From the Library of Scale Tales
  A Fish Tale: The One That Didn't Get Away

fish scaleIn the last few years it has become customary to design a unique scale as a special souvenir to commemorate each ISASC convention. This year attendees to the 2018 Annual Convention in Minneapolis were presented with a custom-made scale in the shape of a fish – a fitting choice for a convention held in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The story starts about 20 years ago when member Bill B. purchased a small fish scale in an antique shop in Rockford, Illinois. The most noticeable feature was the aluminum body of the scale in the shape of a fish.

Not long after that Bill was in a machine shop looking for a used bandsaw when he realized the name on the shop was the same as the name on his fish scale. That's when he asked the owner if he knew anything about it. In one of those quirks of fate, it was indeed the guy who had made the original scale years before and distributed them in the local area. In fact, the guy had made a number of the aluminum castings of the fish frame and still had them at his shop.

Bill left the shop that day glad to have found some answers to satisfy his curiosity about the origins of his unusual fish scale. He didn't think much more about it until sometime later when the opportunity arose allowing him to purchase all the unused castings along with the pattern of the scale and the rights to manufacture. Bill brought all the stuff home in a box, and on a shelf it went with the intention of eventually doing something with them.

fish scale
fish scale
fish scale
Click on photos for larger images

Fast forward to 2017, and planning for the upcoming 40th ISASC convention in May of the following year in full swing. While visiting Bill and his wife Jan, convention hosts Fred R. and Bob J. broached the subject of what to do for the keepsake scale normally given at these gatherings. Remembering the castings, Bill offered them to be used for the convention. Fred and Bob "took the bait" and the three of them set about making plans on how to proceed.

First step of the process fell to Bill since as a machinist he had the expertise, and very importantly the equipment, to do the necessary drilling of the castings. Once this was done, he proceeded to do the tapping to add the screw threads. It sounds simple, but both jobs involved numerous hours of work. With these tasks completed, Bill shipped all the castings to Minneapolis for Fred and Bob to take up the second phase of the project.

Now the real challenge needed to be tackled – how to construct a functional scale starting with only the shell. The search was on to find a spring and all other necessary parts that would fit inside the fish frame. No easy task!

Using photos that Bill had taken of the inside of the original scale, Fred and Bob started scoping out various hardware stores in search of parts that would work. Their goal was to replicate the innards of the original scale. Once they figured out which items they needed, Fred worked with his former company to buy the items in bulk, which greatly helped the overall "manufacturing" cost. In the end they were able to make a working scale with 19 components in all.

To better understand the complexities they faced, it is perhaps best to get Fred's own account: "One big obstacle to overcome in constructing the scale to function in the approximate same manner as the original was that we needed to find rods that would serve as the central axis of the fish guts and the exterior hook to which it attached. After quite a bit of searching we determined brass toilet lift wires would serve the purpose nicely. They came with preformed loops on one end and the other end was threaded. After bending and cutting the rod to the original size and shape of the hook it was attached to the central rod. The threaded end allowed a locknut to keep all the interior components in their proper place and the nut was able to be turned as adjustment to properly position the pointer on the measure plate on the outside of the fish."

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Once they had the prototype perfected, it was time to put phase three into operation. They set up their production line on Fred's dining room table, and before long the parts were assembled inside the castings and the two halves joined together. As the final step Bob took the now assembled 51 scales home and hand painted them in his basement. In the end it was the dedication and sheer determination (stubbornness?) of Team Bill, Bob & Fred that made this scale happen.

Lest any attendee forgets where they got this scale, ISASC 2018 Minneapolis is engraved on the scale chart which shows the graduation marks for reading the weight. All in all, this fish scale turned out to be a fitting commemoration of a great convention.

This fish – the one that didn't get away – is 8 1/2 inches in length and can measure up to 12 pounds, perfect for any member looking to weigh a catch of their own!

For more stories, see our Scale Tales Library