Rhodium (Chief Bee)
09-09-01 17:05
No 211593
      Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

../rhodium/chemistry /equipment/scale.html
(Clumsy_Clucker, still President, Stonium Fan Club)
09-09-01 18:45
No 211606
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Well, son of a bitch, will ya look at that! Thanks Rhodium. For those who like to be really frugal those cheese boards are available around Christmas time in gift packs that are full of cheese, summer sausage and marmalade.

Son of a bitch, will ya look at that!
(Hive Bee)
09-09-01 20:26
No 211619
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Hey Rhodium, this must be some of that 'important' information you've got on that second drive, huh? cool
(Chief Bee)
09-09-01 21:18
No 211632
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Yup, something like that. But it all needs the proper editing before I put it on my page, as the perfectionist I am.
(Hive Bee)
09-09-01 21:52
No 211646
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Well, that is definitely the best homemade balance design this swim has ever seen - and old old electrical meters are a dime a dozen in pawnshops too. take it apart and no one knows what the damn thing is. swim loves it!laugh

"I'd take seed from Columbia and Mexico... an I'd just plant it up the holler down Copper head Road"
(Hive Addict)
09-09-01 22:37
No 211656
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Rhodium the credit may not be yours for the idea, but that is a hell of a awesome writeup there.  frugal indeed!laugh
(Hive Bee)
09-11-01 09:26
No 212006
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Excellent,excellent,now that's the kind of science I like! Keep up the good work Rhod!
09-17-01 23:43
No 214483
      Best sentance I have ever read     

"Although he may be an austere professional to his clients, I know him to be quite the free spirit who spends time in the business world only so he can make enough money to indulge his true passion - amateur science"

Man, that's great, and so is this write up.  I posted this at the Lycaeum a few days ago.  After reading countless reports of people trying to eye 2ct7 (whatever), this is most surely needeed.  Lives should be saved.

Today is opposites day.  Everything I say, I mean the opposite.
(Hive Bee)
09-25-01 22:42
No 217129
      Re: Best sentance I have ever read     

Just out of curiousity, have any of you made this thing yet? It looks awsome.
09-25-01 23:10
No 217136
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

GREAT STUFF! This is one of the best postings I've seen.

Anyone have any idea how to get uGram calibration weights??

The source mentioned in the paper doesn't seem to be selling calibration weights anymore.

I was thinking about cutting squares of paper, aluminum foil, PTFE, or whatever, and begging someone in an analytical lab to weigh my little squares of paper/plastic.

Other ideas how to calibrate? (preferably OTC without involving a university or analytical lab)


(Hive Bee)
09-26-01 18:02
No 217383
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Using a good balence, weigh a small weight that the balence can acurately measure, cut the weight into a buch of pieces, use the average weight of the pieces. So say you have a 20mg piece of paper. Cut the paper up into 20 pieces. Take readings on your new scale  of each of those pieces. The average weight is exactly 1mg.
(Hive Bee)
09-26-01 18:59
No 217392
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Yesterday I made a very nice and easy to make balance that can take acurate measurements down to a few milligrams. Not as good as Rhodium's, but still good. Take a smooth block of wood and using a saw, cut a half-inch deep line across it. Mount a rectangular razor blade on the block using epoxy (sharp end facing upward and parallel with the surface of the block). make a small circular dish from aluminum foil and attach it to one end of a thin strip of aluminum sheet metal (two feet should be good enough to measure mg) using epoxy. You lay this strip across the razor and slowly slid it forward and backwards until you line the razor up as close as you can to the center of weight. You calibrate it by making lines across the top surface of the strip directly above the mounted razor and number these lines with a sharp marker (this is obviously a pain in the ass, so it is best to use this scale to to hit just a few values your aiming for).
(Hive Bee / Eraser)
12-07-01 00:24
No 245098
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

A good additional resource for anyone seriously interested in making this scale is this follow-up article:


It describes adding microprocessor control and some other enhancements (still inexpensive) which simplify measurement, increase sensitivity(!), allow weights to be continuously monitored and help with temperature fluctuations.

Those innocent eyes slit my soul up like a razor.
12-11-01 17:45
No 246477
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

SWIG was contemplating makin one of there little gadgets.. but DAMN those ol' analog galvanometers r hard to find these days.    guess it time to trek around some more porn shops,

the world is falling over..... watch out!!
12-11-01 17:51
No 246479
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Other ideas how to calibrate? (preferably OTC without involving a university or analytical lab)

hows about coins?
ordinary old OTC change. in SWIGs neck of the forest, the information on the weights and contents of all the coins is readily available. jus need 2 dig up some newer ones!!.. but then again they not really easy to cut up ay..

the world is falling over..... beeware!!
12-11-01 20:41
No 246517
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

A good additional resource for anyone seriously interested in making this scale is this follow-up article:


geez that is a nice ref.some interesting ideas in there;
 using pulse width modulation to increase sensitivity..
 and a current mirror to increase stability and keep the current(in the coil) constant regardless of the temp of coil

SWIG might whip 2gether something with a PIC microprocessor.
as soon as a decent galvanometer can b loc8d.

the world is falling over.....   beeware!!
(Chief Bee)
12-11-01 21:44
No 246541
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Buy high-quality silver wire from a goldsmith, it comes in exceptional purity (meaning that the density is right at the 107.9 g/mol spot), and the wire is also always of a certain known diameter. As you know the density and the diameter (and hence the "bottom area") of the thread, it is easy to calculate how long bits of it you should cut to achieve 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25mg weights for your calibration.
(Hive Bee)
12-11-01 21:52
No 246546
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Oxidation of the wire isn't a problem?

