How to Make a Sundial: A Beginner’s Guide

Welcome, reader! Are you fascinated by the movement of the sun and the passage of time? Have you ever wondered how people kept track of time before clocks and watches were invented? One of the oldest methods of telling time is by using a sundial. In this article, we will guide you through the process of making your very own sundial. With just a few simple materials, you can create a unique and functional time-telling device that will impress your friends and family. So, let’s get started!

Steps how to make a sundial

Step 1: Gather your materials

The first step is to gather all the materials you will need. The items required to make a sundial are:

  • A flat surface
  • A stick or dowel
  • Once you have gathered all of these items, you are ready to move on to the next step.

    Step 2: Find a sunny spot

    The next step is to find a sunny spot to place your sundial. It should be an area that receives direct sunlight for most of the day. Choose a location that is flat and unobstructed by buildings or trees.

    Step 3: Set up your base

    Take your stick or dowel and place it in the center of your flat surface. This will serve as the gnomon for your sundial. Make sure the stick is perpendicular to the surface, so it stands straight up.

    Step 4: Mark the hours

    Using your compass or protractor, mark the hours on your paper plate or cardboard circle. Start with 6am at the top and work your way around the circle, marking every hour. You can also include half-hour marks if you wish.

    Step 5: Determine your latitude

    In order for your sundial to accurately tell time, you need to determine your latitude. This can easily be done by using an online latitude finder or by checking your location on a map.

    Step 6: Calculate the angle of your gnomon

    The angle of your gnomon will depend on your latitude. Use a sundial angle calculator or follow the instructions provided by your latitude finder to determine the correct angle.

    Step 7: Cut your gnomon

    Use scissors or a saw to cut your stick or dowel at the angle calculated in the previous step. Make sure it is the correct length to cast a shadow on your paper plate or cardboard circle.

    Step 8: Attach your gnomon

    Step 9: Position your sundial

    Step 10: Determine the correct time

    Step 11: Adjust for daylight saving time

    Step 12: Enjoy!

    You have now successfully made your own sundial. Enjoy watching the movement of the sun and the passage of time using your very own creation.

    Explanation how to make a sundial

    The concept of a sundial is based on the simple idea that the sun moves across the sky in a predictable pattern. By using a stationary pointer (known as the gnomon) and marking the hours on a flat surface, the movement of the sun can be tracked to indicate the time of day. In order for the sundial to work correctly, it must be positioned in a location that receives direct sunlight for most of the day, and the angle of the gnomon must be adjusted to account for the latitude of the location. While modern clocks and watches have largely replaced sundials as a means of telling time, they remain a popular and interesting DIY project for those interested in the science of astronomy or the history of timekeeping.

    Tips and Tricks how to make a sundial

    Tip 1: Use a metal gnomon

    Tip 2: Paint your paper plate

    Tip 3: Add decorations

    Tip 4: Make a portable sundial

    Tip 5: Experiment with different angles

    Tip 6: Create a digital sundial

    Tip 7: Create a sundial with multiple gnomons

    Tip 8: Make a sundial for indoors

    Tip 9: Incorporate your sundial into your garden

    Tip 10: Learn the history of sundials

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Making a Sundial


    1. Cost-effective: Making a sundial is a low-cost way to track time as it requires minimal material, and you can make one with everyday objects found around your home, like a paper plate or a stick and stones.

    2. Aesthetic appeal: Sundials have a rustic charm that makes them a lovely addition to gardens, patios, or balconies, adding aesthetic appeal to any outdoor space.

    3. Eco-friendly: Sundials don’t require electricity or batteries to work, making them a more sustainable and eco-friendly option compared to digital watches or clocks.

    4. Educational: Making a sundial can be a fun and educational activity, teaching children about the principles of astronomy and geometry as they learn how to calculate time based on the position of the sun in the sky.

    5. Unique gift: A handmade sundial can make a unique and thoughtful gift for your loved ones, especially if you make it personalized with their name or special date.

    6. Historical a nd cultural importance: Sundials have been used for centuries as a way to measure time, and making one can introduce you to the rich history and cultural significance of this ancient time-telling tool.

    7. No maintenance required: Once you make your sundial, there’s not much maintenance required, and it can last for years with proper care.

    8. Improvement in observation skills: Making a sundial requires careful observation and attentiveness to the position and movement of the sun, improving your observation skills and attention to detail.

    9. A charming conversation starter: Whether as an addition to your garden or as a gift, a sundial can be a charming conversation starter at social gatherings, perfectly blending science, art, and history.

    10. Not affected by power outages: Unlike digital time-telling devices that require power sources and can be affected by power outages, sundials don’t rely on electricity or batteries and are unaffected by power outages.


    1. Inaccuracy: Sundials are less accurate than digital clocks or watches, and they can be affected by various factors such as weather, geographical location, or time of the year.

