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Weathervanes Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Jul 1, 2008
Weathervanes or as some people call them, wind vanes, can be found in all shapes, sizes and materials. Weathervanes have been around in one form or another for thousands of years. Before the days of sophisticated weather radar and other forecasting tools, knowing which way the wind blew was a key predictor of things to come.

For as long as there have been weathervanes, there has been a significance attached to the shape of the vane. In ancient times, the figures depicted in weathervanes and wind vanes were often made to represent gods, animals and other symbols of societal significance. Residents of a fishing village could very have weathervanes in the form of fish, ships and other maritime symbols. Farmers and settlers may have looked to familiar signs to adorn their weathervanes.

In the days before electricity wind vanes and weathervanes were essential tools to many agricultural operations. The miller with a windmill would need to identify the direction of the prevailing wind in order to properly point the vanes of his windmill. Not knowing for sure which way the wind blows could cost the miller precious time and money.

A poem attributed to Mother Goose speaks to the millers dilemma

Blow, Wind, Blow!
Mother Goose

Blow, wind, blow! And go, mill, go!
That the miller may grind his corn,
That the baker may take it,
And into rolls make it,
And send us some hot in the morn.

Seafarers have always needed to know the direction of the wind. On board a sailing ship the wind is direction is detected by the use of telltales. A telltale was often just a thin strip of cloth that would be tied to the ships rigging stays and acts as a weathervane of wind vane. Since sailing ships relied on wind direction to set the proper course, this information was essential. Unlike the mechanically-powered ships of today, sail ships were at the mercy of the wind and could only change direction by means of tacking. Tacking is a zigzag course a sail ship will follow, making maximum use of the wind.

A very popular weathervane has its roots in the Ninth Century CE. The rooster or cockerel has endured as one of the most copied shapes for a weathervane. The legend of the rooster being used as a wind vane or weathervane said to have its origins in rule of the Roman Catholics popes. Citing the legend of Saint Peters betrayal of Jesus, the Vatican ordered that every Roman Catholic Church should feature a cockerel or rooster wind vane. The symbol of the cock was intended to remind early Christians that when the cock crowed three times, Saint Peter would betray Christ to his enemies as cited in the book of Luke.

The mechanical function of the average weathervane is fairly simple. Designing in the proper is the key to a properly functioning weathervane, since the weathervane must be able to react to the slightest change in wind direction or speed. The center point of the weathervane rests on a center axis and should be equally balanced on either side. A basic design includes a center post with the body of the weathervane resting over it. The center post may come to a sharply tapered point. The body of the weathervane fits on the post in such a way that the weight of the weathervane is concentrated directly on the center point. If the body of the weathervane is not allowed to move freely, its reaction to changes in wind direction and speed will be too slow.

With the sophisticated weather forecasting in place today, the humble weathervane is more decorative than functional.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a staff writer for the quality online store WeathervaneSale.com.
Shop for Weathervanes and Wind Vanes for your home. Please visit WeathervaneSale.com today.
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