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Scales | History, Benefits & Common Uses | Optics and Lab Equipment

Scales | History, Benefits & Common Uses

Last Updated: 21.10.19

A short history of the weighing scale

Whether you use a body weighing scale to find out your weight or opt for a kitchen model to measure the ingredients in your new recipe, weighing scales have evolved massively in the past decades, and they seem more useful than ever.

In some ways, scales have been used since the beginning of time for trading purposes. The Romans and all other ancient civilizations had their own measurement techniques that were applied to find the weight of produce, metals, and other things.

After that, the scale was used as a measuring unit for all the products that were traded in the kingdom. If you’re interested in learning more about scales and their history, here is everything you need to know.


Ancient history

The oldest discoveries in the field seem to date back over 4000 years ago, around the year 2000 B.C. The first weighing scales were originally balances, using a central pole and two plates attached to an overhead beam. This rudimentary instrument was used as a measuring unit for all products that needed to be weighed, from foods to metals, and more.

The remains of such an instrument were found in today’s Pakistan. The balance was considered a very accurate form of weighing if you played by the book. However, the Celts found a way of cheating when they were negotiating with the Romans.

Nevertheless, the instrument didn’t know any major improvements until the end of the 18th century, at the beginning of the industrial era.


Modern history

In the 1770s, a British balance maker named Richard Salter was the one who invented the spring scale that finally replaced the counter-weight mechanism.

This new product was intended to measure the pressure or the tension exerted on a spring in order to calculate the weight of a different object. These items are used in modern days as well although they have been gradually replaced with the digital models which are more accurate.

Nowadays, there are numerous brands and producers of electronic scales, so you can easily find the product that will best suit your needs, according to your budget and demands.

Different types of weighing scales

As we previously mentioned, scales can be used for a wide array of purposes, depending on your needs. However, the most common product remains the home weighing scale that allows you to measure your body weight and determine whether or not you need to go on a diet.

This digital product can also be used to indicate your body fat, lean mass, BMI, water ratio, and muscle mass. Later on, based on the information, you can create a customized diet and workout routine to lose weight, gain more muscle mass, and improve your lifestyle. Generally, these scales can weigh up to 350-400 pounds, depending on their limitations.

Another popular item is the luggage weighing scale mainly used in airports or in any other place where there is a luggage limitation policy. These products usually resemble the ones used in the comfort of your own home, except they’re bigger.

Kitchen scales are more accurate as their error index is smaller. These products are extremely useful especially for kitchen newbies who are stressed about pouring too much of a product and, therefore, messing with the final results. The scales are mainly designed to weight up to 10-11 pounds.

There are also finer scales used in the pharmaceutical or cosmetic industry where errors should be minimized as much as possible. Needless to say that a higher dosage could have massive implications for the human life and could cause life-threatening side effects or body reactions.

Usually, pharmaceutical scales don’t allow tolerance for more than 5% error, but this depends on how sensitive and powerful the substance is.

Lastly, one of the most accurate scales existent are the ones used to measure precious metals or extremely rare and lightweight items.



But how do you exactly calculate these errors and, most importantly, why do they appear? Keep in mind that there are various external and internal factors that can cause a scale to become less accurate in time.

The most common source of error is the miscalibration that occurs due to temperature changes or drift in the circuit’s accuracy. Other sources of error can include magnetic fields, electrostatic fields, chemical reactions, evaporation of water, gravitational differences or vibrations.




Common uses for a digital pocket scale

As opposed to regular scales, a digital pocket scale is lightweight and very small, which makes for convenient transportation anywhere you go. But why would you need to carry such a product with you?

Surely you won’t be using it to determine the weight of your groceries at the supermarket but there are some moments in which such a scale could prove useful. Here are five of the most common situations that will most likely require a reliable yet inexpensive scale.

Measuring gold

In the precious metal industry, such a scale is not only useful but mandatory as well. Gold is nowadays sold by the ounce but you cannot always trust the jeweler with a fair bargain. On the contrary, there are many times when jewelers use fake and modified scales to deliberately show a smaller/larger weight than the real one.

The reason behind this is simple – more profit. Keep in mind that professional jewelers trade large quantities of gold on a daily basis and even the slightest measurement error in their favor could bring them important profits.

