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Meet The Designer

Casting paving stones around a stout baulk of timber, determined to create my own sundial, I too was under the impression that sundials could be easily made and was left exasperated with my initial attempt and inaccurate time readings. Due to my scientific nature I refused to believe that there had been an error in my method, and brushed this failure to one side.  It was not until a good five years later that I came across a book by AP Herbert, which explained why my garden endeavour hadn’t worked out. After that, I started making some sundials which did work, devoting my thoughts to the nature of time being measured instead of dwelling on a society ‘clock time’ standard – and now my watch just tells me that I am always late.

My first sundials were wooden painted and gifts for family and friends. Although I have not made one for many years, they are still my favourite kind of sundial, allowing artistic license when it comes to design and colour.

 

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For a long time making sundials was nothing more than a hobby, until I was made aware of the British Sundial Society. It was apparent that the members were diverse, passionate and enthusiastic about sundials, and during an Annual meeting I made a suggestion for updating an annual awards scheme.
 
As my interest in sundials increased, I was fortunate enough to integrate my “sundial hobby” into both my working and social life. I set up Sundials on the Internet to spread the sundial word and create a portal for sharing my knowledge and inspiration, which has since become one of the leading information sites on sundials.  As a keen cyclist, I was also able to offer my skills to the cycling charity Sustrans, not only on the track, but also in the drawing room.  After receiving a National Lottery grant, they asked me to design a sundial for the Witham Cycle Path, my first public commissioned piece. General Meeting I suggested that an Award Scheme be set up, and was invited by the Council to be the driving force behind that idea.
 
Since then I have been asked to design more public pieces, with 1999 being a particularly special year. I was asked to design a large sundial for the City of London; my idea was based on an innovation in the design of horizontal sundials. Three polar sundials were built; one on the north bank of the Thames; the east side of the Greenwich Peninsular; and outside the museum of the Royal Engineers at Chatham.

 

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Echoing the unusual design of the commissioned pieces, I continued to develop my idea with an underlying thought played on my mind; ‘Why are garden sundials so awful and what on earth can be done to improve them?’ I felt the main problem that people experienced was how to set a up sundial, so my idea focused on making this part of the process easy. This is where my big innovation came; adding a slit in the gnomon to cast the shadow. When the sun is at its highest, a shaft of sunlight shines through this slit and across the noon circle on the dial plate. All you need to know is the exact time of noon at your location, (with a little help)  and this enables you, the customer, to set up the sundial with great accuracy so that you can read it to the nearest minute or two. 

It took two years to get the first brass Spot-on Sundial into production. They are now made to my design in India, imported in bulk into the UK, and sold from there all over the world. In 2004, we produced two larger brass sundials, one for the Bicentenary of the Royal Horticultural Society. We also produced a small polar dial, repeating the design of the Blackfriars sundial on a smaller scale. 

More recently, we have produced Spot-on Sundials in stainless steel. These have proved very popular in large gardens, schools and public open spaces, as they have a great "wow factor" with the glint of the sun to advertise their presence at a distance, the stunning reflections in the mirror-polished surface to give fascinating reflections of the sky and the surroundings, and the "event" of the shaft of the light shining through the slit in the gnomon at solar noon. 

Innovation has continued with the introduction of three new designs; a brass polar sundial, modeled on Thames sundial; a Universal Vertical Sundial which unfortunately was to expensive to manufacture, consisting of two hinged plates which could be set any angle from about 10 to 70 degrees to compensate for the declination of the wall, and to ensure that the dial plate faced due South; a project shown at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 2006 and at Tatton Park in 2008, called the Skywheel, consisting of an equatorial wheel with 24 spokes. The shadow exactly covers the spokes on each hour, and between times, the time is read from notches on the rim of the wheel; and a Universal Polar sundial that can be easily adjusted to suit every latitude from the Equator to the Arctic (or Antarctic) Circle, so you can take it with you when you move house!

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