Make Your Own Balance Scale Weights

by Ken Koupal (

Thanks to all those who responded to me about balance scale weights. At issue: I use commercial brass gram weights and my recipes are in ounces. Anyone can do the conversions. My problem was that I didn't want to plunk down 20g + 5g + 2g + 1g + 200mg + 100mg + 50mg weights to make up an ounce. What a PITA! I want to plunk down one weight, period, end of activity.

Summary: No one found a commercial source for fractional or whole ounce balance scale weights, so I assume there isn't one. Suggestions ranged from "string together washers" to "use fishing weights" to "coil up lengths of solder" to "make your own." Based on this last suggestion, heavy mathematics to follow ..

How to make your own avoirdupois brass weights

How to make your own avoirdupois brass weights: Materials Information Source: Heat Transfer, 3rd ed., Chapman Brass rod at Orchard Supply Hardware is probably yellow brass, not red brass. I've included the density of red brass just in case I'm wrong (for you to calculate.)

532 lbm/ft3    Yellow Brass (70 Cu, 30 Zn)
544 lbm/ft3       Red Brass (85 Cu, 9 Sn, 6 Zn)
 12 in/ft
 16 oz/lbm
4.9259 oz/in3  Density, Yellow Brass, used in calculations (below)
28.35 grams/ounce
 0.24 grams is the empirical average weight of a typical hop pellet.
      ( 50 pellets weighs about 12 grams. )
Length Formula:  l = w / p A  =  4 w / p Pi d2
l = length (inches), w = weight (oz), p = rho = density (oz/in3),
A = cross sectional area (inches squared) = Pi r2 = 1/4 Pi d2
Pi = 3.14 etc., d2 = diameter of brass rod (inches squared.)
( Note:  combining Pi & Rho does not yield flames!
  Aw said thatsa joke, son. )
Length Inches at:     Diameter Brass Rod (inches)
Desired                 1/4"    3/16"   1/8"
Ounces  (Decimal)       0.25"   0.1875" 0.125"
1/8     0.125           0.517"  0.919"  2.068"
1/4     0.250           1.034"  1.838"  4.136"
3/8     0.375           1.551"  2.757"  6.203"
1/2     0.500           2.068"  3.676"  8.271"
5/8     0.625           2.585"  4.595"  10.339"
3/4     0.750           3.102"  5.514"  12.407"
7/8     0.875           3.619"  6.433"  14.475"
1       1.000           4.136"  7.352"  16.543"
( Anything longer than 5" seems unreasonable to put on
  a balance scale. )
How precise do I have to cut it?  My hack saw blade removes up to 1/8":
                      Diameter Brass Rod (in.)
Weight per 1/8" using:  1/4"    3/16"   1/8"
Decimal Ounces:         0.030   0.017   0.008
Gram Equivalency:       0.857   0.482   0.214
Hop Pellet Equiv.:      3.6     2       0.9

But, in case fractional inches aren't your thing, here's a suggested simple 3-weight homebrewer's set using 1/4" brass rod, and a reasonable perspective of what you'd miss if you rounded to the nearest inch:

1/4 oz using exactly 1 inch, is light by 3.3%
   = 0.24 gram = equivalent to 1 hop pellet.  Pretty close.
1/2 oz using exactly 2 inches, is light by 3.3%
   = 0.48 gram = equivalent to 2 hop pellets.  Fair, but OK.
1 oz using exactly 4 inches, is light by 3.3%
   = 0.96 gram = equivalent to 4 hop pellets.  Not so good.
A more precise 1/4" brass rod set would be:
1/4 oz is 1 and 1/32 inches
1/2 oz is 2 and 1/16 inches
1 oz is 4 and 1/8 inches

Conclusions: 1. Cut as close as you want, realizing the weight-to-length relationship. Cut them long; fine tune them with a file. Cross reference them with your gram set. If you're lazy and round to the nearest inch of 1/4" brass, add a few more hop pellets, or hop cones, or boil longer, or add the hops sooner. 2. The smaller diameter brass rod gives more precision per unit length than the larger diameter rod, but the smaller diameter rod may become too long to use. I suppose you could coil up the thin brass rod if you want. 3. You don't have to use brass. Fishin' weights (in ounces) are pretty darned cheap, and you can fine tune them with a pocket knife. Of course, they look like fishing weights on a fancy balance scale.

By the way, 1 ounce = 28.35 grams = 11 US pennies = 5 US quarters.

Hope this helps. I still wish someone had a handsome brass ounce weight set for sale. (Any manufacturers out there?) Usual "NAWA" disclaimer. (Not Affiliated/Associated With Anyone/Anything referenced, indicated, or suggested in this posting.)

Some alternate ideas for using coins as weights are provided by Greg King.