Therefore, it is always useful to bring your own unaltered scale and double-measure each ounce of gold you are about to buy or sell.


Measure small parcels and letters

Post offices often use large scales to determine the precise weight of each parcel or letter in order to calculate the shipping costs. Using the same product, small companies and even people can calculate the estimated cost of shipping before arriving at the post office or to the carrier’s office.

This will determine the most efficient shipping method and could also substantially decrease the amount of time required for that parcel or letter to be delivered. Keep in mind that lightweight parcels and letters can be delivered faster as they can be easily carried by the mailman.

On the contrary, heavier parcels require the use of larger vehicles that only start their journey after they are fully loaded. Thus, it may take longer for your parcel to leave the warehouse and reach its destination. In these cases and especially during the holiday season, a one-ounce weight difference can, in fact, equal a few extra days until the package is delivered.


The pharma industry

In this field, accurate measurements are mandatory in order to determine the right proportion of each ingredient. Even the slightest measurement error could lead to nasty side effects or to the inefficiency of the final product.

Therefore, a precise and reliable portable scale comes in handy. The big pharmaceutical companies use high-performance items that can end up costing thousands of dollars and are able to detect errors of several micrograms.

However, local pharmacies that also prepare their own medicines often choose portable scales because they are good enough for their needs. Most local pharmacies prepare creams, gels, and lotions that are locally applied and, therefore, their recipes are not as strict as the ones used for pills.  

For cooking

Throughout the ages, people have refined their tastes for foods and it is only natural that nowadays customers are pickier. The “fine dining” concept implies carefully selected and expensive ingredients that combine to create a symphony of tastes and smells.

Thus, it goes without saying that chefs pay more attention to the details in order to create a perfectly balanced taste. This is where a digital scale steps in as it ensures the precise weighing of each ingredient.

Molecular gastronomy is another modern dining concept that requires the use of a digital scale in order to create true masterpieces. Test tubes and syringes represent the main cooking tools in this type of cuisine and a pharmaceutical precision is required to deliver reinvented dishes.


For camping purposes

Have you thought about new ways to bring more efficiency to your camping packing process? A digital scale may not be your first choice but we guarantee you it’s extremely reliable and useful.

Campers need to prepare their meals in advance to survive so many days outdoors, so a digital scale may come in handy. The item allows them to precisely measure each meal and thus, add as many as possible in their backpacks.

It is extremely important to always pack a few extra meals or snacks before going on your next outdoor adventure in order to be prepared for unforeseen events or special situations.




How and why you should use a kitchen scale


Believe it or not, a mechanical food scale is a great addition to your kitchen. It will not only help you create perfect and delicious recipes but can also radically improve your lifestyle and eating habits.

Here are some of the main reasons why and how you should use this magical kitchen tool.

Carefully measure the ingredients

If you’re not an experienced chef or you still don’t know the significance of “a cup of sugar” or “a sprinkle of salt”, a kitchen scale is probably the most useful kitchen tool for you. Although the analog kitchen scale is less accurate than a digital one, you’ll still have a clear picture of how much of a certain ingredient you should add to the composition.

Keep in mind that some dishes are more complicated to recreate and require high precision as each ingredient should be perfectly balanced to create a unique taste. Any mistake can lead to a total catastrophe, completely changing the taste of the food.

Some people take the ingredient measurement one step further and become obsessed with weighing each food they consume. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you developed and perfected your own formula over the years that is suitable for your own lifestyle and diet preferences.


Limit your portions

Another reason why you should opt for a mechanical kitchen scale is that it can help you easily calculate the perfect portion for each meal. By limiting the size of your portions you will maximize each meal and benefit from all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Limiting your portions is the first step you must take if you committed to a healthier lifestyle and losing weight. Therefore, a kitchen scale will be your trustworthy ally in the kitchen, especially when it comes to sweets or carbs.

You can either measure each ingredient separately or measure the entire meal and then calculate the number of calories per each meal. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t consume more than 2000 calories per day, and, if you want to also lose weight, you should limit your daily intake to about 1700 calories.

Measuring and calculating the weight of each food you eat might seem exhausting at the beginning but you’ll get used to it after a few weeks. In addition, there are plenty of online apps that can automatically count the number of calories for each ingredient based on its weight, helping you eat the perfect amount.

