We looked at Digital
Scales in the Special Review section of our April/July
2002 Issue. A great deal has happened in the digital scale industry
since then. HBI, who has almost single-handedly brought digital scales to
the tobacco market with a tremendous line of high quality, reasonably priced devices has
increased its line even more since we first wrote of them last year. (For more info on
their line of products see www.goodscales.com.)
As we made the case for scales in the previous issue, we noted that scales had acquired a
rather questionable reputation as devices most used for purposes other than tobacco,
including certain illicit drug related uses. We found that after writing about these
marvelous and accurate tools, people begin to realize that there was indeed a serious
connection between scales and the MYO experience. Connoisseurs like to create their own blends and, to do
so, one finds it difficult to "eyeball" piles of tobacco when judging
proportional amounts for blending. Each tobacco has different density characteristics such
that when using your eyes alone, one can find it difficult to exactly reproduce a precise,
and thus, satisfactory blend each time. Scales are necessary for this precision and HBI
has dozens of scales that fit the bill.
One of our favorites from the last review remains so. We used this line of MyWeigh scales in our experimental tobacco shop to create proportional blends for our customers and frankly, would have been at a loss to do this without them. The 3001T and 6001T (shown above) we still use at the office for weighing both tobacco for blends and one of these scales is dedicated to weighing mail and packages for our postage machine and for other small shipping uses. The 3001T has a 3 Kg (that's 3000 grams or about 6 pounds) capacity and that we use for tobacco. With one gram accuracy, it has plenty of sensitivity to create the most minute difference in blends (remember there are 28 grams to an ounce). The 6001T with a capacity of 6 Kg or 13 pounds has the same level of sensitivity (1 g or .1 ounce) and this we use for our shipping. We have had both scales for nearly two years and they function perfectly still on the same set of AA Alkaline batteries that came with them. We have calibration weights to check their accuracy on occasion but these two scales in general should never need that as they are very hearty. HBI manufacturers the MyWeigh line and stands firmly behind their significant warranties.
One of the issues we covered in our previous Scales article was their durability. Yes, they are precision instruments and deserved to be treated that way. The easiest way to damage one, making it useless, is to either drop it or put more than the recommended maximum of weight on it. Other than these two obvious considerations, these scales are amazingly tough.
As mentioned above since our last review of scales (see link above), HBI has been exceedingly busy expanding its line of MyWeigh scales. Two we found most interesting from this new line of quality devices is the MyWeigh i5000, and the KD-600. The i5000 is a bowl scale (which means it has a bowl attachment for holding object or material you wish to weigh and has a unique counting feature that is really useful for counting change or other small parts like bolts, screws etc. Any scale can accomplish this with a little division or multiplication by the user but this particular scale does it all for you with a secular counting mode. It has a 5 kg capacity which is about 11 pounds with 1 gram/.1 ounce sensitivity which makes this scale great for everything from tobacco to kitchen use. You would be amazed at how useful these tools are when creating your own recipes and more importantly being able to reproduce the ones that are keepers precisely. Needless to say, these are great for all tobacco uses and frankly would have been even more useful than the 3001T/6001 models we used in the store for the simple reason that the i5000 has the bowl. We used to weigh our blends in bags using the Tare function (which gives you a "0" beginning weight with the bag on the scale and then filling the baggie to the required proportions. With the bowl, this can be done far more easily and removing extra tobacco is also more efficient. I love this scale design and recommend it highly for those retailers and consumers who are creating ounces or bigger quantity blends. It is not particularly useful as a postal scale, at least without removing the bowl (which is easy to do) but for those weighing sessions as mentioned above, it is ideal.
The other new scale from HBI under the MyWeigh name is the KD-600 (shown left). This is a larger, taller scale with about the same capacities (a bit more in fact) and sensitivities as the i5000 but is far more handy for postal and package purposes. This scale like the i5000 addresses one small issue we had in the tobacco shop with the 3001T/6001T series and that was that these two scales had a very low profile which made weighing larger bags (that tend to be floppy) difficult as the bag would roll over the sides of the platform and thus distribute some of its weight off-scale to the table. We had to make sure that when weighing large bags that they remained upright. Both of these new MyWeigh scales solve that problem.The i5000 has the bowl to contain the bag as long as it is not too large of a bag (keep in mind that a two pound bag of loose tobacco is pretty large). The KD-600 is even better as it is a taller scale as you can see in the photo above and has a larger platform which is removable for cleaning. This scale is the ideal package/postal and tobacco scale and has the Tare feature which allows one to use their own bowl (use a small light one, not a huge cookie mixing glass or ceramic bowl as these can weigh more themselves than the 6Kg or 13 pound capacity limitation). The Tare function on a scale in more detail is simply the ability to factor out the weight of the container you are weighing product in by either hitting a Tare function button or turning on the scale with the bowl/container already on the weighing platform. Either method is handy.