(Otherwise, great idea)
(Chief Bee)
12-11-01 21:59
No 246549
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

When the wire is brand new from the goldsmith, it won't be oxidized, and you should of course never touch it with your bare hands or store it in open air.

The biggest problem with silver is the formation of black silver sulfide on the surface, but it should not increase the weight noticeably, at least not compared to the weight difference caused by greasy fingers if they would be handled with bare hands. Use a forceps.
12-12-01 00:24
No 246603
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

or maybe as a substiture for silver wire, abee could try Nichrome wire. 
Nicrome80:    %80 nickel + %20 chromium.
               size 28B&S (0.315mm)
                resistance 13.77ohm/m
it is cheap as, and easily available...
just need to work out its density, and maybe dble check the
diameter, with a micrometer...

the world is falling over.....   beeware!!
(Chief Bee)
12-13-01 00:57
No 246920
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

That's why I suggested pure silver, as we already know its density, and because it is comparatively expensive, the diameter should be exactly what they say it is.
(Old Bee)
03-16-02 20:45
No 283542
      Re: Homemade milligram/microgram scale     

Excellent thread. For anybee interested in general science, membership in the society for Ameteur Sciene is available at $35 US per individual or $50 US per family.

Details available at this link:


Qu te parece? so...waddaya think?
03-25-02 08:08
No 287544
      Using Nanoliters     

I picked up some calibrated nanoliter pipettes to use for calibration, after I humidified the interior, but I like the gold wire example better, especially if you use a digital micrometer to verify dimensions.

Infinite Radiant Light - THKRA
07-22-02 00:18
No 335554

Sources are widespread for those guages.Poke around a auto junkyard for  for real low cost ones.speed shops as well. On a similar subject swip inherited a old
balance type scale that is calabrated in grains.Resolution is supposed to be less than 1/10 grain? can somebee convert that to metric for swip? smile

"The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe"FZ
Are we there yet?
(Old P2P Cook)
07-22-02 00:27
No 335558
      15 grains in a gram.     

So 1/10 grain is 6.67 mg.
07-22-02 02:08
No 335584
      grains to grams     

Thanks, that makes this piece very usable to me.

"The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe"FZ
Are we there yet?
(Hive Bee / Eraser)
07-30-02 02:32
No 338703

Re: SWIG might whip 2gether something with a PIC microprocessor... as soon as a decent galvanometer can b loc8d

A version of this scale was constructed using a Pic processor, breadboard, from scratch code, real time digital LCD output, two optosensors (for galv needle overload / underload).  Added features such as "tare" button, more rapid PWM, voltage filters, fast binary-search response to rapidly changing weight.

Cost due to enhancements was $150 plus many hours of time...but, in the end it does work as advertised.  The quality of the galvanometer is very important (and suitable ones are *very* delicate, bee careful crazy).  The galv-response is not really linear, so... making the sensitivity relevant, requires mucho calibration => nonlinearity adjustments in the code.

Measurements with final product matched those of a 0.1 mg analytic balance, with about 3x the resolution.  But despite a plexi enclosure, scale was more fickle with the slightest vibration or air currents.  The weighing range (~1 g max, with tiny foil tray) is not large enough to elevate the scale above novelty item status...  tho, that might depend on what one would hypothetically be weighing.

stop, drop & roll
(Chief Bee)
07-30-02 05:58
No 338786
      Scarmani: Would you mind writing an article about ...     

Scarmani: Would you mind writing an article about your scale project, with PIC code, pictures and all for my page?
09-30-02 00:20
No 362072
      does anyone have an idea how to make 0,1-100g ...     

does anyone have an idea how to make 0,1-100g electronic scales? who knows, how does such scales work?
(Chief Bee)
09-30-02 00:40
No 362083
      Like this for example: http://www.scaleman.     

Like this for example: http://www.balances.com/scientech/forcemotor.html

The reason noone builds their own 0.1-100g scales is that they only cost $50 or something like that...
10-09-02 03:15
No 366283
      well let me see     

I feel obligated to point out that the microgram scale upper capacity hardly qualifies as anything near useful. And pray why other than extreme inquiry would one want to measure the lung capacity of butterflies.

all together now - breathe in 1.....2....3.... and now out 4.....5....6... and hold it!!!!!
get back down here heathcliff..........and quit mutating..........
(Hive Bee)
10-14-02 03:04
No 368237
      galvanometer's were do they come from     

well after a little searching I found them in old
analog voltmeters and current meters.
dont know if these would be too sensative but there are
heaps of them around the place

e3500 console login: root
10-15-02 20:13
No 368893
      OTC Calibration     

Why not go really OTC, literally. Get some OTC or prescription medications in gellcaps that contain no fillers, and use the net mg. weight of the medicines to calibrate. Prescription antibiotics usually do not contain fillers, so you could easily use the powder from various strength gelcap amoxicillin or the like.laugh

No really, I ...
(Chief Bee)
10-15-02 20:32
No 368902
      That is not accurate.     

