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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 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 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.

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Bismar 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.

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Pendulum 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.

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Roberval Scales

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

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Spring 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.

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Rocker Balances

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

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Platform 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.

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Miscellaneous 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 Examples

1. English coin scale, circa 1770 6. Letter scale by unknown maker, circa 1880 11. Jockey scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, England, 1898
2. Office letter scale by DeGrave & Co, London, circa 1890 7. Hydrostatical money scale by Charles & Luke Proctor, Sheffield, England, circa 1780 12. Precision balance by Paul Bunge of Hamburg, Germany, 1923
3. Money scale by S. Henry, London, circa 1774 for weighing the guinea, half and quarter 8. Bread scale by Davis & Southerton Ltd, Walsall, England, circa 1916 13. Apothecary scale by Doyle & Son, London, 1904
4. Money scale by unknown British maker, circa 1780 9. Shop scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, England, circa 1880  
5. Money scale by John Pickett of Marlborough, circa 1780, for weighing the guinea and half 10. Ducat scale by unknown maker, Nuremberg, 18th century  

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Steelyard Examples

1. Trader's steelyard, French, 18th century 8. Letter scale by unknown maker, British, marked S. TURNER'S PATENT, postage rates for the period 1871 to 1897, patented in 1871 15. Jeweler's estimating balance by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, 1916
2. Chondrometer or grain scale by Payne of London, circa 1820 9. British steelyard by T. Beach of Birmingham, circa 1780 16. Coal scale by J. White & Son of Scotland, circa 1910
3. Bread scale by W. & T. Avery, Birmingham, patented in 1885
10. Letter balance marked H.B. WRIGHT No. 130 LONDON Dec. 20th 1839 17. Westphal laboratory balance to determine specific gravity
4. Guinea scale, known as "folding gold balances" by T. Houghton, England, circa 1780 11. Candy scale by Henry Troemner, Philadelphia,1926 18. Counter scale by E. & T. Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont, 1919
5. Unusual steelyard by A. Prutscher, Sonthofen, Germany, 20th century 12. Letter steelyard by unknown maker, English, circa 1880 19. Prescription scale by E. & T. Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont, circa 1910
6. "Shelf-edge" type of coin balance by Bradford, Derby and Hulls, England, patented in 1753 13. Coin steelyard, as advertised by John Joseph Merlin, London, circa 1780 20. Laboratory scale marked CENCO Triple Beam Balance by the Central Scientific Co. Chicago
7. Sovereign balance by F. Sheldon, Birmingham, circa 1845 14. Double-beam steelyard by Fucoma, Berlin, Germany, 20th century  

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Bismar Examples

1. Traditional bismar 4. Letter balance marked J. Rodgers & Sons, circa 1890 7. Letter balance made by Silvester & Co, London, for Henry Hooper, who registered the design in 1839
2. Combined letter balance, ruler and paper knife 5. Letter balance by Edward Greaves, Sheffield, England, circa 1900 8. Weighing spoon marked HARTLEY
3. Roman bismar made of bronze
6.Tobacco balance 9. Late 19th century Swedish bismar

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Pendulum Examples

1. Coin balance by Anscheutz & Co, London, circa 1765
6. Letter balance by unknown maker, patented in Germany in 1911 11. Stylus balance by Lenco, Switzerland, 1977
2. Egg balance, probably by P. J. Maul of Hamburg, Germany, for the British market, circa 1930 7. Letter balance by unknown maker, patented in Germany in 1900 12. Letter balance by Thorne-Foster Inc, New York, circa 1934
3. Letter balance by N.B. Paris, markings indicate date 1869-1875 8. Letter balance by N.B. Paris, circa 1900 13. Confectioner's scale marked Cooperative Wholesale Society Ltd, Scale Dept, Manchester
4. Letter balance by G. Riddle, London, Registered Design No. 113 of 1839 9. Market scale by Testut of Paris 14. Paper testing scale by Louis Schopper of Leipzig, Germany, circa 1900
5. Letter balance by unknown maker, probably German, for the British market, circa 1910 10. Letter scale by J. Cooke & Sons, London, circa 1865  

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Roberval Examples

1. Letter scale by S. Mordan & Co, London, circa 1870 4. "Equity" butcher scale by Cooperative Wholesale Society Ltd, Scale Dept, Manchester, England, 1935 7. Butter trip scale by E & T Fairbanks & Co, St Johnsbury, Vermont
2. English trade scale by Joseph & Jesse Siddons Ltd, West Bromwich, England, 1924 5. Trade scale by Hizar of Istanbul, 1976, Beranger system, based on design patented by Joseph Beranger in 1849  
3. Trade scale by Henry Pooley & Son Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1907
6. Butcher scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, 1898  

