbourne Street”, c1790

4.  Person scale by George Salter & Co, England, 1912

9.  Table scale marked “Hanovaria. 25kg”, German, late 19th century

5.  Counter platform scale with loose-weight steelyard by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, c1900

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Miscellaneous Scales

Miscellaneous Examples  

1.  “Weight-collecting” scale made by Joseph & Edmund Ratcliff and patented by R. Willis in 1840

10.  Sovereign scale by Isaac Brown, London, registered in 1842

2.  Combined letter balance, pen, pencil and toothpick by John Sheldon, Birmingham, England, c1845

11.  Weight-lifting letter scale registered by F. Gye of London in 1840

3.  Stylus balance, the “Variscale” by Colton & Co, London, 1971

12.  Hydraulic letter balance, registered by A. F. Osler of Birmingham in 1839

4.  Hydraulic letter balance, the “Eldon”, USA, mid 20th century

13.  Letter scale registered by Joseph Gillot, Birmingham, England, in 1839

5.  Weighing scoop patented in England by F.C. Howe of America in 1906

14.  Sovereign balance by R. W. Winfield, Birmingham, weights marked with the maker’s name and the date 1842

6.  “Ladder scale” made by DeGrave, Short, Fanner & Co, London, c1870

15.  Candy scale by Henry Troemner, Philadelphia, USA, 1926

7.   Letter balance marked DBP, German, 1978

16.  Laboratory scale by W. Bochkoltz, Germany, mid 19th century

8.  General purpose scale patented by Robert Salmon, London, in 1796

17.  Stylus balance, the “Transcriptor”, English, 1976

9.  Counting scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, 1965

18.  Parcel scale by S. Mordan & Co., London, half-roberval and hanging pan system, parcel postage rates for the period 1883 to 1886

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