Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Features

Richard Mallet at Cornell Univ. SundialRichard Mallet at Cornell Univ. Sundial

Richard Mallet, former British Sundial Society Trustee, Council Member and former BSS Webmaster passed away on Nov 7th, 2016 with funeral held on Dec 12th, 2016. He lived in Eaton Bray, UK and had many interest in physics, mathematics, and sundialing.  Those of us maintaining websites know of the difficulty in perserving order, yet always allowing for expansion of new material. "After a near disaster with the [British] Sundial Society's then  heavily modified and entirely non-compliant website, Richard stepped in at no charge to the Society to rewrite it using the then new Expression Web software from Microsoft.  This proved very successful and was of course fully W3C compliant."

Over the next year, the North American Sundial Society website will migrate from an older version of  the Joomla Content Management System to the fully maintainable Joomla 3.x version.  The majority of content and organization will remain intact, but new innovations are expected.

Read more about Richard Mallet's life at: http://www.ppowers.com/mallett.htm

The 3D Print Challenge

With all of Richard Schmoyer's SUNQUEST dial drawings available on the web, I decided that it would be a fine 3D printing project for the North American Sundial Society.  I use a filament 3D printer (Prusa i3 MK2) that heats  plastic, allowing the filament to be extruded into any shape.  The plastic I’ll use is Poly-lactic Acid or simply “PLA”, which is a biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch in the United States and Canada.  Elsewhere PLA comes from sugarcane or even tapioca root. To make the PLA flow properly the 3D printer must be heated to 210 Celsius. 

So the challenge is to use the 3D printer to create parts that matched Schmoyer's detailed drawings suc as the equatorial crescent shown here at the right.

The Modeling Process

To render this drawing into a 3D sundial part, I use OpenSCAD, a public domain application for numerical computer aided design.  The language is reminiscent of Visual Basic. But it focuses on creating and manipulating fundamental 3D basic shapes such as cubes, cylinders, and polygons under programmatic control. There is a set of translation and rotation operators for placement of the objects and Boolean operators for concatenating or subtracting one object from another. 

To create the equatorial crescent ring I used two cylinders of slightly different size with vertically offset centers.  A boolean operator takes the difference between the two cylinders, leaving the crescent.  Other booleans drill out the slot, leaving a 3D stereolithographic file (STL) that conforms nicely to Schmoyer's drawing. The slot will allow the crescent to be rotated back and forth on the sundial’s meridian ring.  This adjustment allows for both longitude correction of time and daylight savings time.  As you’ll see in a moment, Schmoyer uses the gnomon itself to adjust for the equation of time.

Other major components are the meridian quadrants that fit around the equatorial crescent and the base and pedestal.  Once again the original Schmoyer drawings from nearly 60 years ago provide the details of how to make these replica parts.  Since the dial is scaled, certain modifications are required such as the mounting brackets that glue onto the meridian quadrants.  Likewise, I decided to make the pedestal as a single object instead of the two that Schmoyer laid out.  Because of the size of the meridian quadrants and pedestal, a single bolt holds them together. The result of OpenSCAD design process is a stereolithographic object, also called an STLfile.
OpenSCAD design of meridian quadrants, base, and pedestal

The Slicing and Printing Process

Once I've designed SUNQUEST STL files, they need to be prepared for 3D printing. This step is called “slicing”.  Here I use a program called Slic3r to take the STL object and decompose it into many horizontal layers, like pages of a book.  These layers will be printed sequential by my 3D printer, ultimately forming layer by layer, the STL object in plastic. There are a number of slicing programs such as “CURA” , “Slic3r”, “CraftWare”, Netfabb, Rep-et-ier, and Simplify3D.  After experimenting with a number of these programs, I prefer Slic3r. That’s “Slicer” with letter “e” turned backward in hacker format using the number 3.  Here is an example of two of the many layers that make up the Equatorial crescent and a photo of it being printed.

