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Weather Vanes

Many homeowners install a weathervane to add a touch of old world or country charm to their home. A weathervane can be a purely ornamental expression of personal style placed atop a roof or in a garden, or a functional piece of scientific equipment that connects to a computer or electronic device to track wind direction and velocity-it may even be part of a complete residential weather station.

What Is a Weathervane?

Also known by the term "wind vane", "weather cock", or "weather vane", the earliest known weathervane dates to 48 B.C. Athens. It would be the mid-18th century when weathervanes took on the form we are familiar with today: a fixed rod on which is mounted a large globe, followed by the directionals (the four directions represented as N, S, E, and W), followed by a smaller globe, topped by a rotating rod onto which is affixed a vane (flag or ornament). Following the vane may be placed another ornament, a finial.

How Weathervanes Work

Its purpose is to indicate wind direction. In order for the weathervane to work properly it must adhere to two basic principles: the vane must be unequal in area to either side of center, and the vane must have equal weight to either side of center. This design causes the end with the smaller area to turn into, thus indicating, the source of the wind's direction.

Weathervane Materials

Ornamental weathervanes do indicate the general direction of the wind, but are often imprecise. Traditionally, these weathervanes are made from metal. Copper is a popular material among many of the craftspeople that make weathervanes. It allows for great artistic expression and ages to a beautiful patina. Wrought iron, pewter, stainless steel, aluminum, and resin are all used in the manufacture of both mass-produced and handcrafted weathervanes.

Styles of Weathervanes

The style of the weathervane can include elaborate filigree touches or simple clean lines. So what subjects can you find on weathervanes? Well there are some traditional items like banners, arrows, silhouettes (of almost everything from animals to machinery); symbolic objects (like hearts); and fanciful creations (dragons, mermaids, moons, and stars). If you are looking for an alternate to the ornamental weathervane consider an electronic weathervane or weather station of the type featured at weathershack.com. Technologically advanced weathervanes use sensors coupled with a vane to collect precise weather data. Many of these units are solar-powered and wireless.