Kitchen balance scales made from cast iron and brass. These consist of a cast iron beam with a fulcrum at the centre, with a cast iron plate and brass pan placed at equal distance from the fulcrum at each end of the beam.
There are many well known makes of the domestic balance scale such as Victor, Salter, Weylux and The Viking. The Viking was manufactured by F.J. Thornton and Company in Wolverhampton in the 1940s. Their logo was a gold Viking longship in the centre of the cast iron base. F.J Thornton are no longer in business. Salter was established in 1760 in Bilston and still survive today. Salter scales have their trademark Salter knot moulded into the centre of the balance.
The two main uses are:
- Weighing out a specific weight of produce, eg. flour. Brass or cast iron loose counterweights (MBPO 17) are placed on the cast iron plate at the required weight, with the goods to be weighed placed in the brass pan at the other end. Weights are added to the plate until the beam is horizontally level. This means the correct weight of flour is in the pan.
- Finding the unknown weight of produce. The produce can be put in the pan and weights in increasing increments added to the plate until the beam is level. Adding the value of the weights added to the plate will give the weight of the produce.
Individual weights (MBPO 17) for domestic use in cooking and baking were in imperial values of 1/4oz, 1/2oz, 1oz, 2oz, 4oz, 8oz and 1lb. The scales could usually measure goods up to 7lb depending on how many weights you had. In metric these are 7grams (g), 14g, 28.5g, 56.5g, 113.5g, 227g and 454g/0.45Kg. Weights vary in shape and, depending on the shape, are sometimes stackable.
Balance scales (or mechanical balances) originated thousands of years ago, the oldest evidence for their use being 2400 – 1800 B.C in the Indus Valley when they were used with stones. The Egyptians and the Vikings used them for trading purposes such as weighing coins. They were improved on over the centuries, with even Leonardo da Vinci working on designs, and scales right up until the Seventeenth Century were variations on the balance scale.