We sold more than a few of scales at the store, but because of the perceived illicit use everyone seemed concerned about then, and still are in some circles, we had a few rules as to who we would sell scales to. First no one under 18 was allowed in our store and we carded everyone who entered (unless they looked as old as myself - I'm over 50) or were repeat customers already checked. We also sold only to established tobacco customers who had purchased tobacco products from us in the past. Now whether they used these scales for tobacco only is their business and not ours or the governments. Many use these scales for various legal activities not related to tobacco. However, as we mentioned in the original April 2002 article, some of the smaller hand/palm-sized scales raised eyebrows and still do. What most people don't realize is that jewelers and others use these smaller scales for their trades and need the added accuracy and sensitivity that the smaller scales provide. Typically, these pocket-sized small scales will read to .1 gram and in some cases to .005 ounce. They usually have various units of measure (carats, dram weight, troy ounces, etc.) that are useful to both jewelers, people who reload their own ammunition, gold enthusiasts and many, many other responsible activities. They are are useful as well for those who want to make one cigarette at a time and blend just enough tobacco for that one smoke. We encourage this practice as it leads to moderation and a truer appreciation of the smoking experience and tobacco in general. Each MYO cigarette holds between .7 and 1 gram of tobacco so you can see the need for a scale that measures in tenth's of a gram.
When we closed our experimental store in late May 2002, we had made a lot of friends in Ashland, many of whom continued to look for scales elsewhere. There are few retail stores that sell them for the various reasons, so we directed our customers to an online source that sold quality scales at reasonable prices. The few places in our area that sold scales often sold them at three times their wholesale cost which we found to be unethical. After looking for a few weeks at online outlets for these products, we found American Weigh. ( www.americanweigh.com ). We heard about these folks immediately after publishing our online review of scales and had a few of our customers purchase from them to see how good they were. We noted their reliability in shipping, stocking, and pricing as well as how well they honored their warranties. Most scales are made in Asia and therefore dealing with the actual manufacturer can be a serious problem although HBI has an outstanding record in supporting their own line of MyWeigh scales (which are also made in HBI's factory in Asia). Both readers and former store customers were overjoyed at the service and professionalism of American Weigh. They carried the MyWeigh line back then which we were most familiar with and at a price we found difficult to match. While American Weigh is no longer an authorized dealer for MyWeigh, they do have a fair number of them still in stock. American Weigh's focus remains on both great service and the new American Weigh line among others. The good news is that there are other online dealers that have the outstanding MyWeigh products so the consumer will be well served in the future but do shop around as prices can vary significantly. Specifically, a company by the name of Save-On-Scales has the complete line of MyWeigh products at reasonable prices (www.saveonscales.com) with a killer website to boot. Same great scales with some new additions, same great service.
American Weigh also carried/carries other brands of scales and recently they sent us some of these for a look-see. One brand they sent, mentioned above, their own American Weigh line, is from another Asian manufacturer who is gaining ground in the expanding scale market and the American Weigh scales we looked at were extremely nice. They are less expensive than their HBI/MyWeigh counterparts and differ in capacities and sensitivities so that most direct comparisons are neither desirable or even possible. The point is, we put the AmericanWeigh products through even tougher testing procedures than we used for the MyWeigh products (certainly in part because we did not need to use these for the store and have plenty of scales for postal and other uses, so if we broke one, it was not the tragedy it would have been before). We dropped them on carpets, bumped them around and did everything short of overstressing their noted capacities (which again will damage any scale and is the primary cause of scale failure). We were unable to break any of them. There are minor trade-offs for the AmericanWeigh line as compared to MyWeigh but little of serious consequence for the tobacco connoisseur. For instance, the American Weigh Kitchen Bowl scale (AMW-810) (at right), when compared to the MyWeigh Bowl Scale, has less capacity at 2kg opposed to 5 kg. It has the same sensitivity at 1 gram or .1 ounce and was dead on accurate, even after our abuse tests. The MyWeigh version is more expensive but has more features and, again, more capacity. We will continue to test these products as time goes on and let you know their observed reliability, and longevity as that is one of the most important tests of any scale. The American Weigh line certainly has stood up well so far and not everyone will need the additional features. It the consumers choice and you really can't go wrong with either brand. HBI, always the pioneer, also has introduced a less expensive line of scales we will look at in the future.
