Taking a stroll through the web one day, we noticed that there really aren’t many guides to the humble weathervane. How can this be, we asked ourselves, for a weathervane is the height of quirky living; it’s what makes a home unique to the outside world and it’s really super handy in predicting the weather too! As curious curators of style and practicality, we have taken it upon ourselves to create the ultimate guide to one of our favourite home accessories, the weathervane. You won’t find (much) jargon or waffle here; our guide will take you by the hand and lead you through the awesome world of wind vanes – you’ll be in a world of pure weathervane indulgence and appreciation (or simply click here to view our wonderfully quirky range of weathervanes).
A Brief History of Weather Vanes
Weathervanes have been around since the ancient gods of Greece, in fact the Greek god Triton was honoured with a weathervane in 48 B.C by the astronomer Andronicus who affixed one to the Tower of the Winds in Athens. The Greeks believed that the wind had godly powers and so the first wind vane featured a 4ft long half man, half fish effigy. Pretty cool, eh? Of course the Romans had to get in on the action and between them created weathervanes to depict a number of gods such as Boreas, Aeolus, Hermes and Mercury, which would regularly adorn the homes of the wealthy. Of course other mighty empires had their own versions of the wind vane; Vikings created weather vanes way back in the 9th century and they would often depict fables, mythical creatures, or animals who possessed great power.
Britain got in on the act around the medieval era with towers featuring wind vanes. This could have been down to the influences of both the Roman empire and Vikings. The word “vane” originates from the Anglo-Saxon word “fane”, meaning, “flag”. Back in the day, fabric pennants would show the archers the direction of the wind. But due to the famous turbulent British weather and amassed wealth, fabric flags were quickly replaced by metal ones. Often decorated with a families Coat of Arms, these early weathervanes where perfectly balanced to turn in the wind. The mass migration from Europe to America over the 16th and 17th century brought the wind vane over to the USA. Weather vanes in America would often decorate famous halls and public buildings and some buildings today can still trace their weathervane back hundreds of years.
With the popularity of weathervanes across the world you may be forgiven for thinking there are more names than one for this humble instrument of the wind. There are in fact a whole host of terms that refer to this ornate home addition. The most commonly used names are as follows;
- Weathervane, Weather vane, Weathervain, Windvane, Wind vain, Wind indicator, Wind gauge, Weathercock, Anemometer, Windsock, Cock, and Vane.
It’s important to know other key terms when it comes to weathervanes. This terminology will help you better understand the various components that are crucial to your weathervane installation.
Cupola – This is the dome-like or peak structure on top of a house. Cupolas appear on top of most homes in one form or another. They are often seen as the belfry, belvedere or roof lantern above a main roof. There are several types of Cupola, including decorative cupola with internal cross brace, functional cupola with vaulted ceiling, decorative cupola with no internal cross brace and functional cupola with ceiling.
Cupola Flange – The Cupola Flange is the instrument used to secure the weathervane to the Cupola.
V-Bracket – A V-bracket is used if you have a truss framed roof which is a common style of roof in England. The bracket secures the weathervane to the surface to which it is being attached.
Cross Brace – Cross Brace refers to the method of weathervane installation. The Cross Brace method requires accurate measurements of the length of the spire to establish the distance between the cupola’s peak and the installation point of the cross brace.
Sound complicated? Its not really, each Weathervane we sell comes complete with a fixing bracket and easy to follow instructions. Average installation time (once you’ve selected a wall or you’re on the roof is around 10 minutes!).
What Are Weathervanes Used For?
A Weathervane is typically used to show the direction of the wind. However, due to their ornate nature many people like to affix a Windvane for purely aesthetic reasons. When it comes to public buildings a weathervane is often used to depict history, nature, or purpose of that building with other significant reasons for that particular weathervane coming into play.
Predicting the Weather
Firstly the winds direction is dictated by the direction from which it comes from. Put simply, a northerly wind blows from the north to the south. A working weathervane will move with air resistance and the design points to the prevailing winds which gives a clear indication of where the wind is coming from. When you couple the winds direction with other weather indicators you can in essence, predict the weather. For example an easterly wind caused by a turn in low pressure will more often than not be the signal for a storm. Winds for the south usually bring bouts of warm weather with them. Read more on using wind direction to predict weather here.
Materials Used For Weathervanes
Weathervanes come in a variety of materials that can be beneficial to certain types of weather conditions depending on where you are located. Below is a list of the most commonly used materials;
Wood has been a traditional material of weathervanes for hundreds of years. Often hand crafted, wood gives a wonderfully authentic look to a Wind vain and it can be varnished or painted to create something that is all together unique. The drawbacks of wooden weathervanes is that they can become damaged if not treated with the proper vanish. They require a lot of maintenance year on year and can bow if subject to a lot of rain.
Cooper is an incredibly durable material that maintains well in all weather conditions, making it a great material for creating one-of-a-kind weather vanes. Copper has a very distinct look and colour and has one of the longest noted lifespans when it comes to wind vanes. Copper has a vintage and luxurious appearance, which is where a lot of the appeal lies. As Copper is malleable it can easily be bent and shaped without cracking and turned into stylish sculptures (even 3D designs- which we also sell!) that work especially well as wind vanes. You can view our range of copper weathervanes here.
Steel is another material that has great durability and will often outlast other materials. The beauty of steel produced weathervanes is that they do not require much maintenance and can be coated with an additional layer of another material (like High Density Polyethylene) to increase its ability to withstand the sun, rain, and snow. Steel can be painted to give it a fresh look and feel meaning that you could change the colours of your weathervane periodically with the right paint.
