|Wind flags on a rifle range during a bench rest competition|
|Single vane commercial wind flag|
|Double vane commercial wind flag|
During the competition, I continued to use the flags lined up on either side of my bench as if they were mine. It was good enough for me to take first place by shooting a score of 748 out of 750 in a 15-20 mph wind that blew mostly from the 10 o'clock direction.
After returning home, I did a Google search on wind flags to find out what they cost and how I could order some for use during competitions and on the practice range. Holy crap! These things started at $40-$50 apiece for the cheapest ones and they didn't even come with stands. A set of 4 wind flags would run me well over $200 and the stands were cheap, flimsy music stands. I don't think so. It was time to head into the garage and see what I could find to make myself a set of these things.
I found some old aluminum arrows, unused fishing bobbers, miscellaneous tubing and metal rods, epoxy, and fluorescent spray paint. I then headed to Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Hobby Lobby, and a local garden center in search for other parts I needed.
The photo above shows my initial booty of materials, top to bottom & left to right, to make a set of 6 wind flags:
- Fluorescent spray paint
- Four Plastic "For Sale" signs to be cut to size (later replaced by a sheet of foam core)
- 5-minute epoxy
- Six Garden spinners (later replaced by six plastic model airplane propellers)
- Six aluminum arrows
- "O" rings sized to fit snugly on the arrow shafts
- Pink and green surveyor's tape
- Nylon bushings with a 3/8" center hole (the diameter of the arrow shafts)
- Plastic sockets normally used for inserting stem casters into chairs or bed frames
- Six 2" fishing bobbers
- A pack of #6 fishing snap swivels
- 8-32 X 1 1/2" hanger bolts
- Compression rubber bushings with 8-32 threaded insert
- Toro "Funny Tubing" irrigation tubing (the plastic sockets fit snugly inside this black, rigid tubing)
- 3/8" diameter brass tubing (I did not use this but bought it in case I might need it)
- Fiberglass rods that came with the garden spinners
|The finished wind flag with a few deviations from the original parts list|
STEP 1 - The Vanes
I started by jettisoning the "For Sale" signs which I thought would make great vanes. After trying to paint them, I wasn't satisfied with the way they looked and bought a sheet of foam core. I cut the foam core sheets to 2 different sizes (shown below) for two different wind flag sizes - the smaller wind flag vanes are 8"X10" (on the right) and the larger two (on the left) are 9"X12". The smaller sizes wind flags are for rimfire use, i.e. target distances of 100 yards or less; the larger ones are for high power rifle target distances of over 100 yards - the larger vanes will be easier to see at longer distances. I marked the location of the arrow shafts in pencil on one side of the foam core, set them aside, and moved on to adapting the photography light stands to serve as my wind flag stands.
STEP 2 - The Stands
Instead of flimsy music stands, I'm using 4 old photography light stands that were gathering dust in my photography studio. A combination of a 1/2" diameter steel rod section cut to 6" length, a 4 1/2" length of Toro tubing, and a plastic stem caster socket were just the ticket (see below) for the transformation of the stands. The 1/2" steel rods fit snugly inside the light stand tubes once I removed the head from each stand. The 1/2" diameter rods also slip firmly into the Toro tubing on one end and the plastic stem caster socket on the other end. One of the assembled light stand adapters is shown below, just above the parts used.
STEP 3 - The Stems
Fabricating the stems that insert into the light stand was accomplished as follows. Using a tubing cutter, I first lopped off a 2" section from each arrow shaft (below). The arrow shaft stem is perfect in terms of diameter, fitting into the plastic stem caster socket nicely - snug enough so as not to wobble, but loose enough so as to not impede the shafts from rotating freely as changes in wind direction cause the wind flags to rotate. On the bottom end of each arrow shaft I inserted a compression rubber bushing that has an 8-32 threaded interior. I then screwed in a hanger bolt using the 8-32 threaded part of the bolt. After screwing in the hanger bolts, I was left with the pointed, threaded screw of the hanger bolts protruding from the arrow shafts. I then drilled a hole in the bottom of one of the nylon bushings (the bushing has in interior diameter the same size as an arrow shaft, through which the wind flag assembly is inserted) and screwed the bushings flush onto the stem assemblies. The pointed end extended beyond the hole in the nylon bushing but a snip with a pair of wire cutters cut them so they ended up barely into the hole.
