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How to Make Wind Vanes with Dials

It is difficult to tell from a distance in which direction the arrow of a wind vane points when the arrow lies obliquely to the spectator, or points directly towards or away from him. In the case of a vane set up in some position where it will be plainly visible from the house, this difficulty is overcome by making the wind vane operate an arrow moving round a vertical dial set square to the point of observation.

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Figs. 155 to 157 are sketches and diagrams of an apparatus which does the work very satisfactorily. The vane is attached to the upper end of a long rod, revolving freely in brackets attached to the side of a pole. The bottom end of the rod is pointed to engage with a nick in a bearer, in which it moves with but little friction. WIND VANE WITH DIAL

Near the end is fixed a horizontal bevel-wheel, engaging with a vertical bevel of equal size and number of teeth attached to a short rod running through a hole in the post to an arrow on the other side. Between arrow and post is room for a dial on which the points of the compass are marked.

The construction of the apparatus is so simple as to call for little comment. The tail of the vane is made of two pieces of zinc, tapering from 8 inches wide at the rear to 4 inches at the rod, to which they are clipped by 4 screws and nuts. A stay soldered between them near the stern keeps the broader ends a couple of inches apart, giving to the vane a wedge shape which is more sensitive to the wind than a single flat plate. The pointer also is cut out of sheet metal, and is attached to the tail by means of the screws already mentioned. It must, of course, be arranged to lie in a line bisecting the angle formed by the two parts of the tail.

The rod should preferably be of brass, which does not corrode like iron. If the uppermost 18 inches or so are of 1/4-inch diameter, and assigned a bracket some distance below the one projecting from the top of the pole, the remainder of the rod need not exceed 1/8 to 5/32 inch in diameter, as the twisting strain on it is small. Or the rod may be built up of wooden rods, well painted, alternating with brass at the points where the brackets are.


FIG. 156. - Elevation and plan of vane.

The Bevel Gearing. - Two brass bevel wheels, about 1 inch in diameter, and purchasable for a couple of shillings or less, should be obtained to transmit the vane movements to the dial arrow. Grooved pulleys, and a belt would do the work, but not so positively, and any slipping would, of course, render the dial readings incorrect. The arrow spindle (of brass) turns in a brass tube, driven tightly into a hole of suitable size bored through the centre of the post (Fig. 157). It will be well to fix a little metal screen over the bevel gear to protect it from the weather.


FIG. 157. -- Details of bevel gear and arrow.

The Dial -- This is made of tinned iron sheet or of 1/4-inch wood nailed to 1/2-inch battens. It is held up to the post by 3-inch screws passing through front and battens. At the points of contact, the pole is slightly flattened to give a good bearing; and, to prevent the dial being twisted off by the wind, strip iron or stout galvanized wire stays run from one end of a batten to the other behind the post, to which they are secured.

The post should be well painted, the top protected by a zinc disc laid under the top bracket, and the bottom, up to a point 6 inches above the ground level, protected by charring or by a coat of boiled tar, before the dial and the brackets for the vane rod to turn in are fastened on. A white dial and black arrow and letters will be most satisfactory against a dark background; and vice versa for a light background. The letters are of relatively little importance, as the position of the arrow will be sufficient indication.

It gives little trouble to affix to the top of the pole 4 arms, each carrying the initial of one of the cardinal points of the compass. The position of these relatively to the direction in which the dial will face must be carefully thought out before setting the position in the ground. In any case the help of a compass will be needed to decide which is the north.

Having set in the post and rammed the earth tightly round it, loosen the bracket supporting the vane rod so that the vane bevel clears the dial bevel. Turn the vane to true north, set the dial arrow also to north, and raise the bevel so that it meshes, and make the bracket tight.

Note. - In the vicinity of London true north is 15 degrees east of the magnetic north.

The pole must be long enough to raise the vane clear of any objects which might act as screens, and its length will therefore depend on its position. As for the height of the dial above the ground, this must be left to individual preference or to circumstances. If conditions allow, it should be near enough to the ground to be examined easily with a lamp at night, as one of the chief advantages of the system is that the reading is independent of the visibility of the vane.

