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Sundial Instruction Sheet

Setting up a Sundial
Goodbye to clock-time, Hello to nature-time! A great attraction to your garden, setting up your horizontal sundial clock is not a complicated business.

Measuring time by the position of the sun in the sky, the sundial has a long and interesting history. While ancient sundial designs in the form of stone obelisk shadow-clocks are known to have existed in Egypt and Babylon up to 5, 500 years ago, it was the ancient Greeks some 3,000 years ago with their advanced technology in iron making and their knowledge of geometry and mathematics that advanced metal sundial designs. Indeed, the ancient Greeks developed many of the principles and forms we recognise in the modern garden sundials of today. Moreover, the custom of measuring time by shadows—or by the length of one’s own shadow—persisted from ancient times right through to the invention of the mechanical clock in more industrial times.

Whether you choose a sundial of antique design or buy a sundial of contemporary design (our sundial mottoes range in style from the Classical with Roman numerals antique finish sundial through to more modern designs such as our highly commended sailboat birdbath sundial) the key to deriving maximum pleasure from your new sundial is to begin by selecting a suitably flat surface in a location that is totally exposed to the sun, away from buildings and trees. The longer your sundial is in direct sunlight, the better it will give accurate readings. The next step involves choosing a pedestal, plinth or column on which your sundial face from Black Country Metalworks may be horizontally fixed: we recommend a pedestal equal to your waist height, the top of which must be sufficient in size to accommodate the sundial face of your choosing (our sundial faces range in size from 120-260mm). Most good strong modern adhesives such as are available from good DIY stores and Garden Centres will securely fix the sundial face to the column. We in fact stock specially designed Sundial or Armillary Columns. Our sundial columns are very sturdy, heavy and well made and are designed to support the weight and size of even our grandest sundial. For Armillary and Sundial columns please click on this link Garden Sundial Columns. We have a wide range of sundials and columns, plinths and pedestals from which you may choose.

The next step is to calibrate or “time set” your sundial by aligning the gnomon (the sloping shadow-casting object on the dial face) with true north. To find true north we recommend marking a shadow cast by a vertical object at the precise time of local noon. However, be sure to mark your shadow using a true vertical object. A pole aligned vertically, checked by a spirit level, is the surest method of casting a good north indicating shadow. Once the sundial face and gnomon angle is aligned with your established true north line be sure that the pedestal is fixed completely vertically, again using a spirit level. In fact, take horizontal and vertical readings and adjust the base as and when required. If the base is moved, the sundial will read inaccurately. Periodically check that the base is level, particularly in freezing weather. Periodically, too, check the time accuracy of your new garden sundial. Check that the gnomon casts no shadow at exactly 12 noon, for at the precise time of noon the sun is directly overhead and true vertical objects will not cast shadows at this time.

More than just a garden ornament, in an increasingly fast-moving world we are happy that the craftsmanship of our shadow casting sundials brings you closer to nature-time.

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