Whirligig Wind Vanes

Add character and charm to your home, and watch the weather, too, with whirligig wind vanes.

  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - woodchopper photo2
    Whirligig wind vanes come in many variations, but The Woodchopper is among the more popular.
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - washerwoman photo
    The Washerwoman, another whirligig, has an up-and-down motion when the wind blows.
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - saw weilder diagram
    The Saw Wielder uses the same mechanism as The Woodchopper, except for the pivot where the saw joins the hand.
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - woodchopper diagram
    Diagram shows one possible method of assembling The Woodchopper.
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - washerwoman diagram
    Diagram shows parts and one possible assembly method for The Washerwoman.

  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - woodchopper photo2
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - washerwoman photo
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - saw weilder diagram
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - woodchopper diagram
  • 071 whirligig wind vanes - washerwoman diagram

There comes a time in even the busiest of days when we really must—no matter how important the task—rest our backs and minds. However, to quiet the little twinge of guilt that comes from leaving the main job (or perhaps just to give direction to the period of relaxation), many folks occupy themselves, while resting, with an activity of less "importance."

I call these interludes "puttering time", and I've come to realize that just such odd stolen moments were likely responsible for many of the cherished wooden toys—the whittled kitchen gadgetry, the primitive art, and even the heirloom furnishings—of another era. Wind vanes are a case in point: these spare-time-made gimmicks demonstrate the inventiveness of the builder, add charm and character to the home place, and are simply fun to make and watch.

The Woodchopper

Each of the three spinners described here can be constructed in an hour or two (depending on the manual skill and whims of the builder) out of nothing more than a few scraps from the workshop floor and a little imagination.

Probably the most traditional of these is "The Woodchopper," a design that's been repeated often—with modifications—over the years. A model of this particular pattern chopped incessantly on my Uncle Roy's barn for over half a century until the building finally collapsed after years of neglect and a heavy snow. (I like to think that the little man was still hewing away as the creaky structure fell!) Its direct descendant also graced my Alaskan homestead, merrily cutting wood through the lead-gray days of winter.

The stout fellow—like his companion, "The Saw Wielder"—is a wind-quartering vane that's operated by the breeze blowing across the blades, rather than through them. With this novel arrangement, a relatively small fan can produce the energy requited to drive the whirligig mechanism. And although only a zephyr is necessary to start the figure chopping (or sawing), the spinner doesn't speed up appreciably in stronger gusts, a factor which greatly extends the life of the wooden axles!

Ever So Easy!

Construction begins with the assembly of the small fan, whose blades (as well as the tail vane) are cut from 1/8" plywood. In the hub (it's simply a short section of thick dowel), cut four slots at about a 15° diagonal ...glue the blades in place ...and inset a 1/4" dowel to serve as a drive shaft. Be sure to coat the shaft generously with soap (which will lubricate the action for months) be/ore slipping it through the 5/16" bushing.

12/20/2007 9:36:14 AM

I too would like to know what happened to the sketches that were supposed to be with the whirligig wind vane, or, where can I get free plans on whirligig construction? Thank you. Ed Lynn

11/29/2007 10:17:59 AM

How do you make a whirllygig?

9/16/2007 10:25:42 PM

does anyone know what happened to the sketches that were supposed to be with the whirligig wind vane?? or if not I would be grateful if anyone can point me in the right direction to get any free plans on whirligig construction. thanks

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