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How To Make A Whirligig

How To Make A Whirligig

Posted by Cynthia Kryshak on Nov 21st 2021

Whirligigs, or fidget spinners, work by the spinning motion of their propellor blades just like a windmill.

There are two different types of whirligigs.

Simple whirligigs which include a body and propellor blades. And more complicated whirligigs that use their propellor to produce some kind of action.  We'll take you through the steps of how to make a whirligig.

How To Make a Simple Whirligig.

Select an animal, bird, figure or primarily something that has a body and arms and legs. 

Example of an whirligig to make

 This eagle is a great example of a whirligig that is easy to build.  Now let's take this eagle step by step to make the whirligig.

1.  Draw the body, this is the main part of your whirligig. Add anything like eyes that you'd like to highlight.  

Eagle Body of a Whirligig

Here's an example of the body of an eagle that was drawn. 

 We have an eye, a hole for a dowel to attach the wings and a hole drilled in the bottom to attach the whirligig to a post.  We've also annotated what areas we are going to paint different colors, the direction of the grain of the wood, so nothing breaks and the thickness of the whirligig. 

We recommend 3/4" poplar hardwood.  Poplar is light and easy to work with, but also stands up well outside.  You can use other hardwoods also.

2.  Cut the body and drill the holes for the eyes, the dowel that will connect the propellor assemblies and the bottom hole for attachment.

 When building your own, you may need to adjust where the hole for the wings goes and the hole for attachment.  These have to be placed properly to make the whirligig spin and sit level.

3.  Design and cut the wings or propellor blades.  These can take many shapes.

Whirligig Propellor Wing

You'll want the wings to look similar to what you are building.  You will need four wings, two for each side of the bird.  We use 5/32" marine grade plywood to make the wings.

4.  Once the wings are made, you will need something to hold onto the wings and make them spin around.  We have made whirligig propellors. 

 The trick with making the propellors is that one must spin clockwise and the other must spin counter clockwise. If they do not spin correctly, one side will constantly loosen in the wind. The right angles make a difference also.

Clockwise Whirligig Hub

A diagram of the Clockwise Whirligig Hub. 

To make the clockwise whirligig hub.  Cut the piece to 3/4" x 3/4" x 3".  Drill a 1/4" hole in the middle. Tip the blade on end and cut a kerf about 7/8' deep at a 25° angle in each end.  

One end the angle should be on the opposite end of the block as the other end.  To slide these through the table saw on end, a jig is imperative.  Use a 5/32" kerf saw blade.  If you're not in the mood to make one,  you can just purchase a clockwise whirligig hub.

Counter Clockwise Whirligig Hub

You'll also need a counter clockwise whirligig hub.  Follow the same steps as in the clockwise whirligig hub but make the saw kerfs swing the exact opposite way.  

5.  Glue the propellor blades into the hubs and nail them tight also.  Use stainless steel nails to prevent rusting.

6.  Pre-Drill the center of each end of the dowel that goes through the body of the whirligig to accept a #9 brass wood screw.

7.  Slide the dowel through the body, making sure that it is centered from side to side.  It should be a pretty tight fit.  

8.  On the right side of the body, attach the clockwise whirligig hub assembly by sliding a 13/16" Brass Propellor Tube through the center hole in the whirligig hub, take a brass washer and put it on the wood screw, slide the screw through center of the hub, add another brass washer  and screw it into the dowel.  Do the same for the counter clock wise hub on the left side.

9.  Start finishing your whirligig.  Use a coat of primer to seal the wood.  Paint with your favorite paints.  Apply a UV Resistant top coat over the paints.

10.  On the bottom of the whirligig is the hole that you made to attach the whirligig to a post.  Slide a 1 1/2" Brass Tube up through the hole.  Note: On any of the brass tubes, put a touch of epoxy glue on them as you slide them in.  This prevents them from sliding out.  

Slide a 1/4" Brass Pivot Bearing up the tube (it must move freely).  

Take a Stainless Steel Pivot Nail and attach it to the post you have made, a fence or other structure.  Slide the whirligig assembly on the nail.

With a few woodworking skills, a small amount of lumber and some hardware, the project is easy. You've learned how to make a whirligig.