Weather vanes are always fascinating, particularly the fanciful designs of the eighteenth century. Several of the examples shown here can be found in an excellent book. The Pine Furniture of Early New England. by Russell H. Kettell. If you're not concerned with wind direction, these vanes make striking wall decorations, either painted and antiqued or stained and varnished.
Many vane plans call for mounting and pivoting devices that require metalworking skills. We have tried to keep things simple and within the capacity of woodworkers. All of these vanes pivot on a stationary brass rod, except for the horse, which is epoxied to a rod that revolves on a ball bearing. Note that all the vanes have an offcenter pivot point which enables them to swing into the wind. They will swing freely enough to work in a moderate breeze, but sensitivity can be increased by balancing them. Lay the completed vane across a dowel placed along the pivot point. Add lead weights until the vane is balanced. Then drill holes in the edges of the vane and insert the weights.
The horse is cut from glued-up 1" pine or exterior plywood. With solid stock be sure to edge join with %" dowel pins located after the pattern has been transferred. Drill the horse for a %" brass rod and fasten it to a 2 x 2 x 44" beam also drilled for the rod. The rod is epoxied to the horse and beam, and rotates on a steel ball within a plugged tube partly filled with oil. The tube is set into a 2"-square wood post. A washer soldered to the brass rod holds the vane and a copper rain hood keeps the ball-bearing assembly dry. Stain the horse and finish with spar varnish, or finish with primer and oil paint.
An arrow is perhaps the most logical design for pointing the direction of the wind, and this one is adapted from an old and rather ornate vane.
Jigsaw addicts will have a good time shaping this design from % x 6 x 42" pine. The original vane pivoted on a %" rod sunk into a 3'-long flat pole which was %" thick, tapered from 2" at the bottom to at the top, and beveled at the top to drain rainwater. A washer was soldered to the rod as shown.
Stain the arrow and give it three coats of spar varnish; or seal the wood and paint it a dark red, black, or some other dark color.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, snakes have been cast as villains in mythology; and though some people are repelled by these reptiles, we decided to include this eighteenth-century design because it's probably the most striking and original weather vane we've ever seen.
Temporarily butt two jointed 1 x 6 x 36" pine boards together and transfer the pattern. Lay out %" dowel locations so they will reinforce the body of the snake. Drill for the dowels and edge join the boards with water-resistant glue.
Lay out and bore a 'Ae" hole for the mounting rod, drilling through from both edges if necessary. Jigsaw the snake and finish sand. The snake may be stained and spar varnished or painted whatever color suits your fancy. Dark colors will stand out better against the sky.
Two hundred years ago when the codfish played a major role in the economy of coastal New England, its effigy graced many roof ridges, steeples, and tavern signs. Its importance has lessened considerably, but the codfish still makes a fine weather vane or wall decoration.
The body, including the tail, can be jigsawed from a 1 x 8 x 30" piece of pine, after boring a shaft hole for a loose fit over the rod. Shape the fins separately from pine and join them to the body with dowels and water-resistant glue. No self-respecting cod would appear in public Without its chin barbel (a fleshy appendage on the lower jaw). This is duplicated with a nail forced through a predrilled hole and bent.
Apply primer and paint the codfish with oil paints. The underside is cream, within the limits of the dotted line shown. As a wall plaque, the cod can be painted or stained after sanding. Distress it slightly and use a dark stain such as Min-wax Special Walnut. Seal with several coats of satin varnish.
A large washer is soldered to the brass rod, If the rod is inserted into a wooden pole, bevel the top edge of the pole to drain rainwater.
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