January is traditionally the month when our thoughts turn to weight, but I’m much more interested in ogling antique Avery scales than dieting…
The firm W&T Avery (now called Avery Weigh-Tronix) has roots stretching back to 1731, but it was during the Industrial Revolution that brothers William and Thomas Avery became household names, manufacturing domestic weighing scales and industrial ones such as weighbridges in their Birmingham workshop. (If you’re ever in the area, there’s a museum at the firm’s HQ where you can explore the fascinating 6,000-year history of weighing.)
I admire the 19th Century Avery models with wooden bases and marble or ceramic slabs (which often get separated from their bases but make excellent little cheese boards, incidentally) – but it’s the 1950s metal designs that I love most. I like the green stripe and logo. I like the pink arrow that whizzes around the dial. I like the way I can’t understand the numbers at all – it’s all pre-metric pounds, ounces and ‘half new penny divisions’, whatever they are.
These chunky scales that were often used in grocers’ and butchers’ shops to weigh out food can often be found at antiques fairs and, a few years ago, I caved in and finally gave into temptation. I soon found out the hard way that they’re enormously heavy themselves…so heavy in fact, that I could only just pick them up.
After much lugging (and complaining), the bulky-but-beautiful Avery scales were installed on our kitchen sideboard, where they have stayed ever since – partly because nobody can physically move them.
As The Husband has helpfully pointed out on numerous occasions, yes: they’re essentially useless. I have smaller scales for baking and am a fan of the measuring cup system anyway (lazy, you see). Typically, the Avery scales get mentioned in any ‘discussion’ about ‘clutter’, in which we both agree that:
Yes, they gather dust.
Yes, they take up a massive amount of precious worktop space in what is, arguably, already a smallish kitchen.
Yes, they’ve triggered a number of other inexplicable and rather odd grocery-shop-related vintage purchases such as old Danish Bacon price labels (styling props? one day, perhaps…) and pretty-but-perfectly-pointless punnets.
Yes, they are bloody impossible to move.
‘But I like them,’ I always conclude, weakly. ‘And, sometimes, the cat sits in the steel pan, so they do sort of have a use.’
The Husband just rolls his eyes, as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.