This week I’ve been working on a few bespoke weathervane designs, including a Bentley Continental Fastback, and a group of three Barn Owls, as shown above. I began by drawing 5 or 6 different Owls using my graphics pen, and selecting the three that fitted together best. I love how distinctive Barn Owl faces are; this will make a fantastic weathervane when the design is finished! The only problem I have with it is in highlighting the features of the face – this part of the design looks very delicate so I’ll have to thicken these lines without affecting the look of it, or it won’t be practical to cut in steel. Initially I had thought that the 3rd Owl should be a baby, but they are such fluffy little things, when I try to draw one in silhouette they end up looking like a bit of a mishapen blob! I’ve sent a couple of initial weathervane designs to the customer, so he can give some feedback and we can make any alterations before coming up with the final design.
It’s great to finally have a weathervane and house sign design based on the classic mini, hopefully in the future we can look to add the Clubman, traveller and even Wolsley Hornet/Riley Elf designs to our collection to. There can be few cars that are held in such high affection by so many people as the mini, in part due to its truly unique design and personality, along with the sheer volumes produced.
The brainchild of Alec Issigonis, who had previously designed the Morris Minor before briefly leaving BMC to work on a shelved Alvis saloon project (how history and indeed cars for years to come could have been different), the mini was a design which would revolutionise cars for many years to come.
Designed during the Suez oil crisis, the world needed a compact efficient car, Rootes group came up with the Hillman Imp and BMC the mini. With its transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive layout (almost unheard of at the time but now pretty well industry standard) Issigonis managed to make a very compact car with a very reasonable sense of space inside (though not by modern standards).
So the question then is how did a car born out of necessity during the Suez crisis gain such a following? In my opinion this is in part due to its utterly unmistakeable and British identity, it is hard now with hindsight to imagine the mini as a new cutting edge design, to in effect imagine a world without them but when you think of the cars that came before it, it truly was a revolutionary car, which changed the direction of the automotive industry forever. Then there is the way the car handled, with the compact design pushing the wheels right out in to each corner and with such minimal weight the mini out-handled all of its contemporary competitors and a great deal more. The A Series engine, though lacking in power was always willing and easily tuneable, leading to the iconic John Cooper works cars. The final factor is as mentioned earlier in the post, the number of them produced, it is estimated that there were around 5.3 million classic shape minis made between 1959 and 2000, so everyone has some memories and nostalgia linked to the mini. Like jeans they were affordable (too affordable, reportedly so much so they were accidentally making a loss for some time!) and fashionable, so people of all classes and backgrounds had them.
Sadly by the year 2000 the classic mini had had its run, keeping up with the safety and comfort of more modern machines (when though there had been changed and the engine had been updated even to include fuel injection), at the age of 41, was no longer possible and British Leyland called an end to production. It even outlived its intended successor, the sadly much less loved Metro by two years.
If you would like a mini weathervane it is available here. Alternatively if you would like a sign based on this design, or any of our products with a different mini variant (or any other car for that matter) then please fill out our online contact form and we will get in touch as soon as possible.
Just had this great photo sent in showing a Schnauzer weathervane we’ve produced recently; the angle of the sail is perfect as it shows the laser cut design so clearly, plus the lovely blue sky really helps it to stand out! We’ve done a couple of variations on this design, where customers have asked us to make minor alterations to make the Schnauzer look more like their dog, so for example we’ve docked the tail in the past, and made the dog male, or a little scruffier. So whatever your specification for a dog weathervane, feel free to contact us as we can usually accomodate most design requests at no extra cost.
A great example of a personalised weathervane, given as a birthday gift. Our customer contacted us asking if we could produce a bespoke weathervane featuring her husband and the things he loves; this included playing the guitar, fishing, walking their Border Collie, and drinking good wine. At first it seemed a little challenging as to how on earth we would fit all of these seemingly quite different interests into one image, but we did it! We’re really proud of the design, especially as these are pretty well all things we enjoy ourselves so it was a fun one to draw despite initally having no idea how to go about it. The customer and the recipient were both delighted with their personalised weathervane; she even sent us a video of her husband opening the suprise gift, which was genuinely fantastic for us to see, as we never normally get to see people’s reactions to what we have designed and made for them!
Though these days the Beetle is more often remembered fondly as a car of the swinging sixties, it was initally designed in pre WW2 Germany by Ferdinand Porsche, at the request of a Mr Hitler. It needed be a ‘car of the people’; to seat two adults and two children, with space for their luggage, and cruise at 60mph. Importantly, it also needed to be affordable, and could be purchased through a savings card system. By the time the second world war broke out in 1939, only a handful of consumer cars had been produced, and all customer orders had been cancelled as production was switched from civilian vehicles to that of military vehicles. One of these was an amphibious vehicle, delightfully named the ‘Schwimmwagen’.
