Featured Help identifying this apothecary/laboratory balance

Discussion in 'Antique Discussion' started by Graveymaster, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. Graveymaster

    Graveymaster New Member

    Hi everyone. Happy to be a member of the forum!

    I bought this balance on ebay a few years ago, just because I thought it was beautiful and cool. The seller described it as a late 1890s balance, made of Honduran mahogany and brass.

    I have a couple of questions:

    1. I have always wondered whether it was made for an apothecary (pharmacist) or a laboratory. Does anybody know?

    2. After you put things on each side of the balance, you press the little lever at the bottom of the brass post, and it lifts the pans. But no matter how perfectly I try to get things to balance evenly on each side, one side of the balance always drops down. In other words, I cannot get the pans to balance perfectly in mid-air. Is that how this is supposed to operate? Or are the pans supposed to balance perfectly in mid-air?

    I would appreciate any and all information about this piece!!

    --Graveymaster tossme.jpg
  2. gregsglass

    gregsglass Well-Known Member

    That set up looks like an older piece from India. I have several older pieces from around 1860-1880 By older piece I think yours is a 1950s/60s piece. Your's will never balance evenly empty. The weight of the brass stem and glass plate will never be the same as the chains and brass plate of the other side. I am not a expert on these things but something just does not appear to be right to me.
    Fid, Figtree3, kyratango and 3 others like this.
  3. afantiques

    afantiques Well-Known Member

    The pans do not appear to match. I have had a few of these and the pans matched and would balance empty. Simple answer is to add a few grams of modelling clay to the light pan.
    I'd say they could be used anywhere you want fairly accurate weight, but they are not good enough for even schoolroom lab work.

    Afterthought, a moneychanger when money was gold and silver, would be most likely to find these useful. The fact that it can be dismantled and packed in the box adds to this theory, market shroffs would be peripatetic.
  4. i need help

    i need help Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the Forum, Graveymaster! :)
    Christmasjoy likes this.
  5. Christmasjoy

    Christmasjoy Well-Known Member

    WELCOME Graveymaster !!! ... Joy. :)
    i need help likes this.
  6. gregsglass

    gregsglass Well-Known Member

    Hi AF,
    The tall stem is larger than the box. I think the weights just go in the box.????
    Fid and i need help like this.
  7. afantiques

    afantiques Well-Known Member

    The ones I have had fitted in, if diagonally. If it is not possible this may indicate a later and purely decorative item.
  8. KikoBlueEyes

    KikoBlueEyes Well-Known Member

    Welcome Graveymaster. Nice item to start with.
    i need help likes this.
  9. 808 raver

    808 raver Well-Known Member

    Hi Graveymaster, IMHO I think they are right, 1840-1860 apothecary scales, you put the weight on the brass pan and then press the lever and add the powder to the glass side, then lower the pans to safely remove the powder after weighing it, they were never meant to be laboratory scales, the weights aren't right, far to heavy for those scales. The fact they pack away just means they are Travelling Apothecary Scales, there are many examples online, yours are the same as them. The look and age of the mahogany just can't be faked, as to "Honduran mahogany" I don't think it really makes much difference, if it was Cuban (very dark) it would be more sort after.
  10. Hi there, the first thing that I notice about these is that the weights seem a bit heavy for an Apothecary set. Apothecary weights are usually tiny squares of metal. I've bought and sold a few of these sets (and post office scales) as I think they are really charming, but unfortunately not very rare, hence prices not that good.
    Figtree3 likes this.
  11. Phil Douglas

    Phil Douglas Member

    A balance can have its sensitivity changed either by design, or due to wear. If you look at my incredibly crap picture you can see the beam, which holds the two pans equidistant from the main pivot. The pivots holding the two pans should be on the same level as the main pivot -- if they are lower, the sensitivity will be reduced, and it will tend to sit in the middle even when there is a difference between the pans. If they are higher, it will never find a balance position. The sensitivity can also be changed by adding more weight to the bit that hangs down from the beam that I've marked sensitivity, or lowering the weight so it is further below the main pivot point.
    The image I grabbed marked two pan three knife edge gives a clearer impression, showing a laboratory analytical balance. There is a nut which can be made to travel up or down called the Sensitivity Adjustment nut, moving the centre of gravity of the beam higher or lower with respect to the pivot, the central knife edge.
    I'm guessing that you nice balance would have been used in a shop selling something quite expensive by weight

    Attached Files:

  12. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    excellent advice.... on a 16 month old thread where the original poster never came back.......................
  13. Phil Douglas

    Phil Douglas Member

    I noticed it was a bit old, sorry about that.
    komokwa likes this.
  14. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    still good information........:happy:
    Firemandk and Phil Douglas like this.
  15. Firemandk

    Firemandk BOY: Trains is cool Daddy ME: No more RR Spikes!

    Seems we all get so involved we forget to look at the dates : makes no never mind.... always learning something !
    Phil Douglas likes this.
  16. 808 raver

    808 raver Well-Known Member

    Thanks Phil, even if the thread poster doesn't read it I learned something :)
    Phil Douglas likes this.
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