That is not accurate. Even if there were no fillers, the amount of active ingredients in medications are allowed to fluctuate 1-10% depending on what it is.

You will get a much more accurate reading by weighing a large piece (a square foot or two) of aluminum foil, measure the dimensions accurately, and then calculate how big a piece you need to cut out to get a 250mg weight, a 10mg weight etc.
11-11-02 13:17
No 378672
      how about     

get inert element that will desolve in alcohol
but will remain after evaporation

desolve 1 gm in 10,l flask
draw 1 cc and evaporate in pan for 100 microgram
or dilute 1cc with 1 100ml
draw 1 cc and evaporate for 1 micro gram
11-20-02 01:15
No 381374
      It is possible to use medicine.     

It is possible to use medicine. I know that the gelcaps can vary by less than .1% of the total.
(Chief Bee)
11-20-02 07:17
No 381481
      What gelcaps, and how do you know it?     

What gelcaps, and how do you know it? Have you weighed them yourself on a 0.1mg scale, or just trust the seller?
06-23-03 09:13
No 441883
      Made it and impoved it!
(Rated as: good idea!)

I built this scale and it works. I improved the electronic circuit a bit so you can calibrate it to read the exact mg value on the display without converting it!

A picture of the new circuit:

I just added an operational amplifier, with the gain resistor you can adjust the amplification of the output signal to bring it to the correct level, like 3.04V for 30.4mg!
07-23-03 04:00
No 449131
      I thought about that too....     

And had some ideas. First, I don't think a microcontroller is the best way to go. Reason is, resolution * time are fixed: for PWM, to get more resolution, you need to chop the pulse period into more divisions, which forces you to lower the pulse frequency. At some point it will be too low. At least it will make the settling time of the feedback loop way too long. Most microcontrollers don't have a D/A at all, and those that do, it isn't likely to be better than 12 bits. I have seen 14, but it's rare.

That schematic is a nice beginning, but I think the current mirror is a good idea, for the stated reason. If the resistance of the coil changes in the current design, the calibration will go to hell. My only complaint about a current mirror is that the one shown probably doesn't have a high enough output resistance to support a 16 or 24 bit range, plus it will have base current error (due to it being made out of bipolar transistors). I would recommend an op-amp current pump (schematic later, I promise), degenerated by a high-precision, temperature compensated resistor. Such things can be bought or found. Maybe I can break out my Pease and see how an easy one might be constructed. It all depends how far you want to go. And anyway, why not go all out and close the feedback loop in analog?  I am certain it will be better and more accurate than any digital implementation. I've been thinking about how to do this for a while. Probably the easiest way would bee to mount a small LED on the scale end (too heavy?) and have two photodiodes, one above, one below. Then make a voltage divider reference, and put them as the inputs to an op-amp. Maybe one op-amp could do the transimpedance and current driving, I would use 2. That would be a dual package, still cheap...and then...use a chopper and feed it to your computer's sound card or something. *heh* That would be awfully interesting way of doing DAQ. This is probably too confusing...I will try to figure a way of drawing a schematic for everybody...sorry, electronics can be hard in words...

And here is one last idea for you: If you buy some wire, say  very pure metal, or metal of known composition (nichrome), you should be able to calculate its resistivity (ohms per cm^3). Then, if you measure the resistance of a precisely measured, looooong piece (wire, for example), you should be able to calculate very accurately its diameter, and thus, its mass. This, without a micrometer. So a little math can substitute for a little expensive equipment. Just make sure that wire is uniform...

Hope this helps
(Hive Addict)
08-07-03 03:23
No 452192
      why are lab balances so pricey?     

Why, if this homemade scale is as good as its rumored to be, is an average lab balance so expensive? It would seem that the manufacturers of these things would constantly be undercutting each other until a fair price was reached, say $100. Is it because they are typically sold to universities and corporations, who have much bigger pockets than most individuals? Or is there another reason i am not seeing?
08-24-03 19:32
No 455417

it is not trivial to actually build and tune such a thing. To make the electronics for it to tare, etc. is also not trivial. Again, good meters to make the best scale are also not cheap when bought new. Thankfully, analog meters are very common used.
Also, remember, the manufacturer must guarantee the precision and accuracy of a meter they produce, over certain temperature and voltage range. The homemade version carries no such guarantees.
Lastly, remember the market for microgram scales is hardly a high volume one. The few companies involved may find it much more profitable to simply allow prices to remain high.