Restoration of an Atlas figure armillary sundial

Armillary sundial and Atlas figure after restoration

After years of gradual deterioration outdoors the sundial was in poor condition. The Atlas figure was hard to recognise. This is an Art Deco design from the 1930’s. It has now come back to life as a working armillary sundial after complete restoration.

This armillary sundial was once in poor condition. It had been outside in the garden for a long time, and the owners asked us to restore it for them. The Atlas figure that supports the rings, and the arrowhead and tail, were badly tarnished. We saw corrosion on the metal rings, a distorted hour band that was coming apart, and a bent gnomon rod.

The Atlas design is interesting. Atlas was the Greek god who held up the sky, imagined in ancient times as a celestial sphere. The rings of an armillary sundial represent this sphere. There are several versions of the design, which is Art Deco from the 1930s. The design probably originates from France.

The latitude setting for the sundial is 56°, the slope of the arrow shaft. This arrow aligns the armillary sphere with the Pole Star in the sky. Years ago, the family bought the sundial in Copenhagen, in Denmark, where the latitude is 56°. By a happy coincidence the family home in Edinburgh, where the sundial now stands, has the same latitude so the sundial will be accurate.

To start the restoration work, we dismantled the whole sundial into its separate parts. Our local workshop cleaned and primed the steel rings and metal castings for us, and painted them black. We straightened the copper hour band and adjusted its fixing holes, which were wrongly spaced. We cleaned the band and fixed it with new copper rivets. You can read the restoration story told in pictures here: ATLAS ARMILLARY SUNDIAL RESTORATION IN PICTURES.