TBB Triple Beam Balance - Adam Equipment

Digital technology is moving on at an ever-increasing pace and the weighing industry is no different, with ever-increasing precision, wireless operation and complex weighing applications, digital balances are becoming more intelligent year on year.

So why are mechanical balances still needed?

This blog post shall highlight the importance of mechanical scales in the market today looking at the types of mechanical scale, how they are used, and how they differ from conventional digital scales.

Why use a mechanical scale?

Most high performance digital balances are manfactured for laboratory environments are not practical for field work or when navigating hard to reach locations and typically require charging from a mains power supply. After all, frequently moving around your most expensive, high-tech analytical balance to conduct field work in difficult terrain is risky business at best.

Alternatively, Mechanical scales are robust, in-expensive weighing machines capable of producing accurate results in the most demanding of environments, moreover, they tend to be portable in size and can easily fit into backpacks for convenient transportation and operation.

What is a mechanical scale?

A mechanical scale or balance is a precise weighing device that does not require a power supply in order to weigh an object. They are typically inexpensive, portable and easy to use, and are ideal for teaching students concepts of mass measurement. Some varieties of mechanical balances can be used to measure force exertion, resistance and tension.

 FA Mechanical Force Gauge - Sauter

Types of mechanical scale

Available in a variety of sizes, mechanical balances are used in many different applications:

Pocket scales

Pocket scales are mechanical (or digital) weighing instruments that are small enough to carry in a pocket or any small container. Due to their small size, they’re portable for simple, fast weighing on the go. Pocket scales can accomplish just about anything a regular-sized scale can. They’re available in an array of designs, and they come in a selection of sizes and with different levels of precision. Advances in technology have made pocket scales a viable option for many measuring tasks, such as weighing jewellery, gold, or small samples.

Hanging scales

Mechanical hanging scales feature rugged construction and a sturdy hook that allows users  to safely weigh suspended items. They are reliable, accurate and robust mechanical devices typically used in industrial settings such as warehouses or production operations for weighing sacks and bags.

Triple-beam balances

A triple-beam balance is a highly precise weighing machine that calculates the weight of an object using three beams; each beam contains a sliding poise. The poise is attached to a linear slider that counts up from zero in single-gram increments. The poises vary in weight, and it’s best to begin with the heaviest and work down to the lightest, which is used for fine-tuning results.

Force Gauges

A force gauge is a specialised scale used to measuring force resistance and tension in Newton increments. These are typically small instruments that feature swivel-hook attachments and are ideal for use in classroom education, research, and safety testing procedures. Both mechanical and digital force gauges are available.

Spring scale

Spring scales are a type of pocket scale that are ideal for students and young professionals. They can be used to measure force which equates to the tension force of constraint on the object being weighed against the force of gravity. Suitable for simple, suspended weighing tasks, a spring scale or spring balance is a small, portable scale that contains a fixed spring and hook.

 Using a Spring Balance to Weigh Potatoes

What are mechanical balances used for?

Mechanical balances are found in many different industries, from scientific laboratory environments to commercial retail warehouses. Essentially, they offer an alternative to electronic scales and are used to accurately weigh objects whenever a power supply is unavailable.

Within retail environments, mechanical scales such as the hanging scale can be used at outdoor markets for the suspended weighing of tote bags of produce. Similarly, veterinarians or farmers can suspend-weigh bags of animal feed for livestock, cattle and horses.

Triple-beam balances and spring balances are highly versatile scales that are used in laboratories, academic institutions and field research. Triple-beam balances offer an interactive way for students to learn about weighing and measurement. Spring balances can be used for weighing chemical compounds in science experiments and by laboratory professionals.

Learn more about how to use the triple beam balance through this brief video tutorial, courtesy of Adam Equipment.


What is the difference between a mechanical scale and a digital scale?

Four key criteria can be used to differentiate mechanical scales and digital scales:

  1. Cost – mechanical scales are relatively inexpensive, compared to digital scale options.
  2. Calibration – mechanical balances require accurate manual or external calibration using guides or approved calibration weights, while some digital weighing scale models offer internal calibration that simplifies the calibration process.
  3. Application – digital scales offer a greater variety of applications, from basic checkweighing and parts counting to density determination or percentage weighing
  4. Technical – mechanical balances do not require a power supply or charging.

Questions to consider before buying a scale

Choosing the right balance for your needs can be difficult and there are several important questions to ask yourself before proceeding to buy a scale:

1) Do I need a scale?

Potential buyers should always consider whether or not they require a scale. If your business depends on accurate product weight or you sell products by weight then it is required by law to use a trade-approved scale. If you don’t plan to use it regularly or you don’t require one for any specific purpose, then you can save money and skip the purchase.

Our Advice: Consider frequency, intention and cost when making your decision.

2) Where will I use my scale?

Scales come in all shapes and sizes and it is helpful to understand the limitations of your environment before buying scales. For example, if you work in a small office, a large pallet platform scale or crane scale probably aren’t for you.  

Our Advice: Compare the dimensions of the scale with your available space.

3) What applications do I need my scale to perform?

If you need to ensure product uniformity by weight, your scale should offer a checkweighing function. Similarly, if you want to assess percentage, you need a scale that can do percentage weighing.

Our Advice: Prior to purchase, jot down a list of weighing tasks you need your scale to perform. We include thorough application information for scales on our product pages.

4) Can I afford to buy the scale I need?

Scales and balances are specialised devices that can prove costly for any business. High-performance digital balances such as analytical balances, precision balances and crane scales are feature-rich and probably offer the features and functions you need. However, they also can come with a hefty price tag. Alternatively, mechanical balances and pocket scales are available at a fraction of the cost, yet it’s unlikely they offer the same features, functions or precision found in more expensive balances.

Our Advice:  Postpone your purchase until you can afford a scale that suits your needs. 


Recommended mechanical scales and balances

We have a wide variety of mechanical scales for sale from leading brands including Kern, Sauter and Adam Equipment.

TBB Triple-Beam Balance - Adam Equipment

TBB Triple-Beam Balances


A precise, dependable weighing machine, TBB triple beam balances are idea for conducting educational weighing experiments in classroom environments.

281 Spring Balance - Kern

Kern 281 Spring Balance


The Kern 281 spring scale is a trusted pocket-sized scale for convenient weighing. Affordable and easy to use, the 281 is a suitable choice for students and young professionals.

FA Mechanical Force Gauge - Sauter

FA Mechanical Force Gauge


The FA mechanical force gauge from Sauter is a lightweight, compact weighing instrument that measures force exerted during a push and pull test. FA is a highly dependable force gauge that is built to last.