Sliced Equatorial ring and 3D Printer at work

The interior of the dial could be solid, but it is more efficient to select an infill pattern like a honeycomb that uses only 20 percent of the volume.  Each layer is 150 microns thick.  This is a compromise between fast printing that uses a 200 micro layer and wanting a very smooth, detailed surface using a layer as thin as 100 microns  Assuming the same speed of extruder nozzle movement, the difference between layers made at 200 vs. 150 microns is the ratio 4/3 and saves 3D print time by one half hour.  Even so, to print the Equatorial cresent, meridian quadrants and their braces takes about 5 hours of 3D print time.  I've tried increasing the speed of the 3D printer but usually something happens that spoils the final object.  So I have had to learn patience.

Gnomon Design and 3D Printer making gnomon

The most difficult part to make is the gnomon.  For most equatorial and armillary sundials the gnomon is a simple rod casting a small shadow onto the equatorial time ring.  But Richard Schmoyer took the shape of the sun's apparent seasonal motion in the sky (called the "analemma") and embedded it into the shape of the gnomon. As Schmoyer himself explained: "Time is shown, not by a shadow, or by one edge of the [gnomon] shadow as in the familiar garden sundial, but rather by a band of sunlight between two shadows cast by the gnomon onto the [equatorial crescent] time scale."    “The gnomon is turned by hand on its axis to sharply define a band of sunlight illuminating the time on the equatorial hour ring. “

“But in reading the sundial, when either the winter to summer or summer to winter gnomon face is turned toward the sun and gradually brought to a position at right angles to the sun's rays, two things happen:

(1) "The effective slot width is reduced or pinched down, making a more narrow line of light fall across the time scale. Turning beyond a right-angle shuts out the direct sunlight entirely, but just short of a position squarely facing the sun, the band can be as fine as you care to see and use to interpolate between the [time mark] graduations."

(2)  "The band of sunlight is shifted from the gnomon axis to fall earlier or later on the time scale by an interval necessary to show standard clock time instead of local sun time." This correction is known as the 'equation of time' and is made by the curve of the SUNQUEST gnomon."

Most important in this gnomon design is that it converts solar time back into civil time.  The Schmoyer SUNQUEST dial allows you to read the time that corresponds to your wristwatch!

In November,1958 Richard Schmoyer created a detailed drawing of the gnomon showing the curve displacement for every week during the year. This was truly a monumental calculating and drafting effort.  The analemma shape is accurately represented in the middle of the gnomon, but as one gets near the solstices, the analemma is physically stretched a bit to accommodate the rapid change in the equation of time.  In his dial, Schmoyer allows “The effective portion of the enlarged curve [to be] brought into play by manually moving the entire gnomon axially north or south."

Rather than copy all of Schmoyer’s numbers to create the gnomon shape, I took the polynomial approximation to the equation of time (EOT) and used the sun’s declination to find the scaled gnomon displacement.  This was probably the hardest part of designing the dial, since it forced me to make the gnomon of very, very thin rectangles… one for each 12-hour time span.  These rectangular layers are like brickwork that are moved laterally to create a slight overhang and moved forward and back for the appropriate EOT displacement all according to the sun’s declination.  Think of it as building a wavy wall one layer at a time, but each layer is perfectly straight.

Schmoyer's Drawing of the SUNQUEST gnomon

 

Read The Seattle Times article of May 14, 2013: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020985468_sundialxml.html

nass_news_2013_may_Sullivan_DialIn the May 14, 2013 edition of The Seattle Times University of Washington professor Woody Sullivan was honored as ‘Mr. Sundial’ for his persistence in declaring Seattle as the Sundial Capital of North America. Dr. Sullivan has worked on more than a dozen dials in Seattle, including the large 20x30 foot vertical dial on southwest wall of the Physics and Astronomy building at UW and the elegant 11x17 foot reflection sundial painted on the ceiling of his garage at N 47° 41.232, W 122° 21.562.  A small circular mirror outside the south facing window reflects a spot of light onto the ceiling.

