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Weather Vanes

In these days of instant weather readings by radio, the role of the weather vane siting on top of a house's cupola is less to show the wind direction than it is to add a charming touch of ornamentation. If you are considering a weather vane for your own home or as a house warming gift for a friend, you'll find you'll need to know only a few simple facts before you can let your imagination take charge of the decision.

The physics of a weather vane is simple. In order to work properly, weather vanes have to have unequal surface area on opposite sides (so the wind can catch and steer the vane) but equal mass either side of the center pole (so the vane can rotate unencumbered). Provided that a weather vane meets these tests, you can pick virtually any weather proof material, shape, or design.

Weather vane materials

Weather vanes, especially antique vanes, are in high demand today, and are usually made out copper, but also cast iron, steel, zinc, or even wood. It is not unusual to see brass or other finishes on top of basic metals.

Styles and prices

Whether antique or new, weather vanes are increasing in popularity as a housewarming gift because of their longevity and relatively low cost. The vanes can come in many different styles from very basic and functional to ornamental, with many styles personalized to the home and homeowner:

  • Arrow, scrolls and banners with wording or house numbering
  • Silhouettes (such as an eagle, horse or other animal)
  • Swell-bodied (a 2D silhouette pounded out by hand to a slight 3D shape)
  • Full-bodied (a 3D casting or carving of an animal or figure)


Determining the right size weather vane for your house is a matter of taste.

Work from a photo or sketch of your house and play around with different sizes and shapes (since smaller, bulky designs will be more noticeable than larger, leaner designs) until you find one that is noticeable but not overpowering. Then, find a weathervane design that fits within that size.

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