These apps are similar to food diaries to which you add all the foods and beverages you consumed in a day. Based on the size of the portions, you’ll get an accurate image of the number of calories and determine whether you need to size down or stick to the same track until you reach your desired weight.

Which ingredients should you mainly weigh?

Keeping a strict diet is not an easy task, therefore you need to get used to the benefits of a kitchen scale. Unfortunately, it is not the fruits and veggies that offer the highest calorie intake, but the cooked and processed foods you mainly need to stay away from.

Other foods like cheese and nuts are rich in saturated fats and, even though they provide a good source of energy, they can easily get you fat. Nutritionists don’t recommend eating more than 2 ounces of cheese and nuts per day.

However, some types of cheeses, especially processed ones, might require even smaller portions due to the number of calories included. And, when it comes to the frequency, most nutritionists agree that dairy products are rather unhealthy and they should only be consumed occasionally.

Although they are rich in calcium, you can get the same benefits by eating broccoli, which obviously has fewer calories than a slice of cheese or a cup of yogurt.

Other ingredients that you should always measure are pasta and meat. And, while you can cheat a little with low-calorie meats like chicken and turkey, pasta require more precision from your part. If you don’t have access to a kitchen scale, you can easily measure the perfect amount of pasta for one portion with the help of a special pasta spoon.

Lastly, don’t forget that not only main courses and desserts must be weighed, but also beverages. Dark filtered coffee without extra sugar, syrups or milk is poor in calories, while a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice has about 120 calories.




Benefits of the kitchen scale


“A cup of flour and a pinch of salt” don’t actually sound like real directions in the kitchen? We get it, becoming a remotely decent cook takes time, perseverance, and a lot of effort. And, sometimes you end up overcooking frozen products, putting too much salt in your salad or making your kitchen look worse than a war scene.

For all of that, you still have time. For all those mornings when you woke up earlier than your significant other to make coffee and breakfast in bed. For all those dinners where you spent countless hours picking up the right perfume and outfit to impress your loved one, and forgot about what’s in the oven.

And, if you’re still wondering why you need a mechanical food scale, here are some uses that might have slipped your mind at first.

They are convenient to buy and easy to use

First of all, an analog kitchen scale is a safe and durable investment. These products tend to last many years, and you’ll get a trustworthy partner in the kitchen in your future cooking quests without much fiddling.

Digital scales are easy to use as well. Basically, all they need is a battery and a push of a button and then they’ll do the magic for you. In addition, kitchen scales can also allow you to easily switch between grams and ounces and convert your required measurements to make sure you add the right amount of each ingredient.


They help with portion sizes by providing accurate measurements

It’s not necessarily important what you eat as long as you’re not eating too much of it. Each diet and lifestyle choice grants you a cheat day per week where you can eat as much as you want of anything. However, a healthier choice would be to not limit yourself to what you can and can’t eat, but simply measure the size of your portion.

A food scale is perfect for weighing your ingredients to make sure you don’t eat too much. You can also put the whole meal on the scale and determine if that’s the right portion for you.

Meal measurement is probably the easiest and fastest way to change your dietary habits, improve your lifestyle, and enjoy a healthier life altogether. Buying a food scale is the first step to finally have that beach body you always dreamt of without giving up on all your munchies and cravings.

They help you count calories and determine real serving sizes

If you’re on a strict calorie diet, the best way to ensure you’re eating properly is to have access to a digital weighing scale. Measuring the exact size of your portion will provide you with all necessary information to ensure you’re on the right track.

All you have to do is check each of the ingredients’ label and, based on the information provided, calculate the exact number of calories you’ll be eating. This might sound tricky and time-consuming at the beginning, but we can assure you it’s an easy way to eat the right amount of each food and benefit from all its nutrients and vitamins.

And, if you want things to go easier, there are plenty of online apps for your smartphone or tablet which calculate the exact number of calories you’ve eaten in a day and give you tips on how to achieve your desired weight faster.

Again, all you have to do is to measure your portions and to avoid exceeding the daily intake of calories. Keep in mind that water doesn’t have calories, but coffee, tea, fresh juices, and other beverages do so make sure you count them as well.


