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Steampunk Balance

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A Video of completed project

You can see other videos and descriptions of the accessories made for this in the Steampunk Balance Accessories post

The Start- Restoration Work


I purchased this antique analytical balance because I thought it had a Steampunk vibe and potential. This type of balance was also called an Apothecary Balance as it was used to accurately weigh medications at pharmacies. An analytical balance is designed to weigh very accurately, usually to 0.0001 grams.  It is glass enclosed to prevent air movement from causing errors in measurement. In the old mechanical types, weight can be determined remotely through the use of outside levers and slides. This prevents air movement from effecting the measurement.

This unit appears to be fairly old, I suspect sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s. It has a beautiful dark wood frame and internal components made of brass.

It was fairly dirty and missing some pieces.

I was able to find a similar scale at Beckort Auctions that was missing fewer parts. It was not the same scale but does have a similar construction and is made by the same manufacturer. The auction piece does show the missing balance piece shown below.

z-Balance Closeup

The scale along the top would have a weight resting on it that could be slid back and forth with a remote brass rod that slides in and out above it.

The plan is to restore the pieces that I have and then fabricate a balance section from both new and vintage pieces. I plan to make the balance section in a steampunk style.

First, I removed the black obsidian base and mechanical’s from the wood frame. I also removed the glass.

Someone had previously stripped the varnish from the wood, but when I took the sections apart there was still some varnish left on the joined surfaces. This I stripped, then sanded all of the wood surfaces.

2d Broken wood screwSome of the wood screws that held the frame together broke off inside the wood when they were removed.

I used a brass tube mounted to my drill to extract the broken screw pieces.

Placing wooden dowels into the resulting 1/4 inch holes and gluing them in place was the first part of the repair.

Then the surface was machined flush on the milling machine.

3a Disassembled

The balance is now completely disassembled and the wood sections repaired, stripped and sanded.

4a F Sartorius top

The purpose of the slide mechanism shown above is to allow the movement of a weight across the scale on top of the balance. The slide allows this to be done without opening the front door, eliminating errors caused by air movement.

4b Slide closeup

Above is a closeup of the slide, and below are the brass pieces after I stripped, sanded and polished them.

Some parts of the brass slide are integral to the frame and can be seen in the reassembly below. You can’t see the frame for the front door glass , but it’s designed to slide up and down in the grooves on the front of the piece. The top frame has not been replaced in this picture. The top frame was missing the glass pane and hasn’t been put in place. I will need to get a new piece cut before my balance can be completed.

4h Wood varnished with slide installed

The wood which I have re-varnished is most likely mahogany. It has a very rich dark color after varnishing. No stain was used.

Below are pictures of the bottom of the balance.

This is a lift mechanism. When the knob on the front of the unit (seen in the picture at top right) is turned it lifts the balance and weighing trays. In practice this essentially turns off the balance. This allows the weights and item to be weighed to be placed on the scales trays. Then after the door is closed, the lift can be released to allow the scale to balance free of air movement.

5c Lift cam shaft

This is a closeup of the cam rod and front rod removed. This is turned to lower the lifts and tray supports when weighing. Note that some of the screws that held the frame together are in the picture. You can see a broken one in this picture.

5d Broken cam rod holder

During the cleanup and painting of the cast iron piece that holds the release mechanism, I dropped the part, braking off a small piece. Since this is required to both hold the cam shaft in place and to limit its rotation to a 180 degrees it needed to be repaired.

The first thing I did was to machine a relief for a permanent clamp that would be installed. This clamp will hold the broken piece in place.

Then I machined a clamp from 1/4 inch brass square rod.

Finally, I used the clamp to glue the broken piece in place with a military grade epoxy.

5k Epoxied and clamp

In the restored unit I placed the clamp onto the repair permanently. This probably wasn’t necessary as the glue joint is bonded with a 4500psi adhesive, but better safe than sorry.

I then cleaned and prepped the obsidian base for reassembly.

5o Glass plate clean
6a Back leg

The bottom of the unit has three legs. This one is the back peg leg.

A wire wheel was used to polish the peg and then it was reinstalled.

The two front legs are made from these brackets with knurled screws. These allow for the leveling of the scale.

The brass nuts and brackets are shown here after cleaning and polishing.

These were reassembled and the wood frame was re-attached.

The cam shaft and lift mechanism are both reattached. You can see the brass clamp I fabricated holding the repaired cast iron in place in the center of the base.

