Collectibles-General (Antiques)/cotton scale peas


Ed Baucom wrote at 2011-01-07 16:35:32
I'd like to offer a generic answer to the question. Yes, there is a formula to determine the weight of the pea.  But there is a simple way to find the weight without doing any equation solving.  

My wife's grandfather's farm balance came to us without weights.  I'll explain how I figured out the two weights we needed.

First step: Measure the distance between the two pivot points of the balance.  There should be two "knife edges" where the scale balances, one where the scale hangs and the other where the object being weighed hangs.  Measure parallel to the graduated beam.  In my case, the distance was more than 11/16" and less than 3/4" (12/16")and much closer to 11/16", so I used 45/64".  This needs to be as accurate as possible.  

Second step:  Multiply this distance by 10.  In my case, 10 x 45/64" = 450/64" or 7.03", or 7".  

Third step:  Measure from the pivot point where the scale hangs out toward the graduated scale the distance you just measured.  This will bring you to a whole number that ends in zero, if you did steps one and two well.  In my case, 20 lbs.

Fourth step:  Divide this number by 10.  This is the weight of the pea you need. In my case, 2 lbs.

Fifth step:  Repeat steps three and four for the other side of the scale to find the weight of your other pea.

One side note.  The first number stamped on each side of my beam happened to be the weight of the pea.  On one side I have 2,10,20,30... and on the other side 8,40,80,120...  There is no indent above the 2 or 8.  Duh!  I don't know if most scales are labeled this way or not.  

If this posting includes my address, I'd be glad to answer any questions or hear if this answer helped you.

Cotton Picker wrote at 2011-12-02 17:58:28
  I grew up on a cotton farm & am familiar with the cotton weighing scales utilizing a "P" as a weight to determine the amount of Lbs. the scale was weighing.

  I believe this type of scales was called a "STEEL YARD"

  It was quiet common for the "P" weight to become lost & a replacement was hard to locate.

  I have never tried to make a substitute "P" but I have an idea that might well work.

  Hang a known weight of, say, 100 Lbs. from the bottom hook of the scale.

  At the "ARM" of the scale begin to hang weights at the 100 Lb. mark until the"ARM" balances horizontally.

  The amount of weight required to cause the "ARM" to balance horizontally should work perfectly on all other items being weighed.

  Anyway, it sounds good when you say it fast!


CURTIS wrote at 2011-12-13 15:51:06
Here may be a simple solution to determining the proper weight of "P" to use for your scales.

Hang a known weight of, say, 50 Lbs. from your scales.

At the 50 Lb. mark, on the long arm, begin adding weight until the long arm is horizontal.

This determines the correct weight of the "P" & it will work to correctly weigh any weight hung from the scales.

As I remember each side of the long arm has a different graduation of numbers using a corresponding small "P" on one side & a large "P" on the other side.

I hope this helps,


505-846-1898 Work

By the way, I am an old cotton picker from the 40s

James Jacobs wrote at 2016-05-26 17:11:50
i just pulled a 800 lb howe wood beam scale from an old barn.

looking for info on if i found it all and finding proper home for it.

History salvage on my part . not a dealer  

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Bill & Jan Berning


We can answer almost any question regarding antique scales of any type.


We are dealers in antique coin operated penny scales and parts. We collect antique scales of all types. Bill has been buying and selling scales and mail order penny scale parts since 1983. Jan started collecting small scales of all types in 1977. Our combined collection of antique scales contains over 2200 scales. We are the authors of the book Scales: A Collector's Guide and The revised & Expanded 2nd Edition of Scales: A Collector's Guide. Jan is the editor of "Equilibrium" the journal of The International Society of Antique Scale Collectors. Our website is

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Jan: BS FACS & Art University of Georgia

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