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David Hankenof, left, and Peter Kern, right David Hankenof, left, and Peter Kern, right,  former Toledo Scale employees, stand with their refurbished vintage scales.
David Hankenof, left, and Peter Kern, right, former Toledo Scale employees, stand with their refurbished vintage scales.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Published: Wednesday, 3/21/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Weighted memories

Former employees of Toledo Scale turn refurbishing into hobby

BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Peter Kern and David Hankenhof are doing their part to preserve a piece of Toledo history by bringing the shine and functionality back to old Toledo Scales.

The retired Michigan men once worked at the firm that was founded in 1901, but no longer exists as many older Toledoans remember it.

"It's a shame that Toledo Scale moved out of Toledo," said Mr. Kern, 84, who lives in Ottawa Lake, Mich.

More than 20 years ago, the company was merged with a Swiss firm named Mettler Instrumente AG and became Mettler-Toledo. It is now Mettler Toledo International, Inc., located just north of Columbus.

A detail of a Toledo Fan Candy Scale in the home of Peter Kern. A detail of a Toledo Fan Candy Scale in the home of Peter Kern.
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Mr. Kern worked for 24 years in the Toledo Scales' plant on Telegraph Road. He also worked in the company's sales and service office, formerly on Upton Avenue near Monroe Street, where his longtime friend Mr. Hankenhof, 76, of Temperance, worked for some 10 years.

While Mr. Kern went on to become self-employed, selling and servicing scales for about 25 years, Mr. Hankenhof retired from the scale department at the Ford Motor Company after 29 years.

The pair are so fascinated by the devices that they refurbish them to the conditions that they were when they were used to weigh candy and other edibles. Some of the scales have labels that show Toledo Scales' name and others feature its motto: "No Springs — Honest Weight."

"With the use of springs, the weight wouldn't be as accurate and it wouldn't hold its calibration," Mr. Hankenhof said.

Though the pair has remained friends through the decades, they didn't take up the pastime of tinkering with and putting scales back at the same time.

Mr. Kern has been refurbishing scales for about 50 years. About 30 years ago, he made lamps out of two black Toledo Scales and he uses them in his home. That's where he keeps about 10 scales, which he acquired while self employed, when he refurbished and recalibrated others to perform as if they were new.

Mr. Hankenhof only more recently took to the hobby.

"My first scale that I refurbished was owned by a brother-in-law who got it at an auction in Florida last summer," Mr. Hankenhof said.

That scale was in good condition, but he convinced his brother-in-law that he could improve its appearance and make it look brand new. He did.

"I repainted it black and saved the decals," Mr. Hankenhof said.

A collection of refurbished vintage scales in the home of Peter Kern. A collection of refurbished vintage scales in the home of Peter Kern.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Of course, then he was smitten and began to find scales in ads and antique stores to refurbish.

"There are so many different styles," Mr. Hankenhof said. "I didn't plan on doing what I do, but when I saw a different one, I had to have it and I refinished it."

Among the scales in these men's possession is a 100-year-old, 75-pound, cast iron version that's painted gold and is called a black and red fan scale. Fan describes the dial that displays the numbers that give weight. It can hold up to 20 pounds and can give a dual reading, with the red numbers showing the higher weight in the display, which also contains a light that comes on when a product is being weighed.

Mr. Kern also has a gray, a white, and a red candy scale, each with a scoop to hold the sweets. Many of his scales were made in the 1920s and 1930s.

While red stripes were added by the men to the gray scale, red was not an original Toledo Scale color, but was painted that color. In fact, that shade of red is about the same as the color of the City of Toledo's fire trucks. And the gold "Toledo" decal on that red scale is similar to the city's name on its fire trucks.

Contact Rose Russell at rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.



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