The front door slides up and down. This small brass handle is used to facilitate this. At right it has been cleaned and polished. Below it is attached to the door frame.

8k Door Handle Intalled

With the outside frame and base completed, it is now time to move on to the mast and lifts that will ultimately support the balance section.

The mast and lifts are made from brass that has been painted black. The small brass point on the base of the mast (left) is a pointer that is used to level the scale. A plumb bob dangled from the top of the mast is lined up with the pointer by adjusting the front leg heights.

You can see that the paint is chipping from the brass after I cleaned it.

11a Balance lift stripped

I used paint stripper to remove the paint from the lifts and mast.

11b Balance lift restored 2

This is a side by side view of the two lifts. The one on the left is just stripped, the one on the right is also cleaned and polished.

11c Balance lifts restored 3

These are both lifts ready for assembly. These will lift the missing balance piece when the lift is engaged by rotating the knob at the front of the unit.

11d Balance post restored

Pictured here is the mast after I stripped, cleaned and polished it. I repainted the center section with black enamel.

13a Blance post reassembled 2

I then put the mast and lifts back together.

Then I mounted them back into the base and frame.

These wood strips hold the glass panes into the frames. These I sanded and varnished.


I then cleaned and re-installed the panes. I used brass round head screws to hold the mounting strips in place. The top glass pane has not yet been replaced.

16a Counter weight strings 1

Here I have placed the counter weights back into the unit. The strings are threaded though the pulleys. They will be attached to the bottom of the front slide door.


This is a close up of the metal plate that covers the right side counter weight. I stripped sanded and re-painted it. The left looks the same.

16c Restored front closed (2)

Above is the restored unit with the front door closed. The two brass holes on each side of the mast are for small posts that will rise up when the lift mechanism is engaged by rotating the knob on the front. This lifts the weighing trays removing tension from the balance.

16d Restored front open

With the front door open.

16e Restored left

Side view.

16f Restored right

Other side.

Before moving on to the fabrication part I cleaned up the hangers and weighing pans. One hanger was pretty bent and needed to be straightened. These weighing pans are supported, when the lift mechanism is engaged, with brass posts that lift up. These will need to be fabricated.

That’s all for now. The next step will be fabricating the balance and steam-punking it up a bit. Making the lift rods for the pans as well as the plumb bob for leveling are also on the agenda. The glass pane for the top frame needs to be purchased and installed as well.

Making Some Smaller Parts


When the weighing pans are in the balance they are located over the two brass wholes in the base.

17c lift pans

13g Blance post reinstalled

There are supposed to be lift rods with pans attached that lift the weighing pans when disengaged.

I decided to fabricate the rods from brass stock.

These insert into the holes and lift up and down when the knob on the front of the balance is turned. For the lifting pads I used antique brass clock gears.

18h lift pad

The gears were each drilled in three locations for the contact points under the weighing pans.

Brass nails were soldered into each hole.

The nails were trimmed and the brass pads were attached to the lift rods using 6-32 brass screws.

With that completed it is on to the leveling device. This brass point on the base of the mast is for leveling the balance.

19b pendulum post

A plumb bob/pendulum is suspended from the top of the mast. The adjustable front feet are used to get the pendulum to line up with this point. When they are aligned the scale is level and will weigh accurately. The pendulum was missing when I purchased this balance. I fabricated one from brass rod.

The top of the pendulum was turned down and drilled. The other end was tapered to a point.

A metal spring round was inserted into the hole to provide a tie off point for some black thread.

19l pendulum ring

Thread is inserted into a hole in a suspending rod at the top of the mast. The thread is slid into a notched into a slot to secure it at the top of the mast. A brass screw acts as a weight to help keep the thread from slipping.

19q pendulum counter weight

At the bottom the thread is tied through the spring round and the pendulum is suspended above the leveling point. By adjusting the front feet the pendulum can be made to line up with the leveling point at the base of the mast. The balance is now level.

19p pendulum on point

Here is a picture of the balance so far, with the weighing pan lift pads and leveling pendulum in place.

19r Pads and pendulum

Next I will be working the main fabrication project; the balance piece itself.

Fabrication of the Balance

z-Balance Closeup

I will use this picture as a rough guide for the balance piece. I hope to find some vintage and antique pieces to use in the design. My plan is to make it a bit more steampunk than the balance piece pictured above.


I have been working on the balance piece over the last few weeks. I started by making the scale that runs along the top of the balance. For this I used a 1 inch by 0.09 inch brass strip cut to length.

