Home Crochet baby clothesInstructions: Make sundial and align correctly

Instructions: Make sundial and align correctly

  • General information
  • Construction manual for a sundial
  • Optical design of the sundial

The sundial is the oldest timepiece in the world. In the past, it served the better timing and correct setting of mechanical watches - today it has mainly decorative character. In fact, beautifully designed sundials are visual highlights in any garden. We will show you how to make and align a simple model made of cardboard yourself and provide you with all sorts of interesting information about the construction and operation of the sundial!

Many people know it: You run after the clock every day for a variety of reasons. In this guide, we will give you the opportunity to finally catch it, the time, in a very special way and way. With our simple instructions for designing a sundial, you can create a wonderful decoration object for your garden that does not just look adorable. In addition, the finished artwork shows you the current time of your place. Follow our steps to build a working sundial and experience the sensual interplay of light and shadow in an extraordinary dimension!

We would like to present you a relatively simple and, above all, cost-effective way to build a sundial yourself. Before we turn to the practical, we give you some basic information about this particular way of measuring time.

General information

Before the invention of the mechanical clock, the sundial was the most important timepiece. Already the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans resorted to sundials - with the purpose of being able to divide one day into smaller time units.

The heyday of sundials finally flourished in the 16th century. It was mainly compass makers who were involved in the production of the watches. No wonder, because a sundial is only a reliable timepiece if it is aligned with the help of a compass. Later, sundials were used to set mechanical clocks to the correct time.

Today, they function primarily as decorative objects that adorn private gardens and walls or public spaces. The construction of the sundial, which in and of itself seems simple, does not prove to be so easy in practical implementation. If you want to create such a timepiece yourself, which not only visually impresses, but actually shows the right time, you have to calculate and work extremely accurately.

Important: There is no general construction manual for the manufacture of a sundial - each model requires the exact vote on its place of use.

What is it with the functioning of a sundial now exactly on itself ">

The fact that the shadow on the watch continuously takes on a new position and length, over which the time can be read, is because the earth rotates around itself every day (ie 360 ​​degrees). As a result, the position of the sun is constantly changing. It moves 15 degrees per hour. To get that number, all you need to do is divide the 360 ​​degrees that correspond to the one-off earth's revolution by the 24 hours of a day.


The Earth's axis is inclined at an angle of 23.5 degrees to the ecliptic (plane of orbits of all planets) and always points in the same direction. As a result, the northern hemisphere of the earth tilts towards the sun, while the southern hemisphere tilts away from it and vice versa - the reason for the different seasons . If the earth's axis were vertical, the sun would always rise and set at once, and stand equally high at noon. So we would have the same amount of sunlight all year round. But since the Earth's axis is not perpendicular, but inclined towards the ecliptic, the sun is sometimes high and sometimes deep, sometimes longer and sometimes shorter in the sky. For the sundial, this means that

  • the built-in shadow projector be inclined parallel to the earth axis and
  • lying in the north-south plane and must be inclined relative to the horizontal in the angle that marks the latitude of each site.

Everything sounds very complicated and confusing at first. However, the theoretical information will certainly help you to better understand the exact structure and, consequently, the functioning of the sundial.

Tip: In order to build a 100 percent accurate sundial, you need more concrete information, because otherwise there are always deviations, which arise on the one hand by the date and on the other hand depend on when the sun reaches its highest level at each location. However, this extra goes beyond the scope of our guide and is especially recommended for people who feel not only a sensual, but also very scientific interest in the design of a sundial.

Below, we will guide you step by step to the construction of a sundial, which is also referred to as a shadow clock due to its special mode of operation. With our helpful tips, you will create a small piece of art that will tell you the natural time. Here we go!

Construction manual for a sundial

What you need:

  • 3 DIN A4 sheets of very strong cardboard boxes or colored craft boxes
    (the firmer the box, the more stable the sundial)
  • ruler
  • large set square (the longest side must measure at least 22 cm)
  • compasses
  • pen
  • cutter
  • duct tape
  • Compass (to correctly align the sundial and then read the correct time)

Step 1: Pick up one of the three cardboard sheets and cut out a square with a side of 20 centimeters.

Cut square

Step 2: On the square draw a circle with a diameter of 20 centimeters. Mark this with the help of a circle.

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Step 3: Grab your triangle to divide the circle into 24 equal pieces of cake. Each of these pieces of cake must have an angle of 15 degrees (as the sun moves by 15 degrees per hour, as you know from the theoretical part).

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Step 4: Use a pen to label your newly created dial - exactly as you see it on our illustration. Of course you have creative possibilities here.


Step 5: Now it's going to be tricky and exhausting because: It's your turn to create the shade dispenser, which is the all-important centerpiece of your individual sundial.