|The finished stem that serves as the flag pivot point (Left). The parts used to make the stem are depicted on the right (the nylon bushing is screwed into the the finished stem after the stem is assembled)|
|The finished stem in the light stand adapter with the wind flag assembly inserted into the nylon bushing|
STEP 4 - The FlagsI now turned my attention to fabricating the wind flag. Using the tubing cutter, I cut 4 of the arrow shafts to a 12" lengths and the other two to 14" lengths. The shorter shafts were for the small wind flags and the longer shafts were for the large wind flags.
I drilled two holes in each shaft, punched 2 holes in each flag vane, and bolted the foam core vanes to the shafts using half inch 8-32 screws, washers, and nuts (above). I added grommets on the rear corners of the vanes into which I attached fishing snap swivels and 16" strips of surveyor's tape.
I drilled a 3/8" hole through 6 fishing bobbers and poured one ounce of #7 1/2 lead shot into each bobber. The bobbers were then inserted through the holes as counterweights to the vanes. Although the vanes aren't very heavy, I needed something to offset their weight. One ounce of weight on the front of the shaft was enough to balance the wind flags, providing for smooth rotation of the stems in the socket. I slid the bobbers back and forth on the arrow shaft until I found a good balance point and then used snug fitting rubber "O" rings on each side of the bobber to keep them from moving on the shaft. Topping off the wind flags, I added a model airplane plastic propeller by using the shafts from the garden center spinners glued into the end of the arrow shaft.
If you remember, originally, I intended to use garden center spinners on the front of the wind flags as my "propellers". When I tested this permutation, the wind flags wobbled noticeably due to the spinners being out of balance. After all, they weren't made for an application that required them to be perfectly balanced and no matter how hard I tried to balance them I just couldn't get the flags to stop wobbling.
While this wasn't the end of the world - the wind flags rotated freely on the stands and changed direction fluidly with subtle changes in wind direction - I wanted to correct this if only for aesthetic purposes. That's when I thought of using lighter, balanced model airplane propellers as a solution. A quick trip to a hobby shop and $6 later, I returned home with 6 plastic propellers that fit perfectly on the shafts I was using with the spinners. The question then became whether this modification would resolve the wobbling. Much to my delight, the propellers solved the problem.
STEP 5 - Storage And Transporting
To transport the flags to and from the range and to keep them from being damaged in between trips to the range, I found a Flambeau plastic storage box in the garage that was tall and wide enough to accommodate the flags. Storage boxes like these can be found at most Sporting Goods stores and WalMarts.
|The wind flags nestled inside the Flambeau storage box|
A 1"X10" pine board cut to a length that fit at the bottom of the box serves as the base for the flags. I drilled staggered holes into the board and inserted pieces of fiberglass tent pole sections into the holes, cut to lengths that would position the flags to sit just above the board when the stems are inserted into the tent pole shafts. These tent poles came from a bag of replacement poles I had bought at WalMart years ago for one of my tents in case one of the poles needed replacement. They're the kind that come in sections, connected by a shock cord that runs inside, with aluminum tubes on the ends of the sections. The tubes allow you to connect the sections into a long pole, but for my purposes, they were perfect for inserting the wind flag stems.
Placing the finished base for the flags inside the box, I inserted each flag into it's respective tent pole section and the project was finished.
I realize that some of the parts I've used came from miscellaneous stuff I found in my garage or otherwise unused, and if you set out to make yourself a set of flags, you may not have some of the stuff I had. I'm estimating that my wind flag set cost me in the neighborhood of $40. Substituting store bought materials for the items I did not have to purchase, I would estimate that $50 to $60 would cover everything needed to make the flags. In the end, you have to decide whether it's worth your time to make your own and save a few bucks or just buy a ready made set. I enjoy the satisfaction of making things that are equally functional to what can be bought, so I made my own flags. If you're like me, you can do it too.