21a Scale marking1

Using the mill I was able to accurately mark 20 locations along the bar.

21b scale marking 2

There are ten marks each away from the center. The two outside marks will be directly over the pans when they are hung on the balance. A 0.1 gram weight resting on the top of the beam will add 0.01 grams per marker when it is slid along the balance. If slid to the other way it will subtract 0.01 grams per mark.

A 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch brass rod was cut to length and will serve as a support for the bottom of the scale.

The base was milled to fit the scale section.

Screws mount the base to the scale.

A quarter inch steel plate was used to make a jig that will allow accurate indexing for labeling the marks on the scale from 0 to 10 from the center each way.

A small slot was milled into the piece that fits the number stamp.

24a numbering 1

This slot will just fit the number stamping tool shown here.

The jig is clamped into place and the stamp is inserted into the slot.

24d numbering 4

A hammer is impacted onto the stamp allowing the numbers to be imprinted into the brass evenly.

24e numbered

The numbers are changed after each stamping. This picture shows the scale with all of the numbers imprinted.

24h Scale in place

Eventual location for this part.

A fulcrum for the center of the scale/balance is to be made from a one inch round 303 stainless disk.

25c fulcrum disk

The fulcrum will be milled from this disk.

A 1/4 inch slot is cut into one side of the disk so that it can slide over the 1/4 inch brass base of the scale piece. A small hole was drilled and tapped that will allow for a set screw to hold the fulcrum in place.

25g fulcrum set screw mount

This is the partially completed fulcrum held in place on the scale with a brass set screw.

The fulcrum piece was milled to provide a 1/4 in section in the center.

26d fulcrum installed 1

This 1/4 inch section was then milled to a point. The scale will balance on this point.

18r lift pads

The balance requires a mount for the pointer which extends down from the balance piece to this small indicator.

z-Balance Closeup

In the original scale above you can see the V-shaped piece underneath the fulcrum with a black rod extending vertically below it that is this pointer.

27a pointer mount 1

For my balance I will use a section cut from this copper ring to support the pointer which will extend downwards below the fulcrum.

A paper pattern is used to mark the copper ring for holes that will line up with the scale base mounting screws as well as a hole that will be directly below the fulcrum.

27f pointer mount drilled instlalled

This is the copper ring with the two holes drilled mounting it to the scale base.

27g poimter mount cut

In this picture the copper ring has been cut to the proper length and a hole drilled below the fulcrum that will ultimately support the pointer shaft.

27h scale in place

Balance is set in place with the fulcrum resting in the proper location. The pointer support is underneath ready for the pointer, which will be the next piece fabricated.


It has been a few weeks since I last posted, but I have not been idle. I’ve been working on and have completed both the pointer shaft and the hooks for the weighing trays. I still plan to add some Steampunk elements to these when the scale is  complete.

28a pointer disk

The brass rod in the picture next to the balance shown here was used to make the support for the pointer shaft.

The brass rod was faced and cut into a disk.

The disk was drilled and tapped so it can be attached to the copper arch of the balance piece with a screw.

28f ponter disk

The disk was then drilled and tapped perpendicular to the center.

In this way the pointer shaft can be threaded into this disk. A long screw is shown here as a stand in for the pointer shaft.

A 7/32 diameter inch brass rod is used for the shaft. One end is threaded to the 6-32 thread size of the disk fabricated above.

The shaft when mounted not only acts as a pointer, but also stabilizes the balance when it rests on its fulcrum.

31a pointer end

This black pointer was salvaged from my box of antique clock parts. It is one of the hands from a clock face. I used it as the pointer end of the shaft.

Again a piece of brass rod is cut and tapped. In this case the perpendicular hole isn’t tapped but rather drilled to the 7/32 inch diameter of the shaft. The other threaded perpendicular hole is used to both add a set screw for holding the disk to the shaft as well as a screw to mount the clock hand pointer.

The pointer has been mounted to the pointer shaft in these pictures.

The pointer after the balance has been set on its fulcrum in the scale.

32a hanger clips

The brass mounting piece for the number scale I made earlier removed for further work. The scale has been removed so I can drill holes in the ends of this mount.  These holes will be used for attaching mounting clips.

The mounting clips are made from small 1/4 inch brass pieces machined to the correct size.

32e hanger clips

Each side will be L shaped.

32f hanger clips

Here one of the pieces is held in place while it is soldered together. The bottom two brass pieces are the clip. The other two pieces of brass are just spacers fro clamping.