Also, it is reasonable to note that none of the American Weigh scales we were sent initially actually had the name American Weigh on the scale itself, (we're told that will change with future inventories - it now has) although the packaging of each of the four models we looked at did bear the name DigiWeigh (It turns out that American Weigh was simply a reseller of DigiWay products but no longer is - it gets confusing at times) so . . . we will look at the new line of DigiWeigh trademarked products sent directly to us from DigiWeigh personally in the next issue) and it was very nice packaging indeed. And now American Weigh has trademarked its own name and all future products will bear the American Weigh name. Additionally, though the American Weigh scales do not come standard with calibration weights as do all of the smaller palm-sized units from MyWeigh, we're told American Weigh includes them if customers ask for them, and usually without charge. Other than the aforementioned differences, we found that American Weigh appears to be a very good product line. Importantly, the American Weigh Kitchen Bowl scale (AMW-810) is less than half the price of its larger MyWeigh counterpart. It doesn't have as many features, such as the parts counter, but again that is a relatively new feature with all scales and can be accomplished by the user quite easily by weighing one of an item and then dividing the total weight of all items by that unit weight. One of the most attractive scales we have seen is the AMW 3 kgx1g model 505 shown at left. It weighs in both grams (up to 3 Kg) with 1 g sensitivity and ounces to 0.1 oz, has great tare function and changes weight measurement units with a simple tap of the face plate that covers the large digital readout. Again the AW price is amazingly low at a mere $30. These are great bang-for-your-buck products.
The popularity of small, highly accurate (and sensitive .1 gram or better) so called "pocket" scales seems to be increasing with the MYO enthusiast. With concerns aside, for the moment, that are expressed regarding political (or, if you will, perceived usage) baggage associated with smaller scales noted above, we find these scales to be outstanding as well. As we detail below, these scales are ideal for weighing small amounts of tobacco for the smoker who wants to make a single cigarette comprised of combinations of his/her favorite blends. They are tough and attractive and the closing lid effectively protects their far more delicate sensors. HOWEVER, One must remember here that using these ultra-sensitive devices needs some environmental consideration. Specifically, temperature and air currents can adversely affect the accuracy of all scales but especially those with .1 gram accuracy capabilities or better. For example, even a less sensitive 1 gram accurate scale, when one blows on it firmly, will read up to 5 grams of pressure. You can imagine therefore that even minor air currents or temperature differentials can give one false or inconsistent readings with these more sensitive scales. So when using these ultra-sensitive devices, one must do so in a controlled environment. They need to be recalibrated (a few very simple, quick steps) each time they are moved (at least) and preferably each time they are used. Even altitude changes can be a factor as the atmospheric pressure varies with location. They are very accurate when used properly and their size lets them fit in a pocket quite easily. And again, they are useful for those who make small quantities of MYO cigarettes to precise proportions.
As far as size goes, the smallest digital scale we have seen is HBI's new MyWeigh AXE shown at left and right. These small scales conceal their true dimensions by folding in rotating motions and, for their size, give a fairly large weighing surface. When we say small, we are talking about the size of a business card. A truly amazing engineering feat for a scale of this accuracy and quality.
In closing the scale portion of this article, it is important to note one reason for revisiting scales, in addition to visiting new products, is to let our readers know where they can FIND them reliably. As we said, it is difficult at best to find them at most local stores and the online and brick and mortar waters are filled with sharks when it comes to these kinds of items. American Weigh has impressed us sufficiently not only to recommend them to our readers, but to allow them to advertise on this site. HBI has been a long-time advertiser and though they have many more items than just scales (they are the largest rolling paper distributor in the world and manufacture many, many products themselves) only retailers can buy from HBI directly. They have a number of sites including www.zensmoke.com where retail purchases of certain items are possible, but for scales, their line can be viewed at www.goodscales.com and they do have a list of authorized retailers there as well. So between HBI product retail sites like SaveOnScales www.saveonscales.com and American Weigh www.americanweigh.com, our readers can begin the exploration into this fascinating new part of the MYO industry. We use scales constantly at RYO Magazine to develop blends of various tobaccos for recommendation to our readers and quite frankly feel that the stigma associated with these precision devices is absurd. We can't over emphasize the usefulness of these handy devices. Again there is simply no other way to accurately build blend combinations that are consistent, and blending is becoming (and has been with me for decades) a vital part of the MYO/RYO experience. It truly puts the user in the connoisseur category and makes even more contemplation necessary for the smoker which, in turn, can only lead to moderate sensible use of tobacco. The photos shown below demonstrate various activities useful for the tobacco enthusiast. In the photo left, you see the large bowl scale from American Weigh and the small one (the AXE) from MyWeigh in action. It is interesting to note that one can readily determine how much tobacco is going into each stick with the AXE. As you can see in the photo right, it is about .7 grams. ( we emptied the contents of a well injected stick for the purpose of this photo.
