How to Make Wood Whirligigs

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Make Wood Whirligigs
Ducks often catch the whimsical eye as an inspiration for whirligig makers. (duck image by Henryk Olszewski from

Whirligigs are traditional wood craft projects and are considered American folk art. Woodworkers create traditional designs as well as newer interpretations of the basic whirligig for craft fairs, family and friends. One traditional wood whirligig design is the duck. It is a silhouette of a duck with wings that spin in the wind. It is a whimsical design that will add life to any yard or garden area. The duck whirligig is a good introductory project for making more complex whirligigs.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 1-by-6-by-18-inch board
  • Pencil
  • Band saw
  • 1/4-by-6-inch dowel, 1
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • 1/4-by-3-inch dowel, 2
  • Brads, 2
  • Tack hammer
  • 1/16-by-2-by-6-inch wood strips, 2
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish
  • 1/4-by-12-inch metal rod
  • 1/4-inch fender washer, 1

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  1. 1

    Draw the side outline of a duck silhouette on one 6-by-18-inch side of the 1-by-6-by-18-inch board. Cut the outline out with a band saw.

  2. 2

    Drill a 1/4-inch hole through the centre of the duck's body where the wings should be positioned.

  3. 3

    Apply wood glue around the inside edge of the hole. Slide the 1/4-by-6-inch dowel through the hole and centre it so that there is an even amount of dowel sticking out from each side of the duck's body. Allow the glue to dry. This structure is the cross support for the wings.

  4. 4

    Cut a 1/2-inch deep cut on one end of each 1/4-by-3-inch dowel. Rotate the dowel 90 degrees clockwise. Flip the dowel around to the opposite end. Make another 1/2-inch deep cut in each dowel. These pieces are the wing dowels.

  5. 5

    Tack the wing dowels to the ends of the cross support dowel with brads. Center the dowel wings on the cross support. Spin the wing dowels to make sure they rotate freely on the cross support dowel.

  6. 6

    Draw an oval shape on the 1/16-by-2-by-6-inch wood strips. Cut the shape out with a band saw on each strip. These pieces are the wings.

  7. 7

    Apply glue to one tip of each wing. Insert the tip into the 1/2-inch deep cut on the ends of each wing dowel. Allow the glue to dry.

  8. 8

    Drill a 1/4-inch diameter hole in the centre of the bottom of the duck silhouette about three inches deep.

  9. 9

    Sand the assembly with fine-grit sandpaper. Sand with the grain.

  10. 10

    Apply a wood finish to the duck whirligig assembly.

  11. 11

    Drill a 1/4-inch hole about two inches deep into the mounting surface. Insert the metal rod into the hole. Place the fender washer over the rod and rest it against the mounting surface. Align the hole in the bottom of the duck with the metal rod. Mount the whirligig in place.

Tips and warnings

  • Place the whirligig on the corner of your deck for a functional piece of folk art.
  • Wear eye protection when working with wood.

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