How to Make a Design Plan for Whirligigs

Written by grahame turner
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A whirligig is a yard ornament, often shaped like a bird, with two spinning propellers shaped like the wings. There are more complicated, animated versions which can look like a paddleboat, or even a man cutting or hammering something. These wind-powered ornaments are simple enough for you to build on your own; a good way to get started is to create a design.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Sketch the design of the finished piece. A typical whirligig has a body and two wing-shaped propellers on either side of the body. For example; draw a body of a bird with two wing propellers on either side.

  2. 2

    Draw a shape for the base of your whirligig. Draw an image of a simplified bird in silhouette, including dimensions of the size and width of the bird, perhaps about 12-inches from beak to tail, and a body about 5-inches wide. Detail where the axle for the wings will attach.

  3. 3

    Design a pair of feather-shaped wing propellers. The propeller has a length of dowel between two feather-shaped paddles. Draw a template for one feather shape, which you can copy four times. Design the dowel, six inches long with a pair of angled notches to hold the feathers perpendicular to each other.

  4. 4

    Design the axle of the bird. It should have a washer on the inside and outside of each wing, and about 2-inches of dowel on either side between the body and the wing. It should have an "HH" shape; two capital 'H's.

  5. 5

    Trace your whirligig model plans in pen. Erase any stray lines on the drawing to finalise your design plan. Make full-size copies of the pieces to make templates with, then cut your design out of wood and assemble the whirligig.

Tips and warnings

  • More complex animated windmills, which you can make with practice, should have a base, the axle connected to a front-mounted propeller, and the animated parts on top.

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