A Dial Indoors. - If some prominent part of the house, such as a chimney stack, be used to support the pole--which in such a case can be quite short--it is an easy matter to connect the vane with a dial indoors, provided that the rod can be run down an outside wall.

An Electrically Operated Dial. - Thanks to the electric current, it is possible to cause a wind vane, wherever it may be set, to work a dial situated anywhere indoors. A suggested method of effecting this is illustrated in Figs. 158 to 161, which are sufficiently explicit to enable the reader to fill in details for himself.


FIG. 158. - Plan and elevation of electric contact on vane post.

In-this case the vane is attached (Fig. 158) to a brass tube, closed at the upper end, and supported by a long spike stuck into the top of the pole. A little platform carries a brass ring, divided into as many insulated segments as the points which the vane is to be able to register. Thus, there will be eight segments if the half-points as well as the cardinal points are to be shown on the dial. The centre of each of these segments lies on a line running through the centre of the spike to the compass point to which the segment belongs. The tube moves with it a rotating contact piece, which rubs against the tops of the segments.

Below it is a "brush" of strip brass pressing against the tube. This brush is connected with a wire running to one terminal of a battery near the dial.

The Dial. - This may be either vertical or horizontal, provided that the arrow is well balanced. The arrow, which should be of some light non-magnetic material, such as cardboard or wood, carries on its lower side, near the point, a piece of soft iron.


FIG. 159. - Magnetic recording dial.

Under the path of this piece is a ring of equally spaced magnets, their number equaling that of, the segments on the vane. Between arrow and magnets is the dial on which the points are marked (Fig. 159).

Each segment is connected by a separate wire with the corresponding dial magnet, and each of these, through a common wire and switch, with the other terminal of the battery (Fig. 161). In order to ascertain the quarter of the wind, the switch is closed. The magnet which is energized will attract the needle to it, showing in what direction the vane is pointing. To prevent misreading, the dial may be covered by a flap the raising of which closes the battery circuit. A spring should be arranged to close the flap when the hand is removed, to prevent waste of current.

ELECTRIC DIAL WITH COMPASS NEEDLE FIG. 160. - Another type of electric dial with compass needle for pointer.

The exactitude of the indication given by the arrow depends on the number of vane segments used. If these are only four, a N. reading will be given by any position of the vane between N.E. and N.W.; if eight, N. will mean anything between N.N.E. and N.N.W.

Telephone cables, containing any desired number of insulated wires, each covered by a braiding of a distinctive colour, can be obtained at a cost only slightly exceeding that of an equal total amount of single insulated wire. The cable form is to be preferred, on account of its greater convenience in fixing.


The amount of battery power required depends on the length of the circuit and the delicacy of the dial. If an ordinary compass needle be used, as indicated in Fig. 160, very little current is needed. In this case the magnets, which can be made of a couple of dozen turns of fine insulated wire round a 1/8-in soft iron bar, should be arranged spokewise round the compass case, and care must be taken that all the cores are wound in the same direction, so as to have the same polarity. Otherwise some will attract the N. end of the needle and others repel it. The direction of the current flow through the circuit will decide the polarity of the magnets, so that, if one end of the needle be furnished with a little paper arrow-head, the "correspondence" between vane and dial is easily established. An advantage attaching to the use of a compass needle is that the magnet repels the wrong end of the needle.

FIG. 161. - General arrangement of electric wind recorder.

The brush and segments must be protected from he weather by a cover, either attached to the segment platform or to the tube on which the vane is mounted.

The spaces between the segments must be filled in flush with some non-conducting material, such as fibre, vulcanite, or sealingwax; and be very slightly wider than the end of the contact arm, so that two segments may not be in circuit simultaneously. In certain positions of the vane no contact will be made, but, as the vane is motionless only when there is no wind or none to speak of, this is a small matter.

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