time

Sundial restoration at Butterton church turns up a mystery engraving

Brass sundial plate turned over and showing engraved writing on the back

The engraving looks like Gothic script but we didn’t know how to read it. We do hope to learn more about this extraordinary discovery on the back of a brass sundial. So far it has proved a mystery.

The Church of St Bartholomew in the lovely Staffordshire village of Butterton in the Peak District stands on high ground. Its tall spire is visible for miles around. Just near the church’s south porch there is a sundial. The sundial pedestal may once have been part of a medieval stone cross, and the dial made of brass Continue reading

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Armillary sundial shadow one month on from winter solstice

Armillary sundial shadow one month on from winter solstice

The shadow of the ball on the sundial follows the sun all year round. The sun is low in the sky in winter, and it reaches its lowest point at the Winter Solstice on 21st December. This photo is one month later on 20th January. The sun is already higher in the sky, and the ball’s shadow has moved down.

Sundials catch a shadow from the sun. It is such a simple idea. The shadow on the sundial shows the sun’s position in the sky and the sundial reads it out as time, usually the time of day and often the time of year as well. Our armillary sundial is a special one with two balls that give the time of the year measured by the height of their shadow at noon. One ball casts a shadow in the winter months and the other one in summer. Continue reading

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Accurate Solar Time Sundial Installed in a North London Garden

Accurate Solar Time sundial installed and set up at the exact time of local Noon

The sundial is in our client’s garden in North London. The sundial faces due south. We set it up at Noon on 28 November, using accurate corrections for the Equation of Time and local Longitude. The photo shows Solar Time at 12.30pm.

The world of solar time has fascinating ideas to explore. Our accurate sundial is almost a compendium of what a sundial can do. The client’s wish was something special for their newly created garden, and our design of a vertical sundial display appealed to them. Continue reading

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An armillary sundial in early morning

An armillary sundial in early morning

This is our new sundial design. It stands in our garden among the plants. It is early morning and the sun has just reached the centre band where you read the time.

An armillary sundial has a wonderful form. It has mathematical rings creating beautiful shapes with circles and lines. The sundial in the photo has just begun to catch the early morning sun in the garden.

The sundial gnomon is the slanting rod in the centre of the rings, and the wide sweeping band is where you can read the time. These features are the same as other armillaries, but our design has special secrets. Continue reading

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Modern techniques for a replica sundial exhibit

A first trial assembly of the gnomon and base plate in position on the dial

Details for making the sundial came from archive records and photos. This image shows the design and successful first assembly of the new parts.

The replica of a 19th century lighthouse sundial we are making will be part of a mobile exhibition. It is progressing well. Lighthouse sundials were made by skilled instrument makers, who worked mainly with hand tools. We are using modern techniques for cutting out the metal and etching the intricate design on the dial plate. The picture shows our first trial to assemble the dial and gnomon parts. Continue reading

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A lighthouse sundial replica for display

A lighthouse sundial replica for display

This is the finished artwork for creating the sundial plate. The graduated lines and gnomonic information will be transferred onto a prepared blank plate using the technical process of photoetching.

For centuries, the lighthouses round the rocky coasts of Britain have been a lifeline to ships at sea. The lighthouse keeper used a sundial to find the time. It was part of lighthouse equipment before telegraph, radio and automation eventually took over. We have been asked to make a replica of one of these sundials.

The replica is for a travelling display of Scottish lighthouse memorabilia, which the owner will use when he gives one of his regular talks on lighthouses to interested groups of people. He has built up a significant collection of items but a sundial is an essential missing piece he has been unable to obtain so far. Continue reading

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Time lapse study of shadows and how a sundial reads the time

Time lapse on precision of a sundial

Time lapse camera set up for study of a sundial looking at precision of the time shadow

There are many interpretations of how well a sundial reads the time. It is often thought the smallest increment of time on a sundial will be around two minutes. This is because the large diameter of the sun gives a fuzzy edge to the time shadow. Our study looked at the shadow Continue reading

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Watch Scotland’s tallest sundial on TV with Susan Calman

Secret Scotland with Susan Calman at Glamis Castle sundial

Susan Calman chats with Alastair Hunter about the grand sundial at Glamis Castle and finds out how to read the time.

Susan Calman loves her tours of Scotland uncovering secrets for her Channel 5 TV series, ‘Secret Scotland with Susan Calman’. This time she was in Aberdeenshire and Angus. She began with a visit to Glamis Castle, the much-loved family home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. Susan could not miss the chance to see Scotland’s tallest sundial while she was there, Continue reading

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