The tobacco was a typical larger cut blend from D&R called Vengeur. Now finer cut tobaccos vary in their densities so a typical Bali Red stick, well filled, will use about .8 to 1 full gram, depending on moisture content. Because the AXE weighs in tenths of a gram, it is easy to blend simply one stick's worth of tobacco at a time if you are so inclined. For those that want to blend larger quantities the larger bowl scale by American Weigh (with a sensitivity of .1 oz or 1 gram is not only very handy but is easy to clean up afterward as the bowl prevents any of the tobacco from spilling off of the scale. It also uses AA batteries which we prefer in all small electronic devices. In the photos you can see both scales in action and depending on your preference (large or small quantities) you can't beat the accuracy of a good digital scale. So whether you want the time tested, bit more expensive, more full featured MyWeigh products or the more economical, yet still high quality American Weigh, you can be assured of finding these at fair pricing. Again, American Weigh for their American Weigh and Save-On-Scales for the MyWeigh products. Their respective banners are both on this page and other pages throughout this site so make the jump to the connoisseur level and call these folks. Happy blending!
One of the most useful devices that has ever surfaced for cigarette smokers of all stripes is the SnuffitTM. While this name is trademarked and we will refer to the designs here as Snuffers, they all have the same function, which is to put out your cigarette immediately and without damaging the remaining stick. These items are basically small objects with holes in them that sit in your ashtray. Once you stick a burning cigarette in the hole, the cigarette extinguishes itself instantly (from oxygen starvation) thus eliminating residual smoke. There have been many designs, from the functional to the artistic, and recently some truly beautiful work has been done to create a whole new line of the handy elements. A small glass company in Springfield, Oregon has some unique, hand-blown glass snuffers that are both beautiful and highly functional. The company, S&H Manufacturing, makes glass bottles and other artistic glass works as well, but their snuffer incorporates a change in the snuffer design that is common with all of the ones we will show this time. That is, the hole the cigarette fits into is wider (see photo at right) than the original designs next to it that have been around for quite some time. This enlarged hole makes it much easier to find the hole, especially when used in automobile ash trays and prevents clogging as well. These little devices are the solution for smoky ashtrays, especially in cars and prevents your smoking areas from being filled with the more caustic smoke that arises when cigarettes are allowed to burn up in ashtrays compared to when actually smoked.
S&H has many glass designs, some of which we show here (at left below) and they can be contacted via email by clicking here. The beautiful hand-blown glass designs are not only attractive but much easier to clean than the older ceramic products and are smaller, less obtrusive and fit much better in smaller ashtrays, especially in newer cars where ashtrays have shrunk in size and in some cases disappeared altogether except as an option.
Given that these new designs are functional, it has now become an industry-wide endeavor to come up with increasingly aesthetic designs. Adam's Apple, www.adamsappledist.com, a subsidiary of Republic Tobacco, has a new line of snuffers called Butt Headz that push the quality and design envelope even further. We first saw these creations at the last NATO show in Vegas at the Arango Cigar booth. Arango is a distributor of a lot more than cigars including its Jason tobacco we reviewed last time, but they had the little Butt Headz over in the corner of their booth and we were taken by them. We contacted them a few weeks ago after we decided to write about snuffers and they sent us to Adam's Apple. The AA's Butt Headz designs are fun, campy and functional, and add a lot of pizzazz to your ashtray. There are several collections (yes they will, no doubt, become collectible) and they are truly fine works of graphic art. Hand painted designs include various fantasy and edgy themes but our outright favorite is one with the name "Most Wanted" shown below left. Whether you like dragons, castles, mushrooms, or mystical trees, there are seemingly endless choices. And remember these things are truly functional and fit the larger diameter MYO size cigarette tube wonderfully. We expect a huge growth in sales as the problems with environmental tobacco smoke concerns a lot of people. Our concern is not a health related one, but we do not like the smell of stale cigarette odor and we, like most of you, really don't like cigarettes burning up in ashtrays. Though these designs work great for manufactured cigarettes as well, the larger hole is really the first noteworthy design change to address the fast growing MYO industry. I intend to have a whole collection of these little guys and we will be running a contest later in the year with these various "snuffers" as prizes. More on that later. Until then, go to the Adam's Apple site (link above) and check out all the possibilities (there is a lot of fun stuff there from lamps to fountains as well), or contact S&H Manufacturing at the email link provided above and get a flyer from them showing their various glass designs. Every single person who I have personally shown a snuffer to now uses one. Their functionality make them absolutely irresistible and with the new designs, their place in your ashtray is enhanced aesthetically as well. Perhaps we can expect a Saddam Hussein model soon or even a George Bush, depending on your political view of the world. As expected we found these to be very popular items at the RTDA show in Nashville and Adam's Apple proved to be a very enjoyable booth to visit, with many other fun items that the retailer can certainly use to improve their bottom line.