Our construction manual provides for the design of a triangle as a shade dispenser. To ensure that the sundial works almost correctly, one edge of this triangle must be parallel to the earth's axis (see the theory section). This means for you to find the latitude of the place where you want to set up your little work of art. Below is an overview of the approximate latitudes of the most important German cities that you can use for your sundial:

citydegree of latitude

Tip: The latitude of other cities and places can be found for example at wikipedia.de. The upper right corner shows the coordinates of each city.

Once you've found the correct latitude for your location, you can start designing the shadow donor triangle. How to proceed:

  1. Take a second A4 sheet of paper, your triangle and a pen to hand.
  2. Draw a line that leads away from the bottom edge of the sheet at the angle of the determined latitude.
  3. Now mark another line. This should be at right angles from the first line back to the same leaf margin as before and exactly ten inches long. Just slide your geodetic triangle along the first line until you find the right point where the second line must start.
  4. Where the new line meets the edge of the sheet is the second corner of the triangle. From there, you draw the third line - just vertical up. At one point she meets the first line and the shadow donor triangle is complete. 1 of 6
    Latitude of the city as angle
    10 cm long line at 90 ° angle
    Connect lines
  5. Cut the triangle along the lines with a cutter. Work carefully and as accurately as possible.
Shade Triangle

Step 6: Slit your dial at the 12 o'clock mark. The slot should be five inches long.

5 cm long cut

Step 7: Now cut an equally long slot into the triangle - along the second (ten centimeter) line you drew.

5 cm long cut
Dial and shade dispenser

Step 8: Insert the shadow donor triangle into the dial by sliding the slots of the two parts into each other.

Step 9: Grab the third A4 cardboard box and cut out a rectangle measuring 20 x 25 centimeters. It forms the bottom plate.

Step 10: Draw a north-south and west-east line on the rectangle - just as you see in our picture.


Step 11: Place the sundial on the bottom plate. The dial and the spotlight must be exactly on the lines marked in step 10.

Step 12: Add all parts together. Either with tape or with the prepared adhesive surfaces.

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Step 13: To read the time from the sundial, you need to align it correctly. The north arrow on the bottom plate should point exactly in the corresponding direction. You need a compass for this step.

Tip: Maybe you already own a compass. Otherwise, there are relatively inexpensive models (about four to six euros) to buy online. Keep in mind that you do not need an extra-grade compass to align the sundial. If it works normally, that's enough for your purpose.

Step 14: Now the triangle casts a shadow on the dial - pretty much at the point that marks the current time.

Note: Do not be surprised if the time shown on the sundial - called "solar time" or "true local time" - is always a bit different than the one your alarm clock shows. The latter is a technical device and works according to the legally defined "zone time". This zone time creates a unification that actually does not exist in nature. But if every country, every city, every place had its own time, it would probably destroy the chaos. A chaos that ought to prevent the zone time. An example to clarify what is meant by the constructed zone time: In the majority of European countries there is the "Central European Time", short CET. This applies not only in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also in many other countries, such as Hungary and Spain.

By way of example, we would like to draw on the capitals of Hungary and Spain: when it is twelve o'clock in Budapest, the noonday bells also beat in Madrid. And that, even though Madrid is about 2, 400 kilometers to the west, and the sun reaches its highest level there de facto only about an hour and a half later. Your sundial is not a technical device like the alarm clock, but a work that works according to the natural laws and thus presents the time of each place, which depends solely on the current position of the sun, presented.

Optical design of the sundial

Calm the individual cardboard sheets to give the sundial a little color.

Of course, the cardboard version is not the only way to build a sundial. For example, wood, marble, granite or tile for the dial and brass or stainless steel rods can also be used as base materials. For such structures, however, you need craft experience. You also have to spend much more time and money on more expensive sundials.


With our construction manual, it is easy to make a pretty and working cardboard sundial, which you paint according to your idea and from which you can read off your current local time. For craftsmanship skill is next to the cardboard version certainly the design of a sundial made of wood, marble or granite interesting to decorate your own garden with a particularly noble decoration object.

Tips for quick readers:

  • Tinker sundial and read the current local time
  • With cardboard, Geodreieck, compass, pen, cutter, tape and compass
  • Cut square with 20 cm side length
  • Draw a circle with a diameter of 20 cm
  • Draw 24 "pie pieces" with a 15 ° angle using the Geodreieck
  • Label the dial using the pictorial template
  • Find latitude of your own city and make shade
  • Cut slits in the dial and shade donor triangle
  • Insert dial and shade dispenser into each other
  • Cut out the bottom plate with 20 x 25 cm
  • Draw north-south and west-east lines
  • Place sundial on the base plate and glue everything together
  • Align to the north with a compass
  • Shadow indicates the current time
  • Alternatives: with wood, granite, marble or tiles and brass or stainless steel rods
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