How to make a tabletop weathervane

With this easy project, you'll track every breeze on the deck

By Paul LewisPaul Lewis


Photo by Laura Arsié

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In high school, my brother made a small ceramic pot in art class, one that he would invert on the tip of a ballpoint pen and give a spin. The combination of the dimple in the pot’s bottom and the near-frictionless pen tip kept the spin going for what seemed like forever. Thirty years later, I found a practical application for my brother’s accidental discovery. The key to my tabletop weathervane is — you guessed it — a spent ballpoint pen that allows the arms to pivot freely in even a breath of wind.

What you’ll need:

  • ¾” copper T-fitting
  • ¾” copper end cap
  • 16″ of ¾” copper pipe
  • ¾” x 5″ x 5″ wood base
  • 9 copper tacks
  • ballpoint pen
  • 12″ x 6″ sheet of 18-gauge copper flashing

1. Start by cutting three pipe sections to length using a tubing cutter: 4½” for the flight end of the arm, 5½” for the arrowhead end, and 4 1/8″ for the post.

2. If you want to use the bear and arrow patterns, download the PDF and print it out. Stick the patterns to the copper sheet with spray adhesive or rubber cement. To cut cleanly, it’s best to use a fretsaw fitted with a fine, metal-cutting blade. Clamp a scrap board, with a V-shaped notch cut in one end, to your workbench and position the sawblade near the V’s point, so you can support the sheet as you cut.

3. Dimple the inside of the T-fitting, at the point where it will spin on the pen tip, with a hammer and blunted nail. Assemble the pipe pieces, T-fitting, and end cap with solder or glue (five-minute epoxy works well).

4. Clamp the pipes in a vise and use a hacksaw to cut vertical slots for the arrowhead and tail flight, then solder or glue those pieces in place. Attach the bear on top, aligning its centre line with the dimple. Prop it in position with scraps of wood before soldering or gluing.

5. Cut a wooden base. I used a 5″ by 5″ piece of salvaged barn board with an aged patina. You can distress new lumber by bashing it around a bit and applying a dark stain. Drill a hole that just fits the pen, then hammer in copper tacks as compass points.

6. Secure the pen in the base with a drop of epoxy. Place the weathervane so that the pen tip sits in the dimple. To balance the weather­vane perfectly, you may need to insert a small weight, such as a couple of nails, into the arm or trim a bit off the flight or arrowhead. But once balanced, even the slightest breeze will set it on course.

This article was originally published on February 1, 2011

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Paul Lewis