A Buyer’s Guide to Weathervanes

Antique weather vanes are collectibles, and are quite popular with art lovers. There is a huge market for antique as well as new wind vanes. The cost of antique weather vanes generally ranges from $3,500 to $350,000. New vanes are more affordable, and depending on their size, style, and type, fall within a broad price range of $60 to $1000. Wind vanes are made from metals such as copper, iron, brass, bronze, or aluminium. These metals are polished with weather-resistant coatings to enhance the life of the weathervane and protect it from environmental factors such as rain, dust, snow, heat, and whatever else the weathervane comes across. Antique weather vanes have a patina developed over them that give them a peculiar charm. Some of the new ones are made in such a way that the surface of the copper gets oxidized quickly and develop a patina over a short time, giving the vanes the same antique look.

If you are looking to buying a weathervane, this article will provide you with all information that you will need to make a good decision.

1. Shop by size

Vanes are available in various sizes. An estate weathervane is the one that is mounted on top of a typically large house (with roofline beyond 36 inch) or a building that is at least two stories high. These ones are quite large, and can be, on average, 40-60 inch high, and 20-50 inch wide. Of course, you can find sizes smaller or larger than this, and you can choose the one that best suits your house and your budget. Estate vanes, because of their sheer size, look spectacular on top of any roof, and easily stand out, especially when they are rotating with the wind. These wind vanes can be mounted on a cupola, and such cupolas can generally be bought along with the weathervane. Adding a cupola can further enhance the overall beauty of the house.

For smaller houses, the standard sized weather vanes are perfect. These ones are versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways. They can be mounted on the roof of an average-sized home, barns, or on commercial buildings. They can also be mounted on a garden stake to give it a spectacular appearance. The average size of such weathervanes are 30″H and 10″W.

The small wind vanes can even fit inside your house. These usually come with mounts that can be fitted on a deck, on the roof of a shed or a gazebo, or can be post-mounted or pole-mounted. These can also have wind-cups that will help the weathervane keep spinning even with the slightest breeze.

Use the following rule of thumb for choosing the size of your weather vane: length or width of the wind vane, whichever is greater, should equal at least one inch per foot of roof-line. If an arrow is part of the figure, choose a slightly smaller vane.

2. Shop by style

Wind vanes are generally available in three different styles: silhouette, swell-bodied, and full-bodied. A silhouette styled weathervane is one in which the figure is a cut-out of a motif, in other words, are two-dimensional. Such vanes are simple to make, and generally cost less than the other styles. This style is more commonly used for small sizes, especially for gardens. Swell-bodied figures have some shape to them, but are not completely three-dimensional. These vanes do not have much detailing in them, except for some profiling of the figure on both sides, and are moderately priced. A full-bodied vane is a complete three-dimensional replica of a subject, and is highly detailed – this style represents true sculptures in the sky. These weathervanes are pieces of art, and are priced accordingly.

3. Shop by type

Weather vanes can be created by different techniques, and this decides the cost and longevity of a weathervane.

There are four different manufacturing techniques:

  1. casted,
  2. machine pressed,
  3. mold-crafted
  4. free-hand crafted.

1. Casted wind vanes are made by the technique of sand-crafting. The figure to be created is first carved out on wood or plastic. Fine sand (mixed with a bonding agent such as clay) is poured into the wood or plastic model, and solidified. This creates a hollow structure (or cavity) that is then filled with the molten metal. After cooling, the sand mold is broken away, the cooled casting is cleaned, finished, and painted. Metals such as bronze, zinc, and iron are used to create cast vanes. In modern days, aluminium is used that is lighter and cheaper, but also short lived. Custom designs can be created, though these can be costly.

2. Machine pressed weather vanes are manufactured by placing a thin sheet of copper in a machine that has molds in the shape of figures to stamp out the parts of a design. These parts are then soldered together to create the complete figure. Figures are polished or painted. The machine pressed version can be produced in bulk quantities, and are easily available in almost every store that sells vanes. These cannot be custom-made. Machine pressed vanes are cheap, but may not last long.

3. Mold-crafting was the technique used extensively during the late 19th century, and many of the antique weather vanes found today were made by this method. The method is similar to machine pressing, except that the pressing is done by hand-hammering. Carved wooden figures are used as molds, and copper sheets are carefully hand-hammered into these molds to produce the parts, that are then assembled together. The weather vanes are either polished or have a Blue Verde finish. They have a fine texture and detailed carvings. Some of the antique wind vanes are highly collectible, and can command thousands of dollars.

4. Freehand crafting is done by artists. Depending on the artist’s vision, and the buyer’s imagination, almost anything can be crafted out using this technique. Freehand crafted vanes are among the finest in the world, and boast of quality that can last for generations. Most of these increase in value with age, and many become family heirlooms. These pieces can be available directly from the artist, or at museums and galleries. These pieces of art generally have the signature of their creator engraved on them, just like a painting. These weathervanes come with a bronze or stainless steel post, and a brass or bronze compass point.

Do keep these points in mind when shopping for your favourite weathervane, and gift yourself a transformed house!