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Spring Examples

1. Mancur spring balance used for rough weighing on farms, in kitchens and on hunting trips for animals or hides 7. Candlestick type letter spring balance by J & E Ratcliff, Birmingham, circa 1840 13. Person scale marked JARASO Made in England, patented in 1910
2. Early type of spring balance by W. Day, circa 1820 8. Postal scale by Triner Scale & Mfg, Co, USA, 1910 14. Coin balance patented by C. Leni in 1892
3. Tubular spring balance by Geo. Salter & Co, West Bromwich, England
9. Letter spring balance, the PRESTO by Metal Specialty Manufacturing Co, Chicago 15. Combined spring letter balance and stamp case, design registered in 1888
4. Sector or "V" spring balance, French, used for general weighing 10. Trade Circular Balance No. 80T by Geo. Salter & Co, West Bromwich, England, 1912 16. Combined letter balance with pen and seal, John Sheldon, Birmingham, design registered in 1858
5. Postal spring balance by Geo. Salter & Co, circa 1910, larger ones made for parcels 11. "Bow-front" type of letter balance by Pelouze Mfg. Co, Chicago, circa 1910 17. Trade spring balance which combines a dial with a pull-down slide, Morton & Bremner, New York, circa 1900
6. Modern version of a candlestick type (a), top is reversible for storage (b) 12. "Straight-face" type of letter balance by Salter, postage rates for period 1871 to 1897 18. Market scale by John Chatillon & Sons, New York, circa 1900

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Rocker Examples

1. Coin rocker for coins of Turkey, Greece and Egypt with marks in Middle Eastern and Western numerals 8. Letter balance by William Poupard, London, circa 1850 15. Sovereign rocker marked M. Hammond. Registered Jan 5.1845
2. Sovereign rocker marked "Martineau & Smith," Birmingham, England, circa 1840 9. Medicine rocker marked "Dr. Fitch's Prescription Scale," USA. "Patented Sept. 29th . 1885" 16. Coin rocker patented by H. Maranville of America in 1857
3. Unusual equal-arm rocker by S. Mordan & Co, London, weights for 1843
10. Triple coin rocker by unknown maker, mid 19th century for weighing the half-crown, shilling and sixpence 17. Rocker for an unidentified single coin, 19th century
4. Sovereign rocker by B. Cattle, Birmingham, England, circa 1830 11. Coin rocker patented by John Allender, USA, Nov 27th, 1855 18. Sovereign rocker, English, 19th century
5. "Base Coin Detector" by unknown British maker, patented in 1853 12. Egg rocker by unknown British maker, circa 1935 19. Coin rocker by the Berrian Mfg Co, New York, for weighing US gold and silver coins, patented by J. A. Thompson in 1877
6. Coin rocker by unknown French maker, marked "Depose. Numismetre. Etalon" 13. Cruciform rocker for coins of Turkey, Greece and Egypt, late 19th century  
7. Sovereign rocker By Charles Simmons, Birmingham, circa 1845 14. "Martini Scale," American, 20th century, bismar type rocker  

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Platform Examples

1. Decimal scale made in Germany, late 19th century 4. Person scale by George Salter & Co, England, 1912 7. "Mayfair" bathroom scale by Geo. Salter & Co. Ltd, circa 1960
2. "One Horse Scale" made by Jones of Binghamton, New York, circa 1885 5. Counter platform scale with loose-weight steelyard by W. & T. Avery Ltd, Birmingham, circa 1900 8. Person scale marked "Weeks' Museum, Tichbourne Street," circa 1790
3. Early type of platform scale called the "Caledonian Scale"
6. Kitchen scale marked "Royal. A Tower Product. Made in Germany," circa 1958
9. Table scale marked "Hanovaria. 25kg," German, late 19th century

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Miscellaneous Examples

1. "Weight-collecting" scale made by Joseph & Edmund Ratcliff and patented by R. Willis in 1840 7. Letter balance marked DBP, German, 1978 13. Letter scale registered by Joseph Gillot, Birmingham, England, in 1839
2. Combined letter balance, pen, pencil and toothpick by John Sheldon, Birmingham, England, circa 1845 8. General purpose scale patented by Robert Salmon, London, in 1796 14. Sovereign balance by R. W. Winfield, Birmingham, weights marked with the maker's name and the date 1842
3. Stylus balance, the "Variscale" by Colton & Co, London, 1971
9. Counting scale by W. & T. Avery Ltd, 1965 15. Candy scale by Henry Troemner, Philadelphia, USA, 1926
4. Hydraulic letter balance, the "Eldon," USA, mid 20th century 10. Sovereign scale by Isaac Brown, London, registered in 1842 16. Laboratory scale by W. Bochkoltz, Germany, mid 19th century
5. Weighing scoop patented in England by F.C. Howe of America in 1906 11. Weight-lifting letter scale registered by F. Gye of London in 1840 17. Stylus balance, the "Transcriptor," English, 1976
6. "Ladder scale" made by DeGrave, Short, Fanner & Co, London, circa 1870 12. Hydraulic letter balance, registered by A. F. Osler of Birmingham in 1839 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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