How to Build a Wooden Whirligig

Written by jonah morrissey
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Wooden whirligigs can add whimsy to outdoor spaces. A whirligig is a classic country decoration and essentially is a wooden assembly that spins with the wind. While you could purchase wooden whirligigs for your home, you can easily make your own as a weekend woodworking project. Start off by making a basic whirligig, such as a flying duck. The duck's wings are the operating parts of the whirligig. The whirligig will rotate freely on a metal rod and the wings will spin when the wind blows.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Cedar board, 1-by-8-inch, 18 inches long
  • Pencil
  • Flexible curve ruler
  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • Fine-grit sanding pad
  • Wood glue
  • Cotton swab
  • 1/4-inch dowel, 8 inches long
  • Wood glue
  • 2 wooden blocks, 1/2-by-1/2-by-2-inch
  • 1/16-inch drill bit
  • 2 metal brads
  • Tack hammer
  • 4 cedar slats, 1/8-by-2 inches, 6 inches long
  • Drill
  • 24-inch metal rod, 1/4 inch diameter

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Place the 1-by-8-by-18-inch cedar board with the 8-by-18-inch side flat on a work surface. Orient the board horizontally and draw the side profile of a flying duck's body across the full length and width of the board with a pencil. Use the flexible curve ruler to help make the curved lines smooth and flowing.

  2. 2

    Position the cedar board flat on the table of a band saw and guide the board through the saw along the pencil line. Move the board just fast enough to allow the blade to cut through the wood until the side profile of the duck is completely cut out.

  3. 3

    Mark the location of the centre point for the wings on the duck cutout with a pencil. Rest the cutout flat on the table of a drill press. Drill a 1/4-inch hole through the duck cutout at the pencil mark with a 1/4-inch drill bit.

  4. 4

    Sand the duck cutout with a fine-grit sanding pad in the same direction as the wood grain until it is completely smooth.

  5. 5

    Apply wood glue to the inside of the 1/4-inch hole in the duck cutout with a cotton swab. Insert the 1/4-by-8-inch dowel through the hole in the duck cutout and centre it so that an equal length of dowel extends from either side of the cutout. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours.

  6. 6

    Place the 1/2-by-1/2-by-2-inch blocks on a work surface. Draw a diagonal line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of one 1/2-by-1/2-inch end of each block with a pencil. Draw a diagonal line from the top-right corner to the bottom-left corner of the opposite 1/2-by-1/2-inch end of each block.

  7. 7

    Cut a 1/2-inch-deep cut along each pencil line into the block with a band saw. Repeat the cuts until the cut is 1/8-inch wide. Drill a 1/16-inch hole through the centre of the 1/2-by-2-inch side of each block with the drill press.

  8. 8

    Center the hole in the blocks on the ends of the 1/4-by-8-inch dowel. Fasten one block to each end of the dowel with metal brads. Tack the brads through the holes in the blocks into the ends of the dowel with a tack hammer.

  9. 9

    Place the 1/8-inch cedar slats flat on a work surface. Draw an oval shape for the wings on each slat with a pencil. Cut out the shape with a band saw and sand the edges with fine-grit sandpaper.

  10. 10

    Apply wood glue to one end of each wing cutout and insert the glued end into the 1/8-by-1/2-inch slot in the end of each wooden block. Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours.

  11. 11

    Drill a 1/4-inch hole 3 inches deep into the centre of the bottom edge of the duck cutout with a drill and 1/4-inch drill bit. Insert one end of the metal rod into the hole. The finished whirligig can be pushed into the ground in a garden bed or mounted on a deck. The metal rod acts as a stand for the whirligig. This allows the whirligig to rotate on the stand as the wind blows so that the wings will turn with the wind. Push the opposite end of the metal rod into the ground in a garden bed. Drill a 1/4-inch-diameter, 3-inch-deep hole in a post or deck railing. Insert the metal rod into the drilled hole to mount the whirligig on a post or deck railing.

Tips and warnings

  • Paint the duck with exterior craft paint for a less weathered and rustic look.
  • Wear eye protection while working with wood.

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