Serving The Meteorite Community Since 2002

The End of Summer

As we near the end of summer it is always time for Paul and I to plan the first trip to the cooler autumn desert. And we have begun that process. We do not know where we are going but we have picked the date and put in for the time off from work. We have spent big portions of most of our vacation in October doing meteorite hunting for many years. This year we are thinking about more astronomy and astrophotography and some meteorite hunting .

So I have to get my telescope out and get it ready to go. I have a new camera adapter made for it so I can do some lunar photography. I have been itching to do a good batch of digital photos of the moon for years and have never hauled the scope to the back yard, so with no excuses on vacation I think this is the time. We can not get a time window of moonless sky this year so deep sky is out during most of the nights, making moon and planet photography our best choices.

We have to figure out where to go still and that is a multifaceted problem. We need it to be dark, it would be great if is was a strewnfield or at least a good searching surface where we go. And if we could have power at a campsite that would be really good since running the generator is not what we like to do for hours and hours.

On a different topic but not a new one. I have gotten another scale. In my ongoing quest to have precision lab scales for every weight range I have ended up with many in every weight range. But, I found one last month at the swap meet that was very nice and not like most of my others. It is a fairly typical Mettler design, but somewhat different. It is also in the 0.01 – 800 gram range. It needed a little work. I was confident that I could fix it however, since it had a calibration sticker on it from only a year and a half ago. The illuminator bulb was not aligned properly as a result nothing showed on the front screen. That took some careful adjusting to get just right. And it needed a new power cord. Of course the calibrated weights were laying all over the bottom and needed to be retrieved. But, in about and hour the $15 scale was up and working and it is as the accompanying photo shows very accurate. It has about 0.05 grams of error at the top of any range and is accurate beyond my ability to see at the bottom end of each 100 gram range. For those not familiar with these type of laboratory scales they have internal calibrated weights that are lifted and dropped by the turning of a knob connected to cams and levers inside the scale. It acts just the same as you would with external precision weight place on one side of a balance scale. But, you never have to handle the weights since they are selectable and inside.

I did not need another scale but for $15 what am I going to do. I can’t just pass it by. I had way more then $15 worth of fun fixing it and learning about how it worked. I have been a tinker most of my life. Watches, clocks, now scales, anything that is complicated and made with small precision parts has always fascinated me.

The great side benefit of my scale collecting is that I can get truly close weights on all my meteorites using some really cool old and antique scales. I carry a digital scale around with me at Tucson and it is a fine way to know what I am paying for NWA meteorites. But, it lacks any kind of charm or style to me, it is just a device. I have come to really like a few of my lab scales. I have sold a few as well. Not because they did not work or I did not like them. They were too sensitive. One, a Mettler that came out of NASA was so sensitive that I could not get readings from it in the house with people walking. It needed a stone table in direct contact with the ground to keep it steady. That was a commitment I was not willing to make. And the Christian Becker scales went away right after I repaired them. I thought I was getting old watching and waiting for them to settle out and give me a reading.

I know I have written some of this before, but a phase of my life is coming to an end. The technology swap meet that I go to once a month is going to be at a time that I will be working soon. My schedule at work is changing and I will not be able to go and see if there are scales or other cool things to buy. For over twenty years I have gone on the last Saturday to that swap meet and now I can not. So this Mettle will probably be the last scale I will get for maybe forever.

As meteorites become more valuable and exotic types available and collectable knowing the weight to great accuracy will remain very important to both meteorite dealers and collectors. A tenth of a gram just is not going to cut it as it did with chondrites thirty years ago.

Now for my advertisement. My book on Meteor Crater is always available at in fact some copies of the older book are also there for sale. And my book on lapidary work “The Cutting and Preparing of Meteorites” is always available from me at

Till next month, Jim

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