Weather Vane Project

Weather Vane Project

What will I be Learning?

You will learn to apply the design cycle to design and make your own weather vane for home. The tools and machines that you will learn about and how to use safely are:

  • MIG (GMAW) Welder
  • Plasma Cutter
  • Angle Grinder (with a range of different wheels/applications)
  • Metal Lathe
  • Chop saw
  • Spray booth
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1. Research

Task 1:

The first thing you need to know is how does a weather vane work? When the wind blows, what causes the weather vane to point into the direction of the wind? How will this help you to design your own weather vane?

Task 2:

Create a Pinterest board of weather vanes, silhouettes, organic shapes/objects. This document will help to inspire you to design your own silhouette for the image & main focus of your weather vane. Please see my example here: Mr Varnham's Weather Vane Pinterest images


2. Initial Ideas & Design Development

Task 1:

Take photographs of the things that represent you or you/your parents would like to have on your weather vane. Try to stick to organic shapes - these look better on the weather vane and it is not always obvious if you make mistakes when cutting it out of the sheet metal.

If you cannot take a photo of the object (e.g. Whale), then find a range of photographs online but be sure to cite your sources and ask them permission if necessary.

Task 2:

Create a silhouette of the image using Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop or other software. If you don't have access to a computer with editing software, print the image on a3 paper and then trace the outline.

Touch up to profile of the silhouette until it is very obvious from a distance what the shape is meant to be. I have had students in the past trying to create a silhouette of a wolf but the initial profile meant it looked more like a cow...keep editing the image or try a different photograph if you do not get the silhouette that you are after.


3. Make

Task 1:

Now that you have a silhouette that is clear and obvious, it is now time to cut this shape from sheet steel and make your weather vane.

Print off a copy of the silhouette to the size that you would like it to be. Usually the image should fill a sheet of A3 paper.Use carbon paper to trace this on to the sheet metal (16 Gauge) and then go over the line with chalk so that it is clearer to see.

Use the plasma cutter to cut the profile of you shape - if you are removing any negative space from the silhouette do this part first. DO NOT use the plasma cutter until I have taught you how to use it and what the necessary PPE is.

Task 2:

Cut the following pieces of metal:

  • 45cm length of round steel tube (3cm Diameter)
  • 47cm length round steel rod (2cm diameter)
  • Letters for North, South, East and West from 18 Gauge sheet steel
  • 4 pieces of 18cm, 5mm diameter round steel rod
  • 4cm length of square steel tube (3.5cm square)

Task 3:

Use the metal lathe to machine the ends of the 45cm length of round tube and the 47cm length of round steel rod. You will be doing an operation on the lathe called facing off. This process will level the end of the metal flat, perfectly perpendicular to the sides of the tube. This will allow it to stand exactly upright from the base of the weather vane. DO NOT use the metal lathe until I have taught you how to use it and the necessary PPE that should be used.

Task 4:

Mark out and drill holes for the base plate on the supplied 15cm diameter 14 gauge sheet metal disc. There should be 4 holes equally divided in the circle and 2cm from the edge.

  • Centre punch each hole position
  • Drill each hole with the 5mm drill bit
  • Counter sink each hole
  • Mark the center of the disc

Task 5:

MIG weld the 45cm tube to the center of the base plate. Start by tacking the tube into position to make sure that the tube is perfectly flat against the disc. Do not use the MIG welder until I have taught you how to use it and what suitable PPE you need to wear.

Finish welding around the remaining areas of the tube making sure not to warp the disc from overheating.

Task 6:

Find your 4 pieces of 5mm diameter steel rod. Mark out 3cm from the end of each piece. Bend each piece 90 degrees at the 3cm marking.

Weld each navigational letter (N, S, E, W) to the end of the longest part of the bent steel rods.

Task 7:

Find the 4cm square tube that you cut and weld the provided large steel washer onto one of the ends - make sure that it is centered.

Task 8:

Take the part that you just made in task 7 and place it washer end first over the post/tube of the weather vane stand.

Use the bench vice and magnets to position this where you would like the navigational letters to be supported from

Slide the North and South components that you made in task 6 into two adjacent corners of the square tube.

Weld these together making sure that the North and South arms are aligned.

Task 9:

Slide the East and West arms into place

Drop another large steel washer on top of these and center it

Tack weld the washer to the East and West arms

Gently slide the East, West and washer off and tack weld together underneath.

Slide this component back onto the post.

Task 10:

Cut a piece of 1cm steel rod that is 1/3rd longer than the silhouette that you plasma cut.

Task 11:

Forge the Arrowhead and feathers (DO NOT use the forge until I have taught you and you know what PPE to use)

  1. Taper the tip
  2. Shoulder the metal to the desired length of arrowhead
  3. spread the metal to form the desired arrowhead shape
  4. Shoulder the other end to the desired length of feathers
  5. Spread the metal
  6. Add texture for the feathers using the chisel

Task 12:

Find the balance point around the mid point of the arrow

Mark this point with chalk

Weld the 47cm steel rod to the mid point of the arrow

Task 13:

Weld your silhouette to the top of the arrow - make sure that it is perfectly vertical. Use the magnets of have somebody assist you with holding it upright.

I suggest tacking the silhouette and then checking before completing your welding.

Task 14:

Angle grind any burrs, rough edges or imperfections in your welding

Task 15:

Hang each component and spray paint until you have a minimum of 2 coats.

4. Evaluate

Reflect on what you have learned in the process of making your weather vane.

Your reflection should include the following:

  1. Title
  2. Photograph of the end product
  3. Written evaluation:
    1. Description of what you have made
    2. How a weather vane works
    3. Why you chose this silhouette design
    4. What you have learned in the process of making this product
    5. What challenges you encountered and how you overcame them
    6. What you would do differently next time/What recommendations would you make to somebody doing this for the first time?
    7. Where you will use the weather vane
    8. What do your peers think of your end product? Any compliments/criticism
    9. Any other details/information to add

Please see this Exemplar weathervane evaluation