Plans for making ceramic sundials

(Note: I must have itched for spring because, yesterday, as I was updating my categories, I noticed I’d posted stories in the dead of winter that should have been published now. So, I’m going to re-post a few over the next day or two because the topics are oriented toward spring.)

I was talking to my husband, Mark, about the idea of making my own sundial. We couldn’t think of any reason I could not be able to make one out of clay, if I took care with the planning and design. I looked into sites about making homemade sundials and it seems it is something I would be able to do. In How to Build a Sundial That Keeps Time, author Brian Airman carefully outlines what one must do.  What he says could be applied to a disc of clay. I think I would like to make a mock-up, first, then transfer the measurements to clay. While I was checking out the British Sundial Society, I clicked on some site links. I was intrigued by Sundials on the Internet, in particular, as it clued me in to the fact that I needed to do a little more research. Apparently, calculations must be done to figure out what is called true solar noon. (Whenever I’m investigating something, I never cease to be amazed at how many new terms I learn!) So, from that last site, I moved to this one: Print Your Solar Noon Calendar. The site states that “the time of solar noon depends on the Equation of Time and on the difference in longitude between your location and the standard meridian of the time zone you are in.” It continues to explain that “it is slightly different for every day of the year,” but that their “calculator will provide you with a table showing the exact time of solar noon for your location for each day of the year.” I did not know about solar noon, other than calling it high noon, until was till I starting delving into this sundial business, but solar noon, according to Wikipedia, “is the moment the sun appears highest in the sky.” So, I can make any sundial I want, but I am going to have to line it all up with solar noon for my area when I get to that point. And that is fine, as I have plotted latitude and longitude on many maps. I will also need to know how to set up a sundial, by finding True North. I realize that this is putting the cart before the horse, but I do like knowing all the elements of a project before I begin. One of the trickiest aspects will be making the numbers. I will have to decide if I want to use Roman numerals, which are classic for sundials. They can be molded, as with sprigging, or carved, incised, stamped or made with cookie cutters. Here is a Roman numeral converter, by the way. Once I’ve made my sundial, I can embed it with cement or grout, place it on the top of a pedestal or deck ledge. One thing is for certain…if I want a year ’round sundial, it will have to be glazed, otherwise it would crack. There are still many things to consider, but I’m convinced it’s workable and I’m going to come up with a design and get to work on it.


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6 Responses to Plans for making ceramic sundials

  1. Rachel

    Did you ever succeed in making a sun dial like this? I am very interested in making one with clay as well!!
    -Rachel Franklin

    • Jan

      Rachel, I have yet to make one but would like to make a project of it for over the winter. I will have to be careful with the calculations because math is not my strong suit. Thank you for your comment and I will post more about it when my project begins… Please let me know about your own plans as they unfold! Cheers! — Jan

  2. Joyce

    I bought a ceramic sundial kind of like the one above at a garage sale . it is a picture of a sun or moon with the Roman numerals but is missing the center hands,do you know where I could get something like that.

    • Jan

      Hi, Joyce, and thank you for writing. I think you make them out of papier-mâché, dry and seal them, then glue them on. Here’s a link to a recipe: I would use this with newspaper to build up the style of arms you choose. You can mold it on coated parchment and it won’t stick. After it dries, I’d use Varathane, or something similar, to waterproof it. Then adhere it to the the sundial with a good glue… Maybe seal the edges if it’s not completely flush. Good luck! — Jan

  3. regina essich

    I’m trying to get started on a sundial for a friend and would like to know how yours is coming along. It’s always good to hear about someone elses experiences.

    • Jan

      Hi, Regina, and thank you for writing. When I got down to the nitty gritty, I saw that the calculations are more difficult that I realized. I’m going to do the number crunching with my husband, as he has a better math mind than I. I hope to begin it this spring so it will be done in time for summer. — Jan

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