Completed wind vane

Salem Clock Shop

Salem Clock Shop - 1085 Broadway Street NE, Salem, OR 97301  -  (503) 581-3803   Fax: (503) 581-3331

You can build a homemade wind vane on a rainy day and use it to learn about the  weather.

Quick Wind Vane

Bill of Materials


·          Plastic straw(s)

·          New pencil with eraser

·          Straight pin

·          Blunt school scissors

·          2 3 x 5 cards or stiff, thin cardboard

·          Quick-setting glue or cement

·          Soda bottle or similar container

·          Sand, salt, whatever for weight

Here’s a fast little project to do with kids on a rainy or snowy day when they are bored and subject of the weather comes up. Anything you don’t already have can usually be gotten with a quick trip to the nearest convenience store. Have them take it outside when they are finished and let them guess why it always keeps the small arrow pointed directly into the wind.

If your children are young and you don’t have blunt, dull scissors, you may want to do the cutting yourself…as with cutting slits in the end of the longer straw, which is best done with sharp, small nail scissors or even a single edged razor blade. Be sure that the kids make the pointer arrow significantly smaller than the vane.


We got two different straws from the small convenience store across the street; a clear, plastic 10” soft drink straw and a shorter, fatter ??Whinkety straw to act as a support for the longer straw. We had our choice of 5 designer colors.


Cut slits in the ends of the longer straw for the pointer and vane. Be sure that they are both in the same plane so that the arrow and vane will be parallel, and are long enough to easily lend sufficient support for the arrow or vane.

Cut the vane and pointer arrows out of the light cardboard or 3 x 5 cards (old  manila file folders work well, as do lightweight food cartons). We strove for simplicity and quickness with ours, but now realize that we could have been much more artistic in the designs of the arrows and vanes. Here are some suggestions:

Top View

Side View

Now, slide the larger whickety straw (if you have one) over the longer straw and cement the vane and pointer arrow in place as shown above. Let dry for a few minutes.


Fill the bottle with whatever weighting substance you have at hand. We used fine hourglass sand because that was what was here. Salt, soil, sand, bb shot, anything except liquids will work because the whole apparatus will tend to float. Honey might be an exception.


Find the mid-point of the longer straw and push the pin through it and the larger whickety straw. Push the pin with wind vane into the top of the pencil eraser as shown below.

Finally, push the pencil and wind vane down into the bottle and you’re done!


When you go out in the yard with the kids and the wind vane, and after seeing which way the wind is blowing at surface level, have them watch the clouds to see if they are also moving in the same direction. What? They aren’t??? Well, you’ll know why because you’ve read Mirror Nephoscope while the kids were busy designing and cutting out the pointer and vane.