After soldering each piece is drilled and tapped so it can be screwed to the balance.

The clips are shown here mounted to the balance in there final location. The open space in the “L” is for the rests that the lifts make contact with when the scale lifts are raised.

The hanger hooks for the trays are made by cutting and bending some 1/4 inch brass strips.

A notch is cut into each hook where the tray hangers can be slipped into.

33g hangers

The clips are drilled and tapped a second time so the hooks can be attached to the balance beam.

These are closeups of the left and right hooks and clips after placing the whole assembly back in the scale.

34a hanger + pointer

In this view trays are seen hanging from the hooks and everything is mounted in there final locations.

34b hanger top

This is a top view of the balance resting on its fulcrum in the final location. The fulcrum floats so here it is not aligned. When the lift rests are in place they help straighten this out before the balance is released.

34c hanger + pointer

A closeup of the progress so far.

34d Hanger +pointer

This is another view.

The last mechanical pieces that need to be constructed are the rests that the lifts connect with when they are raised. These pieces also have counter weight nuts that are used to zero the balance when no weights or test pieces are on the scale.

Rests and Balance Parts are Made


I’ve been doing quite a bit of work over the last few weeks. I started by making the cross pieces that are mounted perpendicular to the beam. The lifts impinge on screws in the cross pieces that allow the whole balance piece to be lifted off the fulcrum when the balance is turned off.

The cross pieces are cut from quarter inch brass rod. The ends here drilled and tapped to allow screws to be inserted into them. These will hold decorative pieces later on.

The cross piece is drilled for mounting to the beam. The center of each piece is milled with a one quarter inch notch for aligning with the beam when mounted.

35h cross piece

Each cross piece was drilled and tapped in two locations for inserting the adjustment screws that are set so the lifts impinge on each screw at the same time when lifting.

35i cross piece

Each cross piece was mounted to the beam by screwing it to the brackets that hang under the beam. These were made and soldered together earlier in this blog.  Counter sunk allen screws were used for mounting.

35j cross piece

This picture shows both cross pieces mounted to the beam.

35k cross piece

Top view where the four temporary adjustment screws can be seen.

35l cross piece mounted

In this picture you can see the adjustment screws impinged on the lift when mounted in the scale.

I machined these points on the lathe.

36c lift tips

The non pointy ends I turned smooth and then tapped so they can be mounted to the adjustment screw ends.

One point is made for each adjustment screw. The lifts impinge on these points centering the balance when lifted.

Instead of using hex nuts I machined disk type nuts that match those used throughout the scale originally.

37g disk nuts

For tightening I drilled small holes  into each disk perpendicular to the threaded portion. These allow the nut to be tightened with a small metal rod. I used a 1/16 inch drill bit.

Finally, I threaded each disk for use. I think I made about 6 or 8 of these total.

38a balance rods

The disk nuts used to mount the adjustment screws are seen above. I used 3/4 inch 6-32 Allen screws in place of the brass for a cleaner look. The threaded brass rod seen extending from the balance is for mounting counter weights for zeroing the balance.

38b balance rods

Another view of the balance with the cross pieces and adjustment screws mounted. You can also see the threaded rods extending out from the balance for the counter weights.

38c balance rods

This is the whole piece mounted in the scale.

You can see the hanger mounted and the weighing pans are hanging from them on the left above.

I used brass rod the machine and thread the counter weights used for zeroing the balance.

The counter weights mounted to the brass threaded rods that extend from each end of the balance are shown here. By adjusting these in and out the balance can be set to zero (balanced) when no weight is in either pan.

Using these large clock gears I drilled and mounted them to the back of each cross piece to act as a decorative element.

43c deco gears rear mounted

Gears attached to the back of the balance.

43d deco gears

The beam is mounted in the scale with the large gears seen in the back above.

44a deco gears mounted

Two smaller gears are added to the front of each cross piece for that Steampunk look.

44b deco gears front

So this is the whole scale so far. It is almost complete. A small weight (0.1 grams) still needs to be fabricated. This weight will slide back and forth across the beam. This adds or subtracts weight to the scale at 0.01 gram increments as it slides from number to number on the scale. I still plan on making some decorative pieces for the vertical pointer shaft. The last thing will be getting and installing the top glass window.

The Small Slide Weight is Adjusted


On top of the balance bar a small weight is added that can be slid between the numbers on the top of the scale. For this purpose I fabricated a 0.1 gram slide weight.