    2. Limited use: Sundials only work during daytime and will not be able to track time during the night or in cloudy weather.

    3. Timezone differences: Sundials can only be set for one timezone, making it harder to use when traveling or in areas with different time zones.

    4. Not portable: Sundials are usually fixed in one location, making them not as portable as digital watches or clocks that can be carried around easily.

    5. Subject to theft or damage: A sundial placed in a public area or a garden can be easily stolen or damaged by vandals.

    6. Not suitable for precise timing: Sundials are not suitable for precise timing, and they only provide approximate time readings.

    7. Need for proper alignment: Sundials require proper alignment for accurate readings, and any deviation from the correct position can affect its accuracy.

    8. Lower readability: Sundials can be harder to read than digital watches or clocks, especially for people with poor eyesight or in low lighting conditions.

    9. Limited aesthetic appeal: While sundials can be a charming addition to outdoor spaces, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and some people may prefer more modern or sleeker designs.

    10. Not useful for indoor use: Sundials are designed for outdoor use and are not suitable for indoor use, limiting their versatility and usefulness.


    1. What is a sundial?

    A sundial is a device that tells time based on the position of the sun. It consists of a gnomon (the triangular shaped piece that casts a shadow) and a dial with markings indicating the hours of the day.

    2. What materials do I need to make a sundial?

    You will need a flat surface, a stick, a protractor, a compass, a piece of paper, and a pencil.

    3. How do I find a suitable location for my sundial?

    The location should be in a spot that receives sunlight throughout the day, ideally facing south. Avoid locations with shade from trees or buildings.

    4. How do I make the gnomon?

    The gnomon can be made from a stick, a ruler, or any other straight object. It should be placed at an angle that matches your location’s latitude (consult an online chart for the specific angle).

    5. How do I mark the hours on my sundial?

    Using a compass and protractor, mark the hours on the dial starting with 6am at the top and continuing clockwise.

    6. What if my sundial doesn’t tell accurate time?

    Adjustments may need to be made to the gnomon angle or the markings on the dial. It’s best to consult an expert or use trial and error to find the correct adjustments.

    7. Can I make a portable sundial?

    Yes, a portable sundial can be made using a magnetized compass and a small gnomon such as a pen or pencil.

    8. What are some historical uses of sundials?

    Sundials have been used since ancient times for practical purposes such as agriculture and navigation, as well as for more spiritual or artistic purposes such as meditation and decoration.

    9. Are there different types of sundials?

    Yes, there are many types of sundials including horizontal, vertical, polar, equatorial, and analemmatic.

    10. What is an analemmatic sundial?

    An analemmatic sundial is a type of sundial that uses the position of the sun throughout the year to cast a different shadow for each day of the year.

    11. Can a sundial be accurate at all times of the year?

    No, due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the elliptical shape of its orbit, a sundial can only be accurate at certain times of the year. It may need to be adjusted or a correction factor applied for other times.

    12. How accurate are sundials compared to modern clocks?

    While sundials may not be as precise as modern clocks, they are still a reliable indicator of time and offer a unique and aesthetically pleasing addition to any garden or outdoor space.

    13. Is it difficult to make a sundial?

    While making a sundial requires some knowledge of geometry and astronomy, it can be a fun and rewarding project for anyone willing to learn and experiment.

    As we have seen, making a sundial can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a beautiful and functional timepiece that will add character and charm to any garden or outdoor space. Whether you are a seasoned DIYer or a novice crafter, this project is definitely worth trying.

    The key to making a successful sundial is to start with a solid foundation. You should choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight throughout the day, and make sure that your sundial is level and free from any obstructions. Once you have your base set up, you can move on to creating the actual dial.

    There are many different materials you can use to make your sundial, from simple cardboard and paper to more durable materials like metal or stone. The choice will depend on your personal preference and the overall style you are going for. Just be sure to use a compass or protractor to create accurate markings, and to allow for the movement of the sun throughout the day.

    Finally, don’t forget to add the gnomon to your sundial. This is the part of the dial that casts a shadow and allows you to tell time. You can make your own gnomon out of a piece of metal or wood, or even use a twig or a straw if you are making a smaller sundial. Again, just make sure that your gnomon is angled correctly and that it points towards true north.

    Conclusion how to make a sundial

    In conclusion, making a sundial is a fun and creative way to add a unique touch to your outdoor space. By following the simple steps outlined in this article, you can create a beautiful and functional timepiece that will be the envy of all your neighbors. So why not give it a try? You may just discover a new hobby that you love.

    Closing how to make a sundial

    Thank you for reading this article on how to make a sundial. We hope that you have found it informative and inspiring. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. And don’t forget to share your own sundial creations with us – we would love to see what you come up with! Until next time, happy crafting!