Our portfolio of weathervane and sign designs has grown over the past few years, based mostly on customer requests for new designs. Fairly early on we created a design based on the iconic Flying Scotsman but it was some time later before the LMS Jubilee was finally added to our design portfolio. Now the design work is done we can also incorporate these into house signs and decorative steel panels made to a customer’s specifications. Hopefully other rail enthusiasts will see these current designs and might want to commission other designs based around other locomotives. We have already done a great design based on a customer’s traction engine too.
The Flying Scotsman is world famous, in part due to its record setting top speed (reaching 100mph in 1934) and probably more significant in terms of actual usage its record for the longest non-stop run for a steam locomotive when it covered 422 miles in Australia. When the Scotsman became key in the rivalry between the LMS West Coast service and the LNER East coast service up to Edinburgh it was not the phenomenal top speed that really mattered, but the ability to run non-stop. This was achieved in part due to a corridor through the tender to allow the crew to change over without stopping. The significance of this is not to be understated, when you consider that during the London-Edinburgh trip the fireman would need to shovel around 7 tons of coal! The other key thing required for a non-stop run is a lot of water, which was often supplied by use of water troughs between the rails and scoops, especially in Britain. The later Flying Scotsman tender could hold 5,000 gallons of water. The LMS Jubilee class locomotives were initially built from 1934 1936 and were designed for mainline passenger work, with 191 built in total. They were a very common sight on the LMS lines right through until they were eventually decommissioned in the 1960’s. Their length of service and indeed numbers does mean the Jubilee class does have a nostalgia factor for a lot of rail enthusiasts, coupled with the fact there are four preserved examples still running on heritage lines in the UK today.
As a great little personal touch, one customer asked if we would be able to add a signal box to their weathervane. We thought about this a little as we did not want to affect the balance and function of the weathervane itself and eventually concluded the best option would be to have the signal box on the letter bars (North, South, East, West) beneath the sail, so the train appears to be flying past it. I think a house sign could look great with a bit of a landscape scene in it featuring both a locomotive and signal box… perhaps a project for the not too distant future.
Our LMS Jubilee weathervane was featured on channel 4′s ‘Shed of the Year’ programme, as one of the entries into the competition was a railway enthusiast with a shed beautifully done up to house his collection of memorabilia, with our weathervane as the finishing touch to his roof. This weathervane can be found on the link below: https://www.blackfoxmetalcraft.co.uk/weathervanes-other-vehicles/lms-jubilee-train.html
A photo sent in showing our Lancaster Bomber weathervane insitu. It was bought as a gift, and is now mounted to the top of a wooden post in the garden. This is a great option for mounting a weathervane when you don’t have a suitable out building. The wooden posts can be picked up from places like Wickes for less than £15, and we can supply a weathervane fixing specifically for this purpose, so it’s a relatively easy way of creating a unique focal point in the centre of your garden, where it can be easily seen and admired.
The iconic Lancaster Bomber is one of the first designs that started our range of military weathervanes. These four engined planes were produced during the second world war, and actually the majority were manufactured in Chadderton, just a couple of miles from our workshop. You can see more of our aeroplane and military vehicles weathervanes in the ‘other vehicles‘ section of the website, and as always we’d love to expand our range so do not charge extra for new designs.
We love this photo of our Labrador and Jack Russell dogs weathervane! We’ve done several variations on this doggy tug of war theme including loads of different breeds. They’re challenging to draw in comparison to designing a flat side profile of a dog, as you want to capture the movement and personality while also keeping the physical characteristics of the breed instantly recognisable. I love how the determination and stubborn nature of the little Terrier comes through here in contrast to the calm and gentle Labrador playmate! A wonderful unique gift for dog lovers that can be personalised to reflect your pets.
For more information on this weathervane, have a look at the link below: https://www.blackfoxmetalcraft.co.uk/weathervanes-dogs/labrador-and-terrier-tug-war.html
We’ve just packaged and sent out this bespoke George and Dragon weathervane – the design was based around an image provided by the customer. This week I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the sail and letter bars, including gilding the NSEW, and various small areas on the sail itself, like the tongue and the tip of the sail in 23.5 carat gold leaf. I’ve also painted St. George’s sheild in the colours of the English flag, some really nice highlights to finish off an already striking design. Any of our weathervanes can be personalised in this way; it’s a bit of extra work but the result is something truly unique that will stand out and be noticed anywhere.
A bespoke witch weathervane we produced at the end of last year. The customer asked us to add their little Terrier dog to the broomstick, as he and their cat had been great friends. Both animals had sadly passed away, and they wanted the weathervane as a reminder of their much loved pets. We’ve produced a number of variations on this popluar weathervane, for example various breeds of dog and even a Rabbit in place of the Cat, and also four witches riding the brromstick instead of one. Some of them have been fairly challenging as this is quite a difficult weathervane to balance, however in this case the dog is directly above the tube so it didn’t affect the balance point at all, making this variation quite straightforward.