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Designing a sundial is all about the detail

Sundial engraving test piece

An engraving test piece in brass to compare details of font and point size for a new sundial.

Designing a sundial begins with an idea. There are technical matters and aesthetic aspects to think of, but then it is all about the detail. Our latest design is not quite complete yet. We want it to be a very beautiful sundial and made in pottery and brass!

One important detail of the design is the lettering we plan to use and the exact technique for engraving on the brass dial. Our picture shows a test piece with different font and point sizes. Continue reading

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Study of an old stone sundial on an estate in Fife

An old stone sundial in Fife

An original stone sundial with two dial faces dated 1746 found on an estate in Fife.

The owner of an old stone sundial on an estate in Fife wanted to know where it belonged. The stone was lying on the ground behind farm buildings and no one could say where it had come from. Was it the correct latitude for the estate, could we study it for them and find out more?

The date 1746 carved on the stone certainly confirmed this sundial was old. Continue reading

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A sundials tour at Heriot’s and the Museum in Edinburgh

Sundial sculpture in bronze with sun symbolsThis marvellous small sundial sculpture sits on a wall of one of the classrooms for the youngest children at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh. We looked at it closely during our tour of sundials in the school this morning. The sculptor and probably the children as well have introduced a number of lovely features into this piece. There is the beautifully modelled hawk and globe, which is an ancient Egyptian symbol of the sun god, there is the mouse and some lines of poetry from Robert Burns, and there is the T-square remembering the late architect Bob Clunas who designed the building. Continue reading

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A sundial commission with a circular Enoch calendar

Sundial commission with a circular Enoch calendarOne or two years ago we had a general enquiry about making a sundial with a calendar marked on it. Some sundials are marked with a calendar in a graphical form like an elongated figure-of-eight. This is called the analemma, and it might have been the answer to the enquiry. In fact our own Solar Time sundial is a design that displays the analemma. Continue reading

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Edinburgh Probus Braids Club talk

Historic sundial at Holyrood Palace, Scotland

Historic sundial at Palace of Holyrood commissioned by King Charles I for his Scottish coronation in 1633.

It is always interesting to see how people will react to a sundials talk. I usually say they are in the majority if they know nothing at all about this fascinating yet unfamiliar subject. In the 21st century sundials have largely been forgotten, but I try to explain how sundials were once an essential part of the science of timekeeping. Their designs spanned an extraordinary range from purely functional to wildly exuberant sculpture monuments. Today those old traditions of imaginative design are still alive, providing new generations with pleasure and enjoyment from timeless and beautiful sundials.

You can see the slides for my talk here, PROBUS EDINBURGH TALK ON SUNDIALS – Copyright Macmillan Hunter 2017.

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New garden sundial with gnomon like a bird set on a stone pedestal

New sundial with brass gnomon as a garden bird and stone pedestalA few months ago we showed our range of garden sundials to a lady from Edinburgh. She wanted a 60th birthday present for her husband. Rather than choosing one of the sundials on display, our poster sketch of a new sundial instantly caught her eye. Its gnomon was shaped like a bird and this is the one she chose. She wished to set the sundial on a new stone pedestal. Continue reading

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Progress step by step to design and make a new sundial

Design concept for a vertical polar sundial

Sketch drawing with accurate geometry for the vertical polar sundial, and a working concept for the design.

Sundials are as old as civilisation, and the ancient designs often stimulate new ideas. We work on sundial designs all the time. To design and make a new one is exciting. There is a lot to consider, which we like to work out step by step.

The principles of the sundial were already well understood and written down by the seventeenth century. Today, computer tools can calculate sundial geometry and get it exactly right. Continue reading

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New sundial sculpture of a songbird for a garden in Edinburgh

New sundial for the garden with a songbird sculpture as its gnomon

Our new sundial commission is for a sculpture of a songbird in polished brass on a mirror polish stainless steel dial. Artist sketch shown.

“I would like a new sundial shaped like a songbird for our garden in Edinburgh,” said one of our customers a few weeks ago. This lady told us she did like the Hourdial sundial that we had already shown to her, but she was very taken with our ideas for crafting the gnomon as an original piece of sculpture in the shape of a garden bird. This is now a commission for us to make her a unique and personal piece Continue reading

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The Story of the Lennoxlove Stone Sundial – a final word

The Lennoxlove stone sundialThe interesting and beautiful stone sundial at Lennoxlove in Scotland would appear to be a composite piece (Canmore SC 1127053). It consists of a carved sundial stone and the sculpted statue of a lady. As described by Thomas Ross in 1890, both the sundial and the lady’s costume are from the 17th century, but the two pieces may have been put together. Firstly, the architecture is inconsistent, the decorative acanthus leaves at the bottom of the sundial stone do not have a connection with the curls on top of the lady’s head. Secondly, the whole piece does not function correctly as a sundial Continue reading

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