Monday, August 3, 2015

DIY Sunday: Whirligig Yard Art Spinner


I have a pretty unique project to share today. I'm well aware that some might see this project and think it's hideous. That's okay. You don't live at my house. Which is probably good because it would be super awkward to have a stranger live with our family.

When I see fun unique items at flea markets and garage sales, I pick them up. I knew I wanted to make something for our yard with some recent finds, but I wasn't exactly sure how to use them. See, I love landscaping. However, I hate gardening. I'm not very good at it. I kill plants just by looking at them. What I can do is make yard art so I don't have to plant as many things. After visiting a local arts show, I decided wanted to do a whirligig (or known as a spinner in some areas of the country).

I had to stumble around to figure out how to make all the parts whirl, and I thought I would share my process in case anyone else shares my affinity for killing plants.

DIY Whirligig Yard Art

PVC Pipe or Copper Pipe (how much will depend on how large you make your whirligig)
X PVC (or Copper) fittings (one for each arm)
Adaptors to fit arm pieces into the X fitting
Caps for the end of the arm pieces and top of the base piece.
Washers (wider than the base PVC pipe and one for each arm)
Bolts and Nuts
Spray Paint (if you use PVC)
Something to Catch the Wind & Spin (I used old gears and baking utensils) Keep in mind this should be light and have a wide surface to catch as much wind as possible.


1. Lay Out

The first thing you need to do is take whatever you've chosen to catch the wind (the old gears and baking utensils in my instance) and lay out how you want your whirligig to look. This will give you an idea on how long you need your arms to be as well as how tall you want the whirligig to be. You'll need these measurements before you go shopping for your PVC or copper pipe. I really loved the copper, but budget wise I decided my experiment would be better with PVC pipe.

2. Shop & Play

The longest part of the process is going to be the shopping. Plan on spending some time in the plumbing section playing with pipes to make sure everything fits correctly. I personally did a 5 foot long PVC 3/4 inch pipe as my base. My arms were 1/2 inch PVC pipes. I got three 1 inch X fitting for the middle portions that spin. The X fitting will need to be larger than the base pipe so it has room to spin. Then you're probably going to have to find adaptors to fit the arm into the X fitting. I had an adaptor that went from a 1/2 inch with a female fitting. Then, I had a male fitting that screwed into the female and also fit perfectly into the 1 inch X fitting. Basically I picked what size PVC pipe I wanted for the arms and base and started playing around with the fittings right in the aisle. Finally you will want to grab some caps for each arm end and the top of the base.

While you're at the store, you'll need bolts and nuts to attach the wind catching items to the PVC pipe. You will also want some washers to go under the X fitting. This is another time to play around with the sizes right there in the aisle. You will need a washer that can fit over the base pipe. In my case, I had to have a 1 inch opening in the washer so it would fit over the 3/4 inch pipe. You will also need a piece of rebar to put into the ground. Finally, if you're using PVC pipe, you will need some spray paint rated for plastic. Lowe's has a Valspar plastic primer that allows you to use any of their Valspar spray paint on plastic. It's worked great for me.

3. Drill

Once you have all your PVC pipes ready (you may or may not have to cut them to a particular length), you need to lay out your wind catching pieces and mark where you need to drill a hole for your bolts. You will need a hole at each wind catching item. You will also need a hole right below your X fitting for a bolt. (Something has to hold up those arms after all). You will want to use a drill bit that is slightly bigger than your bolt.

Side note: Since my gears had rather large openings, they obviously wouldn't catch wind. My solution was getting a sheet of plexiglass and cutting a piece to the size of the hole. I then drilled a hole in the gear and the glass to hold everything together. I did the same for the donut shaped cooking pans.

For the love of God, don't let that plastic cutting device hit your hand. It's like you've been in a knife fight with a tiny mouse army. Its the pain of a paper cut times 100 thousand.

4. Paint

Prior to attaching your wind catching pieces, you will want to take a second to paint everything. I just took my rebar and put it in the middle of my yard. It held up my PVC pipe assembly so I could paint everything.

Up close picture of how each arm is assembled.

My daughter thought it was fun to make them whirl.

5. Assemble!

The last step is using your bolts to assemble all the pieces together. Make sure your paint is completely dry or you risk scratching or leaving finger prints on the PVC portion. When you've assembled everything, put your rebar into the ground (You're on your own to make sure you aren't putting your rebar right into a utility line!) and place the pipe over it. Your whirligig is ready to catch some serious wind, dude! (Okay..I am totally watching too much Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately) Cowabunga!


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