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History, Sites and Products


A brief history of Sundials, some useful sites and sundials to make and buy.

Sunrise, Noon, Sunset; just by seeing the sun in it's various guises, our ancestors would have gone about their business, confident enough to be able to get back to their caves in time for tea.

Then progress came and shadow casting instruments called gnomons were used (that's a stick to me and you) to make primitive sundials. By 1500BC, clever Egyptians were using markings with the gnomon. With this improved accuracy, it was possible to "syncronise sundials" for important business meetings and liasons.

More advances were made and sophisticated weathy Romans carried small pocket sundialsundials. There were also vertical wall mounted sundials on many public buildings.

During the Renaissance there were yet more advances and sundials became more sophisticated, incorporating calendars. They even  showed minutes and some even had tide tables! However, by the 16th century, clocks began to supersede sundials.

But it is interesting to note that the French railway regulated its trains by sundials until the end of the 19th century!

Nowadays we don't need to rely on sundials as we have moved on a bit. But there are still plenty of sundials around and they are great for garden ornaments and for public sculptures.


For those of you hungry for more information on the history and development of sundials, Helen Lee of the Simon Frazier University in California has written a detailed online account.

how to make a sundialNASA offers a simple explanation of how sundials work using animations and interactive graphics and gives detailed information on how to build a sundial yourself. The National Maritime Museum also has instructions and a printable template for making your own sundial. You can find a more academic approach to how sundials work at plus.maths.org in their article Analemmatic sundials: How to build one and why they work . After you have digested that, you might feel confident enough to visit Jurgen Giesens Physics and Astronomy site to view his analemma sundial applet which allows you to make your own analemma sundial, plus there are also pages on how to make a pie sundial and a horizontal sundial . For schoolchildren, I would recommend the Liverpool Museum website and their section Sunbeams and Sundials . Educators might like to have a look at this lesson plan for making a sundial, or, if you would like to make a simple paper sundial with your children, you could print out the templates and instructions at the BBC website.

Australian con trick!

In reading the literature you will find out that sundials are quite complex to set up correctly. Each one must be calibrated for the exact location it is in. This is quite important when buying one. My sister recently bought a cheap sundial and it took her a long while to find out that it was calibrated for Australia! On that side of the globe the numbers need to go the other way round. I leave you to work out why, took me long enough! But quite apart from that major issue, even two sundials in the same street as each other will have to be calibrated very slightly differently to catch the sun right.


Sundials on the Web


Personalised Sundial Personalised Sundial - The perfect gift for births, Christenings, anniversaries and weddings etc, these solid brass sundials are hand made in the United Kingdom. These traditional horizontal sundials can be mounted on garden walls or plinths and create a life long reminder of that special occasion. Personalised Wording on 3 lines: (Line 1 = top line) 30 letters (inc spaces) (Line 2 = Middle line) 35 letters (inc spaces) (Line 3 = Bottom line) 60 letters (inc spaces)
www.gonegardening.com £99.99 + £3.95 P&P = £103.94

Frog SundialPolished Brass Lillypad & Frog Sundial -
A lovely small addition to any garden. This polished brass lacquered sundial has a dimension of 185mm.
Polished Brass Lillypad & Frog Sundial
Product Code KK_HS007
www.diytools.co.uk £19.99 + P&P £3.95 = £23.94
(80 DIY POINTS each - Worth £0.80 off your next order)

SUNCLOCKS - (Human Sundials, using YOUR OWN SHADOW to tell correct time)!
If you are looking for a really unusual sundial, which is 'interactive' as well as being theft and vandal-proof - then a 'Sunclock' could be an ideal feature, and can be human sunclockmade by using almost any materials of your own choice. These use a person's own shadow to tell CORRECT clock time - even changing automatically without needing to be put forward/back, in Spring or Autumn. It can be set into hard or soft landscaping, and (if on grass) you can run a lawnmower right over it without any damage. As well as private gardens, parks, etc - they are very popular as a 'playground feature', for Schools.
So that you can create your own UNIQUE layout, Sunclocks provide a customized set of 'Sunclock' plans (containing all measurements and instructions) - which are created for the specific Latitude and Longitude, of your own location. The plans can be supplied as a printed booklet, or by E-mail (PDF format). 'Layout Plans' cost a maximum of £25 (various discounts are also available).
For more information and photographs, go to www.sunclocks.com.

charlestown sundialsCharlestown Sundials
Headers: Bespoke Sundials
This website is owned by Brad Dillon who is a member of the British Sundial Society and has many years ecperience in restoring and making sundials. You can choose horizontal, vertical and armillary sundials from a variety of materials. Full pricing on site. Charlestown Sundials is based in St. Austell, Cornwall.

charlestown sundialsDigital Sundials International
Headers: Digital Sundials
Ingenious! The sunlight casts a shadow in the shape of numbers of (to use their words) "two cleverly designed masks". The shape of the shadow - and hence the numbers that are displayed - is dependant on the position of the sun. No moving parts or electrickery. Available for the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

handcrafted sundialsHand Crafted Sundials
If you are looking for a crafted and bespoke sundial then check out the beautiful website of David Harber sundials. You will see a couple of pictures of these exclusive sundials in the article at the top of this page. They can create traditional or contemporary designs and each one is tailored to the client's taste. Each one is calibrated to the exact longitude and latitude of the intended location. See the end of the article above about my Sister's sundial buying experience to see that that is important.

John Close SundialsJohn Close Sundials
Headers: Handcrafted Sundials
Wide range of sundials in a variety of styles including modern stainless steel sundials, horizontal sundials, old sundials and armillary sundials. All sundials can be engraved with a personal inscription. Also, if you cannot find a design you like, you can order a bespoke sundial. John Close Sundials is based in Maldon, Essex.
International Delivery Available

JGS WeathervanesJ.G.S Metalwork
Headers: Weathervanes, Gates & Railings, Armillary Sundials, Hanging Baskets, Fixings, Gift Vouchers
Huge variety of exclusively designed weathervane designs available here, including animals, people, mythical beasts - even aircraft! Also a very wide range of gates plus a nice selection of armillary sundials. All products are made at the JGS Metalwork engineering workshops in Edlesborough, which is near Dunstable, Bedfordshore. Commissions accepted.
International Delivery Available


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