An aluminum piece can be seen above that I milled to a small size and then  notched to allow it to slide along the scale.

This piece is much too large at this point, but you can see the idea. The weight can be slid from number to number by the brass rod assembly from outside the scale when the glass door is closed. This prevents air movement in the room from from upsetting the balance.

45f weighing

At 1.4583 grams I need to remove a whole bunch of material to get to 0.1 grams.

This is a lot better but still 3 times the weight I need.

45i finally correct

Finally success. I am within two ten thousandths of 0.1 grams. This scale just happened to be calibrated the day I made the final adjustments. This was a lot of extra milling and sanding.

45j center weight in place

Sliding this weight to the left adds 0.01 gram for each number up to 0.1 grams when it is slid to 10. When sliding to the right it will subtract 0.01 grams for each number.

46a whole balance

The complete balance assembly I created so far is seen here. The central shaft is a 11/32 inch diameter brass rod. To jazz it up a bit I decided to add a decorative wood element to this shaft.

Fabrication of a Wooden Shaft Sleeve

46b decorative center

I have these small wood scraps that I will use for the shaft cover. The two larger are ironwood. The small one is mahogany. The brass tube is 3/8 inch outside diameter, which just slides over the 11/32 shaft rod.

For mounting to the brass rod I center drilled each with a 3/8 inch drill so they can be slid into place.

The longer ironwood pieces are used for the outside with the mahogany in the center.

Using wood glue I fastened the wood pieces together. Then clamped and allowed to dry.

I made brass end pieces for each end of the wood shaft.

46n soldered end

One end part I soldered to the brass tube.

46o set screws

Both end pieces I then drilled and tapped for a set screw that will eventually hold the whole thing to the shaft.

46p glued to shaft

The wood piece I then bonded to the brass rod with epoxy.

47a turning bar

This 11/32 brass rod is used for making a jig to mount the wood to the lathe for turning.

One end I turned and threaded so it will accept a nut that will hold everything in place.

Star washers and the nuts on the right end along with the live center hold everything in place.

47g ready to turn

This is the piece ready for turning on the lathe.

By spinning the piece and cutting with the tool I turned down to the same 1/2 inch diameter as the brass end caps.

As a splash of color,  I machined grooves into the piece and painted them red.

Some Fabricated Pieces Completed

47n varnished shaft

Three coats of varnish later and the shaft decoration is complete.

47n1 new front gears

I decided to change up the front decorative gears on the balance piece. These are spread out more and used gears with spokes to make it all a bit more transparent.

47o the whole thing

Above is the whole balance assembly that I fabricated in its final form.

47p almost done

A completed front view with the balance piece in place.

47q another view

From slightly above.

47r side view

And a side view.

47s missing glass

The top window is still missing the glass piece. This has been ordered and should be ready for install Monday. Other than that I will be making a set of weights for the balance, unless I can find some antique ones on line. Very close to being done now.

Finishing Touches


48a New Glass

Well this is the top glass plate that I had cut by a local glass store. It’s 1/8 double strength.

48b Glass set in place

The glass just laid in place shown here.


And mounted in place with the varnished wood strips screwed into the frame with #2 brass wood screws.


A back view  of the balance, where you can see my reflection. The plumb bob is suspended from a thread and is used to level the balance.


The completed balance from the front.

48f inside

A closeup of the internal parts that I made in this blog. In this picture the front glass door has been removed so you can get a better view.

So the main part of the project has been completed. Check out the video that was added at the top of this blog showing how the Steampunk Balance is used. I have ordered some brass weights from eBay that I will be using with the balance. Some smaller weights need to fabricate these being 0.2 and 0.5 gram. I will make a weight holder of some kind at some point as well. Finally a matching tweezers will be made for use in handling the weights. All this will be added these to this bog when that is all completed. For these steps I started a separate post here. This one was getting overly long.

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  1. jeffreysodemann

    Started a new project. It’s part restoration and part Steampunk, or at least it will be. Started with an antique scientific analytical balance. We’ll see where it goes from there.

  2. Pingback:Steampunk Analytical Balance – Technology Imagined

  3. Tom Babington

    Beautiful work, Jeffrey! Yesterday, I picked up four different balances that we’re gathering dust at the Chem lab at my undergraduate college. I’ll be attempting to refurbish/refinish these in the coming months. I hope mine can at least reflect the care you exercised in transforming your balance. The pics and descriptions will be huge in helping me try to accomplish in a small way the success you had. Thanks for sharing your work with everyone of us! Tom

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