How to Make Wind Vanes

Written by tiana mortimer
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How to Make Wind Vanes
Fancy iron wind vanes like this one can be purchased at home and garden stores. (Norbert Kaiser: , Tiana Mortimer)

A wind vane, sometimes called a weather vane, is a simple instrument used to verify the direction the wind is blowing. It is one of the first meteorological lines of defence in predicting weather patterns. It is shaped like a horizontal arrow perched on a vertical rod. You may have seen fancy models installed on top of homes or barns in various shapes. While you can purchase those decorative, ready-made versions, it is easy to learn to make a wind vane on your own with a few basic supplies.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Square wooden dowel -- 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch x 12 inches
  • Coping saw
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Nails -- 2 to 3 inches
  • Hammer
  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Thin craft copper sheet
  • Metal snips (scissors that cut metal)
  • File
  • Drill with 1/8-inch drillbit
  • Two screws -- 1 inch long and 1/8-inch diameter
  • Two nuts
  • Screwdriver
  • Round wooden dowel--4 feet long and 1-inch diameter
  • Two flat metal washers
  • Two round wooden dowels--1 foot long and 1/8-inch diameter
  • Wooden craft letters -- N,S, E, W
  • Wood glue
  • Clean rag
  • Compass
  • Pole bracket kit

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    Assembling the Directional Pointer of the Weather Vane

  1. 1

    Cut a vertical slit approximately 1/2-inch deep into both ends of the square wooden dowel using the coping saw with a fine-tooth blade.

  2. 2

    Use the ruler and mark the midway point (6 inches) with a pencil on top of the square wooden dowel. Verify that you are marking the top of the square dowel by checking to make sure the slits cut into the ends remain in vertical position.

  3. 3

    Hammer one nail through the square wooden dowel at the midway mark indicated using the hammer. Next, hold the nail head in your hand and spin the square dowel around the nail several times until it loosens up and rotates easily.

  4. 4

    Draw a template of an arrow head and arrow tail onto poster board using the pencil. The arrow tail should be shaped like a trapezoid with a 3-inch base, 2 1/2- inch sides and a 1 1/2- inch top. The arrow head should be 3 inches long from point to point with a small half-inch body.

  5. 5

    Cut out the poster board arrow tail and arrow head template, using scissors. Use the marker to trace these templates onto the thin craft copper sheet.

    How to Make Wind Vanes
    This is the posterboard template to use when tracing them on the copper craft sheet.
  6. 6

    Use the metal snips to cut out the copper arrow head and arrow tail. Buff the rough edges of the arrow head and tail using a file to smooth.

  7. 7

    Slip the body of the arrow head into the vertical slit on one side of the square wooden dowel and the 1 1/2-inch side of the arrow tail into the vertical slit on the other side.

  8. 8

    Drill a small hole toward each end of the square wooden dowels, making sure to completely drill through the inserted metal arrow pieces. Take care to hold the wood and metal arrow head and tail steady.

  9. 9

    Use the screwdriver to screw the small screws into each end of the square wooden dowel. Thread the small nuts onto the end of the screws. These will hold the metal arrow pieces securely in place.

    Assembling the Weather Vane

  1. 1

    Measure 8 inches from the top of the round 1-inch wooden dowel using the ruler, and mark with a pencil. Rotate the round wooden dowel 90 degrees, then measure 9 inches from the top of the round wooden dowel and mark with a pencil.

  2. 2

    Drill a hole completely through the round 1-inch wooden dowel at the 8-inch mark. Turn the wooden dowel 90 degrees and drill a hole at the indicated 9-inch mark.

  3. 3

    Squeeze a small amount of wood glue into each hole just drilled into the round 1-inch wooden dowel.

  4. 4

    Insert a small 1/8-inch dowel into one of the drilled holes in the round 1-inch wooden dowel, so that an equal amount of dowel is extending on each side. Repeat the process with the second 1/8-inch dowel and hole. Both dowels installed should form a rough cross. Wipe any excess glue off with a rag.

  5. 5

    Glue the wooden "N" shape onto one end of a 1/8-inch dowel and then glue the wooden "S" shape onto the opposite end.

  6. 6

    Hold the round 1-inch wooden dowel in front of you with the wooded "N" shape facing away from you and the "S" shape near you. You will see the remaining 1/8-inch wooden dowel running from left to right.

  7. 7

    Glue the wooden "W" shape on the left side of the 1/8-inch dowel and the wooden "E" shape on the other end. Allow the glue to dry.

  8. 8

    Position the two metal washers on top of each other over the end of the round 1-inch wooden dowel closest to the installed small 1/8-inch dowels.

  9. 9

    Attach the assembled directional arrow structure to the round wooden dowel by lining up the protruding nail in the centre of the metal washers, then use a hammer and pound it in.

  10. 10

    Spin the arrow structure around the nail until it loosens up and turns freely.

  11. 11

    Choose a place to install your weather vane so the wind will be able to spin the arrow structure.

  12. 12

    Install your weather vane using the pole bracket kit, according to manufacturer's instructions. Use the compass to determine the northern direction and then make sure the wooden "N" shape on the small dowel is also facing north before installation. Now you will be able to accurately tell the direction the wind is blowing.

Tips and warnings

  • Paint or varnish all the wood pieces before building and assembling the wind vane to create a more polished end product.
  • You can use hot glue in place of the screws and wood glue for a quick fix if you do not plan to use the wind vane for the long term.
  • Be careful once you cut the arrow shapes out of the copper sheeting, as the metal can be sharp. You might want to consider wearing protective gloves during the smoothing process with the file.
  • Do not install the wind vane in an area that receives restricted air flow such as near trees or next to a building blocking the wind's path.

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