SweGGate Facts Dictionary Appendix 01

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Swedish dictionary

This page has more detailed explanations of some words listed in the general dictionary.
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Please note that the letters å, ä and ö are sorted after z in the alphabet

Measuring Tools  


Old scales and measuring tools
Measuring length, volume and weight were all important activities since early times even in the simple farming societies. 
Measuring length was always easy and for short distances several measuring sticks were made. For distances longer than a few metres one could either use a long piece of string with knots marking length. A simple but very practical tool for measuring distance on ground is the "A" - a wooden "A" with one "leg" extending slightly at the top to form a handle. The distance between the tips of the legs (the "feet") is the unit measure. You start on one "foot" and swing the other "foot" forward as you walk along, counting the number of swings.
In old times - and when absolutely exact weight measure was not essential - a volume measure was more often used. Boxes (early of wood, later sheet metal) of different sizes were used and for larger measures there were barrels of a defined size.
Measuring weight is more complicated and always requires an instrument that is either expensive, hard to make yourself or takes some time to use.

In old times there were mainly 2 types of instruments used for smaller weights - besman and pyndare.
Both can be made of either wood or iron but the counterweight is usually a metal one. Both have a hook at one end of a bar where you attach the goods to weigh. 
Those used in shops, markets etc were required to be "krönta" ("crowned") i.e. have a royal crown stamped on the bar to show that they had been checked to be accurate by government officials.
The besman is very old, known at least since the middle ages in Sweden (year 1050-1521) but it is believed to have
been introduced from Russia.
The name besman is of Slavic origin indicating arrival from Russia / Eastern Europe. It can also be spelled betsman.
This tool has a fixed, metal, counterweight at one end of the bar, opposite the hook. You hold the tool by a handle which can be moved along the bar until balance is obtained. You then read the weight on the scale on the bar.
A besman is hand-held and has a fixed counterweight and therefore limited to smaller weights. They were made for max load of 10 or 20 kilograms, rarely over 40 kg. Also it is not practical to move the handle if you have a heavy weight on. (Click in image to enlarge)
The name pyndare is derived from middle age Latin indicating that the invention comes from the Mediterranean cultures.
This tool has a fixed handle off centre to utilize the leverage. The metal counterweight is moved along the bar until balance is obtained. You then read the weight on the scale on the bar.
The advantage of a pyndare over the besman is that it can be fixed to the ceiling or a beam and used for heavier loads. Also you could use a set of counterweights for different weight ranges.

Explanation by F Haeffner unless otherwise stated. Mail me your contribution or request.

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Last updated by F Hae 2005-05-04 11:00 © Fredrik Haeffner, 2003-4