Part one is available here: Making a railway themed weather vane.
Right, where was I? I stuck the templates for the letters and the direction arrow onto the remains of the steel case.
The letters and arrow were then cut out using the jigsaw and a hacksaw then filed and sanded smooth.
I then worked out how to make the pivot. I have no idea how real weather vanes do it. Looking online all I could find were silly toy ones. I found people online who make and sell real weather vanes but none explained how the pivots work. Perhaps it’s a trade secret? So I invented my own.
I am using a tube sealed at the bottom with a ball bearing at the base as a pivot and a bush near the top to stop the vane flapping about. The vane itself is attached to a straight steel shaft that slides into the sealed tube part. The whole thing is full of oil so it shouldn’t rust or wear out and it should provide a smooth rotation without being too sensitive due to the damping effect of the oil. Pictures should make it clearer.
The main body is simply a piece of steel tube. Into the bottom of this is brazed a bolt, the head of which was turned on the lathe to make it fit into the tube. I put a small countersunk hole into the head of the bolt to locate a small ball bearing to work as the pivot. The ball bearing I got from inside an old spray paint can. These are what you hear rattling when you shake the cans. Now some cans have steel balls and some glass marbles. How do you tell which has which sort? Stick a magnet to the outside of the spray can and gently tip the can so the ball inside rolls past the magnet. If it is a steel bearing it will stop when it reaches the magnet whereas a glass marble will just roll past. Actually it makes no difference to me, I cut them ALL open and rescue what’s inside before putting the steel can out to be recycled! I have a jar full of the damn things.
Anyway, the bush at the top of the tube is just a nut I turned down to fit. The main shaft of the vane was some rusty old 1/2 inch steel rod I found in my old garage. The bush is pushed into the tube then held in place via a small hole in the tube I then plug welded through to hold it all in place. The picture above shows the relative positions. The whole tube is eventually filled with oil so the bush is actually totally submerged meaning it won’t rust or wear out in a hurry.
You can see above how the ball bearing sits on the bolts at the base of the tube. The bolt is brazed into the bottom of the tube as shown. Later that bolt thread is used to screw the pivot into the main mounting bracket of the weather vane and it allows it to be turned to accurately position the direction markers.
To this pivot base (which doesn’t turn) the direction indicators are attached. I brazed the letters to lengths of 6mm diamater steel rod then welded these to the base.
Once the base was done I brazed the direction arrow and locomotive to the main 1/2 inch steel shaft. I changed the rear of the arrow from my original design to one with more surface area based on this original LNER sign from Briglington I found online. I also added a small water shield made from a piece of tube and a washer. This gets welded to the weather vane shaft and it forms a cap that goes over the top of the pivot base to stop rain getting into the tube. This needs to be welded on very carefully so it is concentric to the main shaft so it won’t rub on the pivot base as the vane turns. I also added some balance weights to the front of the arrow head to balance the main vane.
A weather vane needs to be balanced with equal weight each side of the main shaft, so it spins easily, but has to have more surface area on the rear half than the front so it points into the wind. I didn’t get this quite right (hey – it’s my first try!) so I needed to add weight to balance things out.
I then made the base which is simply a section of tube welded to a steel base. PArt way down the inside of the tube is a nut that matches the thread on the base of the pivot. This nut is welded inside the tube. I drilled a hole in the tube at the point the nut needs to sit then just plug welded the nut in place from the outside of the tube. For some reason I didn’t photograph this! The base was just some scrap 3mm steel plate I had that I cut to what I felt was a pleasing shape. The tube is welded to this.
This mounting plate is in turn screwed to a wooden base that is bolted to the eaves of the garage. The wooden base was made from some scrap marine ply I had about the place. I needed to know what angle to cut the wood but since I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to get up to measure the angles I made a little measuring jig. This is just a long piece of wood with a T piece nailed to to top arranged so, with some force, it can pivot. To the pivot I hung a plumb line. I then took this contraption to the front of the garage and held it up making sure it was vertical using the plumb line. I then pushed it up onto the eaves. This moved the T piece to the correct angle.
I then transferred that angle (turns out it was 20 degrees) onto the wood. Simple! The steel mount is simply screwed to the wooden base which is in turn bolted to the garage eaves. I turned up a pointed plug from a piece of dowel to fit to the bottom of the mounting bracket just to finish it off. The steel base was primed with a zinc rich primer.
Another detail I didn’t get a picture of was the spacer used between the base and the mount. It goes on the threaded part of the base and is carefully cut to the right length so that when the base it turned fully into the nut in the base the direction pointers point in the right direction. I used a pice of 1/2 inch copper water pipe. Using copper means the spacer has some give in it. You can snug the base up very tight into the mount, the copper distorting a little for the last part of the rotation so you can get it in the exact right place. I got the idea from the crushable spacer used in an MGBs rear differential to set the differential pinion gear.
Oh, about now I discovered I could buy online some really nice locomotive cufflinks that happened to be almost the same as my weather vane. So I bought some! $30NZ shipped from the UK, arrived in 4 days! Cheaper than buying locally.
With everything done it was just a matter of painting it all. I painted the steel with black satin paint. Obviously I used the right stuff since the spray can has a picture of a weather cock on the front! Who wants a giant cock on their roofs?!? I painted the wooden base white and I used carriage bolts (appropriate for a railway themed vane) to bolt the whole thing to the eaves. So the vane sits into the base which is filled with oil to cover the ball bearing and steel bush. The base is in turn screwed into the mount via a spacer and a into nut welded inside the base shaft and the whole thing is bolted to the garage.
Finally with everything painted and finished I just needed to bolt the whole lot to my garage roof. Luckily my father had a ladder long enough and he came over to help me by holding the ladder while I clambered up to bolt it all in place. Once done we stepped back to inspect it all and this is how it came out!
Now if you wondering why the N-S letters are backwards in this view there is a good reason for this. As my mate Dave pointed out to me weather vanes will have one correct orientation. From other views the letters will be backwards. I was to busy making sure I got the N-S-E-W order the right way round to notice! Mine is the right way round when viewed from inside the house!
Yep, that was totally planned, not lucky chance at all…..
Finally, to prove it works, a little film on YouTube.