Sunday, March 28, 2021

Finishing Up the Whirligig


All painted up and ready for summer

Last week I developed and built a prototype of a whirligig that I derived from plans that I had found in an 80-year-old copy of Popular Mechanics, 

I wasn't quite sure how it would all turn out, so I built a very basic prototype that was really more functional than decorative. 

I was really please with how the prototype looked and worked in the wind, but the true test was to see how it would last over an extended period of time. 

The bare wood version of my prototype definitely was not conducive for surviving very long in the elements. 

The basic prototype

When decorating the duck I wanted to keep as close to the original design as possible and maintain the original look of the duck as much as possible. 

Luckily, the plans in the magazine included a scale painting diagram on which made things much simpler. 

All I needed to do was to enlarge the images to full scale and after printing and pasting them onto some cardboard I can cut out the painted wing designs to use as a template, 

Painting template

In the original plans, the duck was painted in a white and dark blue color scheme. The nice thing about this sort of design is that you can mix things up a bit with any color combination that you want. I didn't have any dark blue paint on hand, but I did have a decent amount of black paint in the shop, so I figured that a black and white duck versus a blue and white duck would look alright. 

To start, I first gave all the parts a couple of coats of gloss white oil base paint.

Painting the parts white

Once the white paint had completely dried, I started painting on the wing details. I took the wing template that I had printed out and overlaid it on top of a wing. 

Using a pencil I then traced out the edges of the template on top of the wing.  

Trace the outline

Taking a fine-tipped artist's brush I then applied a coat of gloss black oil-based paint along the edges that I had traced and filled in the rest of the wing. 

Once the paint had dried, I flipped the wing over and painted the same design on the other side of the wing. 

Painting  on the feathers
Painted wing

I continued the same approach with the remaining 3 wings. 

While the wings were drying, I when ahead and traced the template for the body and painted in the design for the duck's body. 

In the original plans, the eyes for the duck were made from thumbtacks.  While certainly an option, I decided to paint the eyes instead, which I did with the black paint and the artist's brush, taking great care to make the eyes as round as possible. 

All the parts painted

When the wings were dry, I started the final assembly by inserting the wings into the slots on the hub that I made with my 3D printer, making sure that the wings were in the same orientation as each other. 

Since I found that the friction fit of the wings into the slot was quite tight, I decided to forgo gluing the wings in place - though I may revisit that later on in the summer if I find that the wings are starting to get loose. 

Ready to install in the hub
Wings installed

Next, I applied a bit of wood glue into the holes on each end of the duck's body and I threaded the rod that I had installed into the hub last week into both ends of the duck's body, making sure that I had at least a couple of inches of thread into each half of the body. 

Wings installed in the body

As a final step I gave the duck's bill a coat of orange exterior paint and the duck was ready to fly to its permanent mounting spot. 

Ready to take off

Of course, I needed a bit of a breeze to make sure it still worked OK.

So, now comes the hard part, I need to wait and see how durable my design is over the course of the season.  I am not too worried about the wooden parts of the whirligig, but I am a bit curious about the durability of the 3D-printed parts of the project. I am not sure how durable the plastic is in the weather, especially when exposed to the sun's UV rays. 

I'll give an update on how things went in the fall. 

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