Chainomatic Analytical Scale



Chainomatic Analytical Scale


Apothecary;Jeweler: Chemist


Physical Description
     The scale’s frame is a rectangular prism composed of a russet-colored wood, with some sun bleaching occurring to its front face. Three tarnished metal feet, one on each front corner and one placed in the middle of the rear side, hold the frame about 2 cm above the ground. There are four glass-paneled doors that allow access to the actual measurement apparatus. A 145 mm x 235 mmm door on the top side that can be removed fully from the frame, and has a handle on the left and right sides that can hold it securely in place. Two 162 mm x 150 mm hinged doors are set into the left and right side of the frame, with securing handles being placed on the side of the door the corresponds to the frame’s front side. The fourth door is the primary access way to the scale; it is a vertically sliding door, 289 mm x 230 mm, with a worn white knob of an unknown material at the base that can be used to lift it up. The door can be lifted completely out of its slots, but two strings prevent it from being detached from the frame completely. The rear side is made up almost entirely of a pane of glass.

     Two letter and number combinations are printed on the frame: MCMT-9614 appears on the bottom left of the frame’s left side; R20770 on the bottom left of the frame’s right side. They may be the scale’s make and model numbers, or possibly relate to the production and manufacturing process of the scale.

     The scale apparatus itself rests on a polished black layer, made of either ceramic or stone, that is positioned 40 mm above the bottom of the frame and extends past the four wooden sides. Two metallic gray weighing platforms hang about 20 mm above the ceramic base, suspended from hooks about 220 mm above the base. A metal hanger for suspending weight is welded between the two small metal rods that hold the platforms to their suspension hook, though the hanger for the left platform has broken off, and a metal peg has been secured to each of that platform’s rods to hold the hanger up. The stirrups for the the platform suspension hooks rest below a “100 mm” measurement poise that tops the scale apparatus; this measured displacement can then be used to determine the weight of the objects being measured, in grams. Descending from the measurement poise, the scale’s pointer ends at a small cream-colored piece of plastic, 6-sided—though similar in shape to a hypotenuse. The plastic piece has the words “Christian Beckering Inc., New York” printed across the bottom, while the scale’s measurement lines are printed almost microscopically along the top. The scale’s central pillar, support beams, and base are all formed out of brass. A solid brass cylinder also extends out from the base toward the front of the frame. An adjustable-angle magnifying glass that is used to make out the measurement lines can be slid on and secured to this cylinder if the scale is undergoing frequent use, though the lens has been removed from this particular scale’s magnifying glass.

     Two apparatus control knobs are located on the wooden frame: one on the front side, directly below the front door’s lifting knob; and one on the right side, at the middle along the top. The front knob can be rotated clockwise and counterclockwise to adjust the sensitivity of the measurement platforms. The right knob can be rotated in either direction, and pushed in and pulled out, though not entirely. The particular purpose of this knob is unknown because its mechanisms in conjunction with the rest of the scale are broken, though it may have once served to adjust the balance of the scale.
Functional Description 
     In order to use the scale, the user must adjust the knob on the front of the wood box that will move the stoppers under the metal plates. This will keep the scale from moving when adding the object/weights to each of the metal plates. The user then places the object to be weighed on one of the metal plates, and places weights of known value (not included in this particular artifact), on the other plate. Then the user turns the knob until the stoppers are no longer beneath the metal plates, and the plates are hanging freely. If the pointer hangs directly straight down, the load is balanced. If not, the process needs to be repeated by placing the stoppers beneath the plates again, then adding or removing weight in order to get the pointer to hang straight down. While the user is observing the pointer, it is important to close the glass door on the box to prevent airflow from impacting the results. The user will continue this until the pointer hangs straight down. Once the pointer is hanging straight down the user can sum the amount of weights added to the pan to find the weight of the object. The weight of the object is equal to the amount of added weight when the load is balanced.

The Care and Use of a Balance


Stuart Gillette, Micaiah Grossmann, Sam Meluch, Nicholas Minarich, and Keeli Winquist




physical object


MCMT-9614 | R20770

These inscriptions could be make and model numbers, or relate to the manufacturing of the scale such as a serial number or tracking identifier.



Physical Dimensions

338 mm x 386 mm x 235 mm


Wood, Ceramic/Stone, Glass, Metal, Brass


Christian Beckering Inc., New York, NY


[bottom left of the frame’s left face]

[bottom left of the frame’s right face]

Christian Beckering Inc., New York      
[bottom face of the device]

History of the Object

Historical Information
     Patented by Christian A. Becker in 1916, and commercialized by L Oertling, Ltd, the chainomatic balance - or as we know it in its exhibit at Michigan Technological University, the chainomatic analytical scale - was crafted to serve the increasing demands of society and academia. For centuries earlier, the traditional two-pan balance was used for all sorts of measurements of weight. In particular some careful measurements were required for accurate measures in chemistry, engineering, and other academic fields, as well as in the measure of small but valuable items such as precious metal coins, gems, ivory, etc. The chainomatic balance was conceived as a relatively easily-implemented, accurate measure of weight and balance. It helped to ease the burden of scientists of the era that would need to balance a two-pan scale to extreme accuracy using tweezers. Meanwhile, the chainomatic scale could provide careful adjustments with the turning of a knob to alter the position and turn weight of a chain attached to the beam. The chainomatic balance was commonly used where precision as fine as within around 10 milligrams was required and could be afforded. 

     Given the nature of the chainomatic scale, it is the assumption of the authors that this particular model was used by the various scientific departments of Michigan Technological University for its nominal use of careful measurements of mass. However, such information is not present in the exhibit, and sources lack any explicit accounts of this model’s use or history. Being a mining school in its earliest days, Michigan Tech may have used chainomatic scales to measure out the ore and yield involved in copper refinement, or in researching techniques in more careful, deliberate mining.


Alumini House: Front office


Paselk, R. "Analytical Balance, Chainomatic." Analytical Balance, Chainomatic. September 22, 2013. Accessed March 02, 2017.

Macnevin, William M. The analytical balance—its care and use. Sandusky, Ohio: Handbook Publishers, Inc., 1951.

Stock, John T. "The 'chainomatic' principle, used earlier in other connections, but patented by Christian A. Becker (18741946) in 1915." In Development of the Chemical Balance, 30. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1969.

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Stuart Gillette, Micaiah Grossmann, Sam Meluch, Nicholas Minarich, and Keeli Winquist, “Chainomatic Analytical Scale,” Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments, accessed May 7, 2021,