“My father turns 80 this year and we are looking to commission a sundial in celebration. Is this possible? What’s the process? How long does it take?” When this email appeared in our inbox one day in March of course we wanted to follow it up. It sounded such a lovely suggestion from the family. Later when we learned a little more it looked like a perfect plan. The new sundial would have a place to stand on a low wall facing the sun and visible from the house in their beautiful back garden.
Our natural idea for a suitable design was a polar sundial. This type sits up at an angle and is easy to see and to read. The slope of the dial is the angle of latitude for the property address. The slope puts the dial in line with Polaris the pole star in the sky. We went into discussion on details and were asked to include the owner’s personal initials and the year. The dial itself reads the hours of the day and the solstice and equinox days of the year. The lower half of the dial indicates the house’s longitude and shows how to correct for the time at Greenwich. The individual daily time corrections known as the equation of time are there as well.
When we were finally ready for delivery the date of the birthday had already passed but that did not spoil the celebration. The family waited until everyone was at home so they could give their father his 80th birthday present together. He unwrapped his new sundial and looked at it for the very first time.