The reflection sundial was a labor of love taking over 3 years to create.  Woody marked over 700 locations on the ceiling that allowed him to draw the local solar time, dates, hours of daylight, solar azimuth and altitude, analemma, and even hours to dawn.  And being a radio astronomer, he marked the transit sidereal time for two radio sources.  The dial was painted with marvelous beauty by a local mural artist, Jim Noonan.  The sundial is very personal to Woody, showing time marks for the date he married to the birthdays of himself, his wife, and two daughters.  The zodiac painted along the ecliptic has a local touch, representing Pisces by a pair of sockeye; Cancer by a Dungeness crab; and Capricorn as a mountain goat. There is even a compass rose.

nass_news_2013_may_UW_dialFred Sawyer, president of the North American Sundial Society (NASS) is quoted by Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times staff reporter, saying “it’s likely true that Sullivan’s garage sundial is one of the best in North America.”  When the NASS visited Seattle for the 2011 annual sundial conference, they visited Woody’s Reflection Dial and a marker was added to it for the date and time of itsofficial dial dedication held on Saturday 22 August 2011. “We toasted the sundial with an appropriate wine, ‘Wehlener Sonnenuhr’ by Joh. Hos. Prum, the fine Mosel Kabinett from the German vineyard with a large vertical sundial.” said Roger Bailey, the society’s secretary.

Among Dr. Sullivan’s accomplishments in the world of sundials began in the early 1990’s when the University of Washington’s Physics and Astronomy Building was being designed.  He suggested a large vertical (southwest declining) sundial.  The dial was completed in 1994 and Woody was hooked. He also helped design sundials used on the Mars exploration rovers Sprit and Opportunity that landed ion the Martian surface in 2004.  A campaign to build sundials all around our world ensued with the motto “Two Worlds One Sun”.  [photos from NASS]

This Sundials for Starters appeared in The Comendium in June 2010

by Robert Kellogg, Ph.D.

Some years ago I had the thrill of reading the Tiberius manuscript1, which in Old English presented a horologium, a set of shadow lengths, from somewhere in England. The shadow lengths were given throughout the year, such as on Christ’s Mass day where “the shadow at [mid] morning and nine [halfway through the afternoon] is twenty [less] a heel foot and at midday four and twenty.” 

1 MS Cotton Tiberius A, iii – folio 179 o/v British Museum, Manuscript Library

Read more: Meridiana

Ing. Gianni Ferrari was awarded the 2015 Sawyer Dialing prize, with his certificate acknowledging: "for his long career educating the dialing community about the nearly forgotten heritage of ancient Islamic gnomonics and the wide variety of modern analytically developed sundials."  Since 2000 Gianni has contributed nearly 30 articles to the NASS Compendium, enriching dialists' knowledge around the world.  Recently he published the books Le Meridiane Dell'Antico Islam (Sundials of Ancient Islam) and Formule e metodi per lo studio degli orologi solari piani - Caratteristiche, descrizione e calcolo degli orologi solar paini comuni e pop conosciuti  (Formulae and methods for the study of flat sundials - with characteristics, descriptions and calculations of common and less known sundials).  Gianni's acceptance presentation for the conference was on "Forgotten Dialing Formulas" using versines.  The versine trigonometric function was engraved on ancient quadrants, forming the small arcs "versus" and "rectus" that were used for solving the Astronomical Triangle to derive solar azimuth and hour angle time.  Those that have learned to navigate with a sextant may indeed remember using half versines or "haversines" tables. His presentation is in the September 2015 issue of the NASS The Compendium.  Gianni was not able to attend the NASS Conference in Victoria, but sent greetings from Italy. He asked that NASS donate the $200 prize money to benefit an appropriate dialing cause.  Like other dialing prize recipients, he received a Spectra Sundial by Jim Tallman of Artisan Industrials.  Gianni's dial was designed for his home in Modena, Italy at 44o 34' N 10o 51' E.

http://www.artisanindustrials.com/world-of-sundials/spectra-sundial-modena-italy.html

Portland Maine WCSH Channel 6 presents local and national news and the usual sports, weather and traffic.  But on a recent 207 broadcast, they reported an invasion ... an invasion of sundialists coming to Portland, Maine for their annual conference and their search for a dial made over a century ago by Albert Crehore that might still be somewhere in Portland. 

