The weights should be applied in the order in which they occur in the weight-box (not at haphazard), beginning with the largest weight which is apparently required. After a weight has been placed upon the pan the beam should be lowered upon its knife-edges, and, if necessary, the pan-arrests depressed. The movement of the pointer will then indicate whether the weight applied is too great or too small. When the weight has been ascertained, by the successive addition of small weights, to the nearest 5 or 10 milligrams, the weighing is completed by the use of the rider. The correct weight is that which causes the pointer to swing an equal number of divisions to the right and left of the zero-point, when the pointer traverses not less than five divisions on either side.
The balance case should always be closed during the final weighing, while the rider is being used, to protect the pans from the effect of air currents.
Before the final determination of an exact weight the beam should always be lifted from the knife-edges and again lowered into place, as it frequently happens that the scale pans are, in spite of the pan-arrests, slightly twisted by the impact of the weights, the beam being thereby virtually lengthened or shortened. Lifting the beam restores the proper alignment.
The beam should never be set in motion by lowering it forcibly upon the knife-edges, nor by touching the pans, but rather by lifting the rider (unless the balance be provided with some of the newer devices for the purpose), and the swing should be arrested only when the needle approaches zero on the scale, otherwise the knife-edges become dull. For the same reason the beam should never be left upon its knife-edges, nor should weights be removed from or placed on the pans without supporting the beam, except in the case of the small fractional weights.
When the process of weighing has been completed, the weight should be recorded in the notebook by first noting the vacant spaces in the weight-box, and then checking the weight by again noting the weights as they are removed from the pan. This practice will often detect and avoid errors. It is obvious that the weights should always be returned to their proper places in the box, and be handled only with pincers.
It should be borne in mind that if the mechanism of a balance is deranged or if any substance is spilled upon the pans or in the balance case, the damage should be reported at once. In many instances serious harm can be averted by prompt action when delay might ruin the balance.
Samples for analysis are commonly weighed in small tubes with cork stoppers. Since the stoppers are likely to change in weight from the varying amounts of moisture absorbed from the atmosphere, it is necessary to confirm the recorded weight of a tube which has been unused for some time before weighing out a new portion of substance from it.