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OT....something followed me home last night.....a Christian Becker balance

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  • OT....something followed me home last night.....a Christian Becker balance

    I was visiting a friend and came home with this beautiful Christian Becker balance. I have a couple of (more) modern ones I don't much use, so really have about no use for this, but to me its like art and it needed to come with me. They're not huge dollars, but are they ever neat! I thought you guys would like to see how it operates - until getting in there I didn't appreciate the finer points of these devices

    I haven't cleaned it yet, just playing with it and marveling. Some of the interesting features are noted below.

    The mahogany case looks good in the house, expecting minimal domestic objections. The front window raise like a sash and has counter weights suspended inside so you can lift it to access the trays without removing it. The cords are broken so that needs a fix but the weights are there.

    On the front panel, the centre knob raises rests on each side which take the weight off the beam. All adjustments are from outside the case so you keep it close to prevent air currents from effecting the balance. You can see the conical point on the beam the fits in the cup on the rest. The cones are at the front and second support at the back is a knife edge. So, when this knob is turned the balance beam lifts off its pivot and is register in perfect position. When lowered, and agate V on the beam sits on a flat agate on the column...that's the only contact. The two trays hang by same arrangement

    arms lowered

    arms raised

    There's a nice set of weights and tweezers, the weights are never to be touched by human hands, so it goes.

    Underneath each tray is a pad to arrest any motion. These are raised and lowered by centre knob…or at least a knob to be, its missing. There is fine adjustment so you can set the pads to make contact at the same leve. This helps stop setting oscillating when you lower the pads. The far left knob on the front adjusts the position of the scale under the point.

    The next decimal point, 1/10's of a gram, comes from the movable weight on the beam. What’s really neat is the little crane that is raised and lower from a knob on the right side. It is used to pick up and move this weight. In this shot you can see the weight is lifted by the 'crane'

    Last edited by Mcgyver; 02-28-2020, 09:43 AM.

  • #2
    The wheel cover the next two decimal points takes you to a milligram. It changes the length of a precisely made gold chain suspended from one side of the balance. It, including the position of the vernier is controlled by knobs on the outside. You don’t move the vernier to measure, just to zero. The vernier measures to 1/10 of a milligram.

    Lastly there is a magnetic damper that slides in and out, how much damping depends its position. This is useful as the beam with oscillate for a long before it settles.

    That’s it, thought you might enjoy a tour of this very well constructed mechanical device



    • #3
      Thats quite lovely. I've never seen one of those before.
      Brian Rupnow


      • #4
        Very nice! I recall using a similar balance in freshman chemistry 60 years ago...

        There are no stupid questions. But there are lots of stupid answers. This is the internet.

        Location: SF Bay Area


        • #5
          An absolutely stunning piece, truly a decorative item worthy of a proper place in the home!
          Guess I'll have to up my game, (and places I frequent) if I expect something as noteworthy as this to follow me home.
          Congratulations on the new addition to the family!
          Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
          Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

          Location: British Columbia


          • #6
            man, that is so cool! I'd love to have something like that on the mantelpiece (or wherever). I could happily stare at it for ages, almost better than a TV The thought, design and machining that went into it is really impressive.

            Note - had a similar reaction when I went to LIGO in Washington state with the daughter on a school trip, spent ages looking at the "old" detection mechanisms they had out in the foyer.


            • #7
              That's a very pretty balance.
              I know it has nothing to do with function, but I've always liked it when equipment looks nice.


              • #8
                Wow --- that's a thing of beauty, looks very rare and worth a pretty penny too, Good taste in conversation pieces Mcgyver


                • #9
                  Have you tried weighing writing on a piece of paper yet ?
                  Regards, Marv

                  Home Shop Freeware - Tools for People Who Build Things

                  Location: LA, CA, USA


                  • #10
                    Around 1970's laboratories started to switch from that style of analytical balance to electronic balances. Undergraduate laboratories used to have 5 or 6 of those beautiful old pan balances, and so there was a glut of them for a while. I remember one school had a basement room with about 30 of them stored away, and the lab manager finally told us that anybody who wanted one could have one, and the rest literally went into the dumpster. Over the years I have managed to salvage, buy, and finagle about 15 of those old style of balances with different mechanisms, etc. I even have 2 nanogram balances...

                    I love the look of those old balances. Sometimes I'm tempted ot make a mahagony and brass case for a modern scale .... make a sort of hybrid retro-scale.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the virtual tour Mcgyver. And yeah, that's a pretty piece of kit just to look at never mind study. Much like a nice mantle clock.

                      A few years back I was in Paris and visited the Musee des Arts et Metires. It was loaded with wonderful looking pieces of fine work used for measuring things. I'm sure there was something like your scale there and your own Christian Becker would certainly be right at home in such a setting.
                      Chilliwack BC, Canada


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mcgyver View Post
                        There's a nice set of weights and tweezers, the weights are never to be touched by human hands, so it goes.
                        Yup. Depending on the laboratory manager's persnickityness, and the class of weights being used, touching the weights would set off a big PITA process.

                        Look at your weight set. You will probably have 100, 50, 20, 10, 10, 5, 2, 2, and 1 gram weights. First thing that we would have to do when a weight was touched was check it versus the other weights. Let's say a 10 gram weight was touched. You would check it versus the 5+2+2+1 gram weights. If it had picked up any oil or dirt it would show up heavy versus the combination of the smaller weights. Next it would be combined to check against heavier - 10(dirty)+10(clear) versus the 20 gram weight. The same difference should show up there.

                        If the differences were outside of a tolerance range, then we had to go through a cleaning process. We would first clean them with lab detergent, followed by a distilled water wash, then a distilled acetone rinse, and then allowed to dry in a dessicator for a couple of hours.

                        If the weights were still outside of the tolerance level then we would steam clean the weights making sure the weights got very very hot... then rinse with distilled water, acetone, chloroform followed by acetone, and try overnight.

                        If the differences were still outside of hte tolerance range it was time to bring out the reference set and find out which weight was offending. This was the only job the reference set was used for - testing other weights. It was kept in a dessicator in cupboard and it had lots of dire warnings all over it. We had to put on gloves just to handle the dessicator and take it out of the cupboard. The bench was to be fresh washed, dried, and covered with a special low-lint paper. Since the dessicator has a grease on it's seal, there was a whole process to opening the dessicator and taking out the box of weight so that the grease couldn't contaminate the weight box. Then it was time to take the dessicator off the table, change gloves, and use the weight set...

                        I have one NIST class 0 wieght. It is a platinum/iridium alloy that is pretty darned inert to air and water. But even though it has been in a dessicator all it's life, it's probably not qualified to be class 0 anymore since I have not been keeping it in an argon atomosphere... NIST has very strict protocols.


                        • #13
                          When I was in electroplating back in the 60's, the lab had a similar type of balance which was used to check the amount of gold that was deposited on a test piece of 1 square inch which was in the baths with the mainframe printed circuit boards. The gold was deposited on the edge connectors, and they were also checked for porosity 100%. Now, I look at modern boards made for less than 1% of the cost of those old mainframe ones and marvel at their quality.


                          • #14
                            You're not a drug dealer in your spare time?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by thaiguzzi View Post
                              You're not a drug dealer in your spare time?
                    , probably would have been an easier and more lucrative career choice but I'm still trying to swim against the tide and manufacture stuff here