One of the most enticing of "pretties" that can be found at Adam's Apple is their high quality line of small decorative water fountains. There are several designs, one of which you can see on the Adam's apple site (again www.adamsappledist.com). Another design, my favorite (Mushrooms"), is shown at right.The AA site is for retailers not consumers, so encourage your local tobacco shop to get these in time for the holidays. At this point, we know for sure one online resource for the full line of Butt-Headz and other of Adam's creations. Sergio of RYO Cigarette, at www.ryocigarette.com, is located near the Republic corporate office (Adam's Apple's corporate owner) in Glenview, Illinois and has the ability to special order quickly any of these great products, and as stated, already carries the Butt-Headz collections. Many of these creations will make great gifts and only a few of them have any direct or necessary relationship to smoking. Consequently, many are, as gifts, appropriate for all ages, and the fountains and other fantasy items would be a very cost-effective hit with nearly anyone. Other tobacco shops would be wise to stock these kinds of items, especially around the holidays, as traditional tobacco shop patrons (if they are anything like me) are always on the lookout for last minute gifts.
I know when we had our experimental shop, around the holidays, we sold a very large number of non-tobacco related items to customers who were in just such dire need of last minute gifts. Anyway the fountains are cool and better yet, actually add some moisture to the atmosphere in whatever room you choose to put them, which during the typically dry winter months, can give welcome relief. They come with reliable little submersible pumps and operate quite efficiently. The pump noise is barely noticeable - all you hear is the gently cascading water. If you have a bladder problem, perhaps a very good idea as, I don't know about you, but personally, I find the sound of trickling water makes me have to go more often. It is probably not a bad thing as men tend to hold their "water" longer than women, which is not particularly good for us. So for nicer moisture content and possibly better bladder health as well, give these one foot tall works of functional art a try. (Disclaimer: The preceding has little basis in "scientific" theory, not unlike some of the health risk assessments regarding tobacco and health)
With these useful and quality products in mind, the possibilities are endless for finding that perfect smoking experience. It is a fact that as people enjoy the taste of great tobaccos packed fresh into a high quality tube, and cool accessories that further enhance the experience, their smoking becomes less of a habit and more of a controllable hobby where each stick is savored and overall consumption is reduced. We hope our constant reminders of the value of moderation is appreciated. We, and many of our readers, have found an exceptional way to enjoy tobacco as it was intended and we hope all of you that smoke will share the same experience. Until next time, enjoy and share your thoughts.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: These reviews are solely for the convenience of people of legal age who already smoke, are trying to cut down on smoking, wish to spend less money on their smoking, want to roll their own cigarettes from high quality tobacco, and, in general, wish to have a far more satisfying, and economical smoking experience when compared with smoking pre-manufactured cigarettes. We, in no way, encourage people to smoke. Further, we prescribe to a sane, more logical approach to smoking that involves common sense as to quantity coupled with a strong desire to manage the habit until it becomes an occasional, freely chosen, diversion, that can be fully enjoyed with minimal health risks. Finally, we strongly encourage those who do smoke to take it outdoors, or to appropriate environments where tobacco can be enjoyed away from those who do not smoke, most especially children. We do not sell tobacco or related products from this site; We distribute information about our perceptions of the quality of what is available and where it can be obtained. If you are under 18, it is illegal to buy tobacco and you should immediately exit this site. If you do not smoke, it would seem illogical to start.|
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