Aluminium is known as a versatile material that can be cheaper than other metals. Aluminium is corrosion resistant as it naturally generates a protective oxide coating which comes in handy in areas that may experience acidic rain. It can be easily melted, cast, formed and machined into a variety of shapes without creating surface abrasions. Aluminium possesses a modern look and requires little in the way of routine maintenance.
Brass is a simple alloy which is made by combining copper and zinc. The measurements for each component in brass is varied to create either a hard or soft brass, depending on what it’s being used for. Although brass is considered malleable it is harder to work with when it comes to hand crafting. Brass does create a beautiful colour and is preferred by many people who are looking for timely weather vane.
Nickel silver has been around for thousands of years and is comprised of copper alloy with nickel and sometimes zinc thrown in to the mix. Nickel Silver has a distinctive silver appearance but does not actually contain any silver. However, Nickel Silver is hard to hand craft and can be expensive to produce. Another draw back of Nickel Silver is that over time it will oxidise producing a brown/green tinge to the surface.
If you’re looking for a truly decadent weathervane you can choose a gold leaf wrapped design. Gold leafing is usually added to the exterior surface of the weather vain and will accentuate the turning colours of the instrument. For example, when gold leafing is added to copper, as the weathervane ages and changes colour the gold leaf will become more distinctive in nature, thus creating a wonderful display over time.
Some wind vanes incorporate stained glass into their design to really bring out the wow factor. As weathervanes are situated high above, the stained glass catches the sunlight perfectly to create a visual masterpiece.
Popular Weathervane Designs
Although weathervanes come in a wide range of designs now-a-days, the traditional designs still hold a lot of appeal. As discussed in our brief history of Windvane section, popular designs are usually attributed to power, status, family crests, animals and professions. The most popular weathervanes today are the traditional cockerel design that is synonymous with farming, agriculture and early rising. The compass is another popular choice for those who have connections to travel and exploration. The Ship motif is popular amongst explorers of the sea and there are such famous ship weathervanes as the golden ship weathervane on the roof of the Liberty building in London. The most common of all Weather Vane is the arrow design which can be seem in many cities world wide.
When it comes to purchasing a weathervane there are a few consideration to keep in mind. Placement and size are amongst these. So follow our tips for key considerations when it comes to weathervane installation and you wont go wrong installing that majestic piece of artistry on top of your home.
Weathervanes are usually mounted to a cupola, this is a structure on the rooftop which acts as a base for the weathervane. Some homes may be subject to restrictions when it comes to erecting a weathervane. If you are renting a property you may wish to check if you are subject to these restrictions. If you are lucky enough to live in a national trust property or area protected by the national trust it may be worth contacting the trust to ensure it is ok to put up your Weather Vane.
When it comes to sizing it is worth considering what appropriate size will best suit your dwelling. Ideally you want a weathervane to look part of the overall architecture of your home. Small weathervanes may be suitable for sheds and annex style buildings but they may look out of place on top of a large house. Similarly if the weathervane is too big for a home it can look garish or unsuitable.
We suggest looking at the overall design of the weathervane before choosing a size. A weathervane that is long will take up more of the roofs landscape, where as a tall wind vane will add height to your home. Also keep in mind the harness of the wind vane; this is the vertical spire which secures the design to the roof. The harness will raise the weathervane design up and thus must be taken into consideration when it comes to sizing.
Be mindful of the setting to which you are affixing said weathervane. For weather vains which are placed high on top of a roof, the backdrop will of course be the sky which will highlight the outline of your chosen wind vane in a dramatic way. This means that you could have a slightly smaller design and achieve a great look. However if the wind vane is to be placed in a garden as a design aspect or feature, you may wish to consider a larger design. This is so the weathervane does not become ‘lost’ in the background of your garden.
Lastly consider the viewing distance between you and the weathervane. If you have a home made up of more than two stories, a larger wind vane may be required to achieve a better viewing. You should be able to enjoy your weathervane as much as your neighbours do.
Here at Cuckooland we have two size variations that typically work well with most homes. Typically, our medium sized weathervanes measure 51cm x 51cm overall and our large weathervanes measure 78cm x 68cm overall which makes it easy to choose which would best suit your home.
Thanks to the modern manufacturing of weathervanes, routine maintenance is minimal when it comes to upkeep. The most common materials used to produce weathervanes are steel and aluminium which don’t rust and are considered weather resistant. Copper Weathervanes do have a tendency to lose that beautiful sheen overtime but this can by restored by using a clear lacquer or polyurethane. It is possible to maintain and spruce up without removing the weathervane. Dirt and grime which collects over time can be cleaned away with mild soap and water. The Weather Vane featured here at Cuckooland have a coating of High Density Polyethylene which means less maintenance overall.
When it comes to installing a weathervane, some people can feel a little bit anxious about doing so. Luckily all of our Weathervains come with easy to follow instructions for straightforward installation. It is important to note that when installing anything on a roof you much adhere to safety precautions at all times to avoid accidents or injuries. But it’s not just personal injury that is at stake, you must always follow the installation instructions provided to ensure that the weathervane is securely fitted to your roof and works properly.
Choosing The Right Weathervane For You
So after explaining the ins and outs of weathervanes all that’s left to do is decide which weathervane is right for you. Thankfully here at Cuckooland we have just about every Weathervain design known to man. Browse our extensive range and you will find everything from animals to boats, cars to sports designs. No two of our weathervanes are the same and you will be blown away by the choice available – we even offer a design service allowing you to create your own weathervane by sending a drawing or image to us. So what are you waiting for? Deck your house with an ornate display of your favourites things in this world, whether that’s cats, dogs or trains, you’re sure to find your perfect Weather Vane at Cuckooland.