A Complete Guide To Weighing Scales

Commonly associated with the dreadful task of weighing ourselves, weighing scales were actually invented to weigh produce.

The majority of weighing scales are still used to weigh produce whether it’s bananas at the supermarket or trucks at a shipping yard.

The earliest scales were more properly known as balances because they were simply two trays suspended from either side of a stick. Produce placed on one side could be balanced by placing weight stones on the other side. This helped ancient sellers evaluate the worth of the crops, cloth, or precious stones they were bartering.

Nowadays, our scales and balances are ever so slightly more accurate. Here at, we have laboratory balances that have readabilities as sensitive as a single milligram!

Choosing the right scales depends on a number of factors including the intended use, degree of accuracy, and additional functions.

Luckily for you, we’re here to help you through it all!

Animal Scales

Used by vets, farmers, and abattoirs, animal weighing scales need to be large enough to support the weight of the animal and unobtrusive enough for the animals to not notice them.

Usually, animal scales are stainless steel plates with a digital readout positioned at about eye level. That is, at human eye level.

Animal scales will have different weight capacities depending on what animal you need to weigh. Livestock and equestrian scales generally have a limit of 3000lbs while vet scales tend to have a limit of around 700lbs.

The main thing to consider when purchasing animal scales is how easy it is for the animal to get onto the scale. You want them to be as low to the ground as possible with as much surface area as possible. Cattle aren’t very good at balancing!


These are very small scales that tend to be used in laboratories. They are usually accurate to the gram though some may be even more sensitive. Laboratory balances are also called analytical balances. The measuring surface is referred to as the pan. It is usually enclosed in a case so that airflow and dust do not interfere with the measurement.

In some states, certain substances must be weighed using NTEP approved scales if they are being weighed for sale.

If you are buying scales to sell products you need to look out for NTEP approval. Sometimes, these scales are sold as legal for trade scales but essentially it means the same thing.

Industrial Scales

These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on your needs.

If the scales are measuring products for sale, they need to be NTEP approved as mentioned above.

Many industrial scales resemble bench scales. They are metal plates that can be small enough to fit on a worktop or large enough to cover a significant portion of the floor. These scales are good for a huge range of industrial applications.

Sometimes, you just need something bigger. In these cases, a crane scale might be more appropriate. The big brother of a handheld luggage scale, crane scales are excellent for large or oversized items. You merely suspend the item and read off the weight.

Of course, this only works if you actually have a cane to lift the scale with…

If you use pallets to move and load inventory then you might prefer to go with a pallet scale. These are pallet jacks with built-in measuring scales. They are an efficient way of keeping track of load weights and inventory.

Finally, counting scales might be more useful in your industry. These scales allow you to work out how many of an object is placed on them. It does this by taking the weight of one item and using it to divide the total weight of the items placed on the scale.

Banks often use these scales to quickly count rolls of quarters or dimes. If you have a lot of small inventory that needs to be counted frequently, you might want to consider getting a set of counting scales.

Medical Scales

When we talk about medical scales we are mostly talking about scales used to measure patients. Now, of course, we could just use bathroom scales/ However, they don’t tend to be as accurate and they aren’t always suitable for all patients.

Babies, for example, are notoriously wriggly and rubbish at standing on scales. Hence why baby scales are commonplace in most pediatrician’s offices. Baby scales tend to have shaped bowls that allow the baby to lie on the scale without needing to be held.

Other things to consider when looking for baby scales, or medical scales in general, are built in tape measures for working out a patient’s height. These are pretty common on baby scales but can also be found on adult scales.

In terms of choosing appropriate scales for a medical practice, you need to think about the needs of your patients. If you have a lot of immobile or wheelchair users you’ll want to think about a wheelchair scale.

Wheelchair scales have ramps that allow users to be pushed onto the plate. They are often portable in that they have a handle to allow you to move the plate into an appropriate place.

There are also options for frail or infirm patients who are not wheelchair-bound. You might want to consider scales with handrails that allow the patient to support themselves as they stand.

Retail Scales

The major feature of retail scales is their ability to calculate the price of an item. They are usually found at farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and frozen yogurt joints.

They measure the weight of the item on the scale and then multiply it by the cost per ounce or per pound of that item. Usually, the cost has to be manually inputted into the scale. This is why you’ll often see cashiers with a crib sheet of cost per item in front of them.

Some price calculator scales will allow you to save a few costs using the programmable keypad. This is ideal for businesses that only sell a few different varieties of products. It means that you don’t have to keep manually tying in the cost per pound.

Another kind of retail scale you might need is a label printing scale. These are similar to price calculator scales in that they multiply the weight measured by the unit price. However, these scales have a built-in label printer.

Frequently found in delis, bakeries, hardware stores, and coffee shops, these scales avoid the need to pre-packaged produce. It gives you and your customers the freedom to choose how much or how many of a product you want.

The final kind of retail scales you might come across are manual produce scales. These are common in farmer’s markets and wholesalers. They have a hanging basket that pulls on a spring when a product is placed in the basket. The spring draws a needle round and displays a weight.

They look a bit kitsch but the major draw is that they don’t require electricity. This means they are ideal for traveling sales.

Remember that all these scales have to be NTEP certified to be used for the sale of products.

Final Thoughts

The plain old bathroom scales might fill you with dread, but there’s no reason why searching for commercial scales should do the same!

There are scales of all configurations and accuracy available to meet any need. Whether you need to weigh your prize heifer or work out how much that frozen yogurt is going to cost you, there’s a solution available

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