They encourage you to adopt healthier eating habits

Once you’ve gotten used to a kitchen scale, you’ll easily be able to determine the right portion size for each meal. In time, it will help you build healthier eating habits and prevent you from overeating. This will not only change your entire dietary routine but will also promote a healthier lifestyle and possibly aid with weight loss.

Unfortunately, scientists are not yet on the same page with the number of times you should eat daily to maintain the benefits achieved with the help of a kitchen scale.

For instance, some suggest that three main meals and two additional snacks are the key to sustainable weight loss, while more recent studies rather focus on the time you should eat, suggesting that you should wake up early in the morning, have a healthy breakfast 1-2 hours after you woke up, and then eat the rest of your meals (including dinner) until 4 p.m.




Why to bake with a scale


If you’re not entirely a newbie in the kitchen, you must already use a number of different appliances, pots, utensils, and accessories. So why should you invest in a food scale as well?

Believe it or not, there are many reasons why you need to start baking and cooking with a scale, and some of the most important are showcased below.

Use your money wisely

If one of your hobbies is related to cooking, then a food scale is a must. You spend thousands of dollars on other hobbies, so why not invest a couple of hundreds in a good and reliable mechanical kitchen scale? Chances are you already paid large amounts of money for appliances and pots you don’t use on a regular basis, so why not invest in a product that’s actually helpful every day?


It’s the professional thing to do

If you decided to start baking or creating new recipes, you need to invest in high-quality equipment first. This also includes a lightweight and precise digital pocket scale that you can use anywhere you want. Keep in mind that some recipes require high precision in order to obtain a balanced taste, so measuring the ingredients by eye is not a good option.

If you intend to start your own business in the cooking industry, a measuring scale will also increase your profit by maximizing the use of each ingredient. In the long term, you’ll probably end up saving gallons of milk and thousands of ounces of flour.


You’ll spend less time

Believe it or not, by simply measuring all your ingredients you’ll end up saving precious time in the kitchen. A measuring scale allows you to weigh the entire quantity at once without having to add up each cup or tablespoon.

And, since time is money, you can easily reach the conclusion that efficiency is the best policy in the business. In addition, you’ll never lose count on the number of cups you added and how many you have left.

Consider you’d have to bake hundreds of cakes daily – you’ll probably end up forgetting how many cups you already added, which would be bad for business. By investing in a food scale you will make the entire cooking process more efficient and will also prevent hand fatigue from all that measuring.


Measurements are not always standardized

You’re probably used to measuring your ingredients with the help of cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons. Unfortunately, not all of these cups and kitchen utensils have the same volume, which is extremely confusing.

Each manufacturer uses its own scales, materials, and designs, which can easily lead to differences. And, when it comes to cooking gourmet meals or sophisticated dishes, even the slightest ingredient imbalance can destroy the taste or consistency of the final product.

At the end of the day, ounces or grams are always more reliable than cups and teaspoons.  


The shape and size of the ingredients interfere with the weight

Let’s assume that liquid and powder ingredients have the same weight no matter if you use scales or regular measurement cups. But what about the rest of the ingredients that vary in size, shape, and volume? Does a cup of blueberries still equal 10 ounces of blueberries?

When cooking small portions, these differences may not be noticeable with the end products, but in professional cases, all these minor interferences matter a lot. At the end of the day, it’s not only about maximizing each ingredient but also about finding the perfect balance between these ingredients.

You’ll clean fewer dishes

Instead of using all sorts of cups, spoons, and pitchers, why not use a single kitchen tool? Keep in mind that each of these products must be washed after use, which could lead to a tremendous amount of time spent to clean after you’re done cooking.

So, instead of purchasing a dishwasher that will be filled with countless measurement cups, a single food scale seems more efficient. In the long term, you’ll save water, energy, cleaning supplies and, most importantly, time.


It’s easier to travel with

If you plan your next outdoor adventure and decide to also cook some recipes, packing numerous measurement cups is not only difficult but also time-consuming and inefficient. So, next time you need to travel, instead of bringing all these useless accessories, you can invest in a single kitchen scale and carry it with you. It is compact and lightweight and will fit even in the smallest backpacks or luggage.




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