I've always been fascinated by sundials. Large ones, unique ones, small garden ones, all a testament to the human will to understand the world around them. Visually simple in appearance, but quite complex in their method.
In simplest form, a sundial is a device used to calculate time via the altitude of the sun. Classic sundials have a gnomon that casts a shadow onto a flat area, although there are many other variations of increasing complexity. These devices can display the local solar time, which varies from the time shown on our modern watches. (Variances include the non-circular nature of our orbit and the tilt of Earth's axis.)
Ancient Egyptians kept track of time via the length of shadows, and the Old Testament notes the "dial of Ahaz." Giovanni Padovani in the 1570s and later Giuseppe Biancani in the 1620s gave us the techniques still used today to create accurate timepieces, or at least as accurate as we can get with these techniques.
My interest led to an initial hunt for an antique decorative sundial, but after some thought, I realized that I'd much rather have a working device that can provide accurate information. Both latitude and longitude must be considered in the design. (Note the CAD drawings above.) Chet Roberts of ANCR Sundials was able to help.
As part of the project, I was able to choose some text and a background of my choice. As the end product would be tied to the Hanover area for accuracy, it seemed obvious to use Hanover as the focus of the theme.
'Hanover" and the year was an easy choice, but there were several directions for the background. The black rose has been associated with Hanover at times due to the use of the symbol by the German royal dynasty, the House of Hanover. The dynasty's rule reached into Great Britain and Ireland.
The Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce utilized the black rose shown above in a campaign starting in the late 1970s. My only source was a poor scan of an advertisement, but I was able to work with it to create the larger pattern necessary, and to modify the original design to work within the circular space of the sundial.
And the process began!
After discussion and sharing of my background image and home address for correct calculations by Mr. Roberts, a design was created and approved.
After the mathematical calculations and design process, a CNC router cut the pattern in foam, a process that takes approximately 5 ½ hours. Errors can occur, as was the case in the first few attempts on the Hanover pattern. The good news? That left a pattern to capture in this photograph.
The foam pattern is carefully cleaned up and placed in foundry sand. Aluminum is heated to 1450 degrees, which vaporizes the foam pattern.
After removal, the work is machined and polished.
And the project was completed and shipped. With the gnomon pointed north, the sundial does indeed provide accurate time.
ANCR Sundials is named for Audrey 'N Chet Roberts. It was Chet's wife's desire for a sundial that led him on a journey to making them for others. Before his retirement from his full time career, he worked "behind the camera" in numerous positions for WEWS Channel 5 and WJW Channel 8, both located in Ohio. Chet's other interests include amateur radio and 1/8th size steam locomotives.
Interested in your own custom sundial? Check out ANCR's web site for more details.