Have you ever tossed a nickel in the palm of your hand and wondered how much it weighed? Do you know that nickel is often used as a comparison weight and to calibrate scales?
A modern nickel has a weight of 0.176 ounces. In the metric system, the nickel weighs 5.000 grams. These are the nickels that have been in circulation since 1938. The nickels are made from copper and nickel.
Before these nickels went into circulation the Washington nickel and Buffalo head nickel were popular, but those coins also weighed 5 grams. The consistency in the weight of these coins is one of the reasons they are so often used to calibrate scales or make dry-ounce comparisons.
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How to Calibrate a Scales with Coins
Calibrating your scale is required so that you know for a fact that it is reading your precise measurement. To accurately calibrate your scale, you should use the calibration weights that came with the scale.
We understand that sometimes things get misplaced or lost so if you do not have the proper weights on hand, you can substitute a nickel in place of your calibration weights.
Basics of Nickel Calibration
The basic calibration process goes like this:
- Depress the power button of the scale to power the unit on.
- Wait a few seconds for the unit to become stable and it should have a weight display of 0.0 grams when it is stable.
- Find the MODE button and firmly press and hold it down.
- Keep the mode button depressed until the scale display displays CAL
- Press the MODE button again to make sure the scale is set at zero
- Place the nickel in the exact center of the scale platform
- The display should start to display the word PASS at this time.
- You can now power off the scale and continue with the weighing you had to do
It is possible that the original calibration weight that came with your scale weighed more than the 5 grams the nickel weighs. If this is the case you are going to need to use multiple nickels on the scale platform to equal the calibration weight required for the scale you are using.
If you have forgotten exactly how much the calibration weight weighed you can look up the type of scale you have online and find out.
You will need the make and model of your scale in order to find out the exact calibration weight required.
You can also check the bottom of the scale. There is a good chance that the calibration weight and details like that are printed on the bottom of the scale. Sometimes this information is printed on a sticker that is adhered to the bottom of the device.
The majority of scales will have a weight range between one gram and 100 grams.
It would take ten nickels to equal 50 grams of weight. It will take twenty nickels to achieve 100 grams of weight. Instead of nickel, you can read our best coffee scales review.
Tips You Need to Know Before Weigh a Nickel
The nickel is designed to weigh 5 grams. The US mint tells us that the weight of the nickel is 5 grams. This weight is what a CLEAN nickel should weigh.
If the nickel you are going to use is not perfectly clean there is a possibility that it weighs just a little more than the 5 grams you expect it to weigh. The best substances to clean the nickel with are ethanol alcohol or acetone. Commercial cleaners may leave a residue on the coin that can add to the weight.
Use the alcohol or acetone to clean away dirt, grime, and residues. If you do not have acetone or alcohol use plain white vinegar to clean the coin. Vinegar is fabulous at cleaning away almost as many things as alcohol can remove.
Prior to using the nickel as a calibration weight make certain you clean the nickel thoroughly and dry the nickel completely.
You also need to clean your scale and platform prior to starting the weighing process. You may not be able to see any dirt or grime on the platform but that does not mean there is none present.
Start off By Washing the Scale Platform with Plain Water
Then use alcohol or acetone to thoroughly remove any other grime or residue that the water could not penetrate. Alcohol easily dries off of the surface and it is strong enough to remove residue left by sticky substances or the oils from your hands.
Even though alcohol dries rapidly it is recommended that you wait at least 20 minutes before you use the scale after cleaning. This time period will give the platform the chance to dry properly and will allow you to get the most accurate reading.
Set The Scale to Zero
Another thing that you need to do before calibrating or weighing anything is set the scale to zero. The following tips will help you get an absolute zero setting on your device:
- Make certain the unit is sitting on a flat and level surface. If the scale is unlevel it can not be properly calibrated and will not give you a true weight reading.
- Make sure the surface the scale is sitting on is perfectly clean. Even a minute crumb can cause the scale to be unlevel enough to not be able to give you a precise reading.
- Make sure that there is no moving air blowing across the surface of the scale. The movement of the air can interfere with the scale calculations. Ceiling fans, fans and air conditioner vents are all sources of moving air that can interfere with the working of the scale.
- Do not be in a hurry. It can take a couple of minutes or more for your scale to reach a perfect zero. Have some patience and do not rush the procedure.
Once you have cleaned the scale and calibrated the scale you will then need to check the device to make sure it is reading accurately. This is another good time for the nickel because you are sure of the nickel weighing 5 grams so when you weigh the coin the scale should display 5 grams as the weight of the nickel. If you don’t know how to read ounces on a digital scale you can read our guidelines.
To get an accurate check after you calibrate the scale turn it off. You want to wait at least one minute before you power it back on to weigh the nickel.
You can also get things like an unopened kitchen product such as a container of spices and use the weight on the container label to judge whether the scale is reading the weight accurately.
How to Calibrate Your Scale with A Nickel (What’s a nickel weigh?)
Getting the precise weight for many things is very important. Learning to use common things like nickels to calibrate and set your scale to the exact zero will help you in the future.