How To Use a Postal Scale: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Learning how to use a postal scale is important if you own a business that ships documents, mail, and small packages.

Unlike a regular weighing scale, a good-quality postal scale gives you accurate readings.

As such, you can rely on it to help you determine the exact postage or tariff cost for delivery.

How To Use a Postal Scale

Using a postal scale is a straightforward process.

That said, there are a few things you need to do to ensure you get an accurate reading every time.

Step 1: Place the scale on a flat, solid surface.

If the scale is not on a level surface, it cannot accurately weigh the item placed on it.

This is specifically true for postal scales used for weighing small items or documents.

Why are level surfaces important?

When you weigh something, you measure the gravitational force exerted on that object.

The force of gravity must be perpendicular to the surface of the scale; if not, it will only measure part of the true force of gravity.

Hence, you get an inaccurate reading.

Step 2: Zero out the scale.

Before placing your item on the scale, make sure that the screen displays zero.

If not, simply press the ON/OFF button to reset the scale.

If you want to determine the weight of contents of a package you’re preparing, place the empty box on the scale first.

Then, press the tare button or reset the scale using the ON/OFF button.

When the scale reads zero, you can now put the contents back to display their actual weight.

Note, however, that when you finish weighing the box’s contents and remove them from the scale, it will display a negative value. 

Reset it again to return to zero.

Step 3: Weigh the item.

Place the package on the postal scale and write down the reading.

Most scales feature multiple weight modes, from pounds to ounces, grams, and kilograms.

Don’t forget to switch to your desired measurement unit so that you won’t have to convert later on.

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How To Use a Manual Postal Scale

What if you’re using a manual postal scale? Don’t worry; it’s as accurate as a digital scale, and it isn’t that difficult to use.

Firstly, what is an analog scale?

A manual postal scale is a combination of a platform and an analog dial with a rotating needle.

The dial is marked with various numbers to represent the actual weight of an item.

If you take a closer look at the dial, you will find long and small lines.

The long lines are marked with specific numbers, depending on the unit your scale comes with. 

For example, they could have 5, 10, 15, and 20 pounds. Meanwhile, the smaller lines stand for one pound each.

However, note that scale manufacturers use different line lengths to make it easier to read the fractions of a unit of measurement.

For instance, a small scale that measures in pounds will have a long line in the middle of any two numbers that usually represent half a pound.

Then, each half-pound mark is further subdivided into an even shorter line, which indicates a quarter of a pound.

The shortest lines indicate one ounce.

To weigh items using a manual postal scale, follow these steps:

Step 1: Place the scale on a flat, stable surface.

As with a digital scale, you want to make sure that your manual postal scale is on a level surface.

You must also avoid placing your postal scale on vinyl, linoleum, carpet, or other soft surfaces.

It’s a good idea to feel the surface with your palm to check for unevenness. 

You can also push the surface a few times to check if it’s stable enough and that it doesn’t wobble.

Step 2: Weigh the item.

Ensure that the needle points to zero before placing the item on the scale. 

Reading a manual scale is easy, but it won’t be as easy as a digital scale.

Basically, what will happen is that after placing the item on the scale, the needle will move to a specific line.

Suppose it moves to the first long line that indicates the number 5. This means that the reading is five pounds.

If the needle points to the smaller lines representing ounces, you have to read it accordingly to get the accurate weight of the package.

It’s important to remember that even though they can be as accurate as digital postal scales, human error in reading mechanical needles usually account for miscalculations.

Thus, when using a manual scale, place the package on the platform and wait for the spring to adjust to the weight before writing down the reading.

Also, be careful when rounding up measurements, as every penny counts.

Tips for Using Postal Scales

Whether you’re using a digital or a manual postage scale, here are a few handy tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Not only will these ensure accurate readings but also help you save money on shipping costs:

1. Choose the appropriate scale for your needs.

For most individuals and businesses, a digital scale that reads out the weight of the package is enough for calculating shipping rates.

However, if you have a very busy store and ship out a lot of items daily, you might benefit from a programmable shipping scale.

It is a type of postal scale that calculates the actual shipping cost based on weight, size, and destination.

The problem is that programmable scales are costly and require replacing the chip every time the postal rates change.

On the other hand, you will also find postal scales that come with printers so that you can print shipping labels for your packages.

As you can imagine, this eliminates the work of manually entering details and printing them from your computer.

Do you run a busy online store and need a time-efficient way to weigh and categorize your packages?

If so, a USB digital postal scale might be what you need.

The USB connectivity allows you to connect the scale to specific programs or software on your computer.

This way, there will be no need for you to input the measurements manually.

2. Be mindful of the scale’s capacity.

Using a small scale for large and heavy packages can result in miscalculation.

What’s more, they can be difficult and time-consuming to read.

If you only weigh mail and documents, choose a postal scale with a small capacity, around 50 to 90 pounds.

However, if you weigh products in bulky parcels or packages, opt for a big-capacity scale with a wide platform.

With a bigger platform, you’d be able to weigh large boxes conveniently.

Some models have the scale separated from the platform for easy reading.

3. Don’t forget to calibrate your scale.

If you rely on a postal scale for any part of your business, you need to make sure that it’s calibrated.

Even the highest-quality scale won’t be accurate forever, thus requiring calibration.

Aside from constant placement, normal wear and tear can affect its accuracy too.

How often you need to calibrate your postal scale depends on a few different factors.

These can include the manufacturer’s recommendations and how often you use the scale.

If you use it daily, you might need to calibrate your device more often.

It’s also an excellent idea to spot-check the scale for accuracy every now and then.

4. Keep it clean.

Even digital scales require some TLC for them to function correctly.

Note that digital scales aren’t waterproof, so you should only clean them with a damp cloth.

You can use a disinfecting wipe or a microfiber towel and soapy water to sanitize the platform.

Avoid harsh treatment and be gentle with handling the scale.

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Dos and Don’ts When Using a Postal Scale

Digital postal scales are instruments of precision, but only if you know how to use them correctly.

Here are a few more tips to keep your postal scale functioning properly and ensure an accurate reading each time.

1. Do check the batteries. 

A low battery can affect how a digital scale functions.

As such, you will want to replace the batteries as soon as you see a low battery indicator on the display.

2. Don’t overload your scale. 

Overloading a scale or weighing an item beyond its maximum capacity will damage the sensitive load cell.

Unfortunately, this can result not only in inaccuracy but also in the malfunctioning of your device.

3. Don’t expose it to a freezing environment.

A digital scale may not function correctly in cold temperatures.

4. Do ensure a stable, vibration-free surface. 

Avoid shaking or vibration when weighing an item because it can damage the sensitive electronics and the load cell inside the scale.

5. Do keep the scale in the same place every day. 

If you move it and you don’t calibrate, the accuracy and dependability of the scale might be affected.

6. Know your scale’s birthday.

As with any electronic device, prolonged use of a postal scale leads to wear and tear.

If you’ve been using it for quite a few years already, it might be the right time to replace your device.

Getting an Accurate Reading

As you can see, learning how to use a postal scale is pretty straightforward. The real challenge is ensuring that you’re getting an accurate reading.

If you’re using a digital scale, the best way to ensure accuracy is to place it on a flat, solid surface and zero it out before weighing your item.

On the other hand, when using a manual scale, you must wait for the spring to adjust to the weight before reading the result.

All in all, if you follow the tips we listed, you can be more confident with your measurements.

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