Members of the North American Sundial Society (NASS) take the art and science of sundials very seriously.  Watch the video and consider joining NASS for even more sundial adventures.  Visit Portland Channel 6 News:

Schmoyer Sunquest Sundial

by Robert L. Kellogg

Schmoyer Sunquest dial drawingMy first encounter with the Schmoyer SUNQUEST Dial occurred many years ago in my youth.  I had received an Edmund Scientific 4-inch reflecting telescope with a motorized clock drive for Christmas.  By age 14 I wanted to take my telescope to the nearby San Gabriel mountains, so I was delighted by C.L. Strong's Amateur Scientist article in the October 1959 issue of Scientific American describing a transistorized drive for a telescope. But in that October 1959 Amateur Scientist there was also a discussion of a sundial that keeps accurate civil time.  I didn’t understand the peculiar gnomon or the shape of the analemma, but somehow this sundial captured my attention. As I read that article,

In  that Amateur Scientist article C.L. Strong quotes a letter from Richard Schmoyer that still holds true today:

"...you raise the question of why a man who owns a accurate watch and several clocks will go to the trouble of building a sundial.  Few will disagree with your conclusion that he is motivated in part by the intellectual charm of a device which, without moving parts, can convert the sun's changing position directly into time.  But sundial-making holds other attractions for its enthusiasts.  In the course of developing a sundial one is exposed to a fascinating and well-defined mixture of mathematics, geometry, geography and astronomy.  The design of a sundial challenges our creative talents, and its construction puts our craftsmanship to an exacting test.  Finally, the designer who permits the primary time-telling function of the sundial to control its form adds spice to the project.  Hardware in pleasing though strange and unexpected shapes often emerges from the equations which describe the ever-changing slant of the sun's rays."

"These inducements led me to design a sundial last year which has become a continuing source of pleasure both to me and to my neighbors.  With only a few simple settings during two seasons of the year the sundial can be made to indicate accurate clock time... Most people find sundials attractive, so one must not altogether dismiss their ornamental properties.  The structure of my dial was derived from the armillary [sundial]... The transformation from armillary to nested crescents demonstrates how a pleasing shape can emerge from a functional necessity.  A good time-telling device should always fulfill its mission."

Photo of Richard SchmoyerSchmoyer Sundial Cuba Astronomical Society, PAThere are a number of Schmoyer Sunquest dials in botanical gardens, science museums, and on observatory front lawns. The Sunquest Sundial website describes the man behind the sundial as, "He was a charter member of the North American Sundial Society (member #53) and a member of the British Sundial Society, and was always eager to help aspiring sundialists with their work." The Schmoyer SUNQUEST dial is basically an equatorial sundial of elegant proportions. 

Richard Schmoyer, Jr. and Amy Roe, his grand daughter, have created a website in his honor at http://sunquestsundial.org/ .  His dials and drawings are posted there for sundial enthusiasts everywhere.

This Sundials for Starters appeared in The Compendium in September, 2009
by Robert L. Kellogg, Ph.D.

henge-urbancanyonfig-1

One of the more interesting news items over the last several months has been the “Manhattan Henge” craze.  Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, calculated the alignment of the sundown the street corridors of Manhattan (Fig. 1).  For New Yorkers, two opportunities for alignment occur.  The streets are aligned 28.9o east from North, and the sun sets near this at this azimuth on May 30-31 and July 11-12.

These alignments are just a small part of “shadow planes” where the shadow of the sun aligns with a building wall or other object.  The best description of shadow planes comes from the NASS expert, Mac Oglesby and his compatriots William Maddux and Fer deVries in a series of three articles in The Compendium.[1]

Read more: Manhattan Henge

Subcategories

  • Sundials for Starters
    Article Count:
    6
  • Conferences
    Article Count:
    23
  • Sawyer Dialing Prize
    Fred Sawyer, in cooperation with the North American Sundial Society, established a continuing yearly award, the Sawyer Dialing Prize to be presented by NASS to an individual for accomplishments in or contributions to dialing and the dialing community.
    Article Count:
    19
  • Terwilliger Sundials
    In these pages is the famous tub sundial created by Robert Terwilliger using his laser trigon to lay out hour lines on a very irregular surface to create a working sundial.
    Article Count:
    1
  • Biographies

    Who are today's sundial artisans?  Here are several bioghraphies of several artisans that show the unique combination of talents in art, engineering, and mathematics.

    Article Count:
    6
  • Sunquest Sundial

    This section is dedicated to Richard Schmoyer who invented the Sunquest sundial.  Please visit http://sunquestsundial.org/ as well.

    Article Count:
    3