Uncle Sam crafts don't get more fun than this outdoor whirligig. Follow our step-by-step instructions to create this DIY treasure that everyone will enjoy.

Updated June 23, 2017

Celebrate America with fun Uncle Sam decorations and DIY 4th of July crafts. This cute outdoor whirligig can be created just in time for the 4th of July. The craft will take some time, but it's guaranteed to add lots of patriotic spirit to your garden. 

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What You Need

  • 1 x 8 x 24-inch pine (body and base)
  • 4 x 4 x 3-inch pine (stand)
  • 1/2 x 7 x 8-inch Baltic birch plywood
  • 3/4 x 4-3/4-inch dowel
  • Eight 5/8-inch stainless-steel nails
  • One 1-1/2-inch stainless-steel nail
  • Two #9 x 2-inch brass washers
  • 1 ball bearing (B.B.)
  • 3 x 3/16-inch brass tube
  • Wood sealer
  • Waterproof wood glue
  • 5-minute epoxy
  • Exterior varnish
  • Scroll saw
  • Table saw
  • Scissors
  • Drill
  • Sandpaper (100- and 150-grit)
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint (we used the following shades from DecoArt Americana: AS Base Flesh DA136, BS Burnt Sienna DA6, BU Burnt Umber DA64, BY Blueberry DA37, DM Deep Midnight Blue DA166, GS Gray Sky DA111, LB Lamp Black DA67, SR Santa Red DA170, TW Titanium White DA1)
  • Paintbrushes (we used the following Eagle brushes from their Millennium series: #10 synthetic flat, #4 synthetic flat, 1/2-inch synthetic angular shader, 1/4-inch synthetic angular shader, #0 synthetic liner)

Step 1: Assemble Pattern

Download our free pattern and our assembly directions for this project. Enlarge the pattern 140 percent, then cut out with scissors.

Step 2: Cut Out Wood

Using a scroll saw with a #5R blade, cut the body from 1-inch pine and arms from 1/8-inch Baltic birch plywood. Use a table saw or a radial-arm saw to cut the base of the stand and the arm connectors from 1-inch pine. Cut the stand from 4-inch pine. Drill all holes as shown on the assembly directions.

Step 3: Sand and Glue

Sand all surfaces with 100- and then 150-grit sandpaper; remove the sanding dust with a tack cloth. Apply waterproof wood glue to the narrow end of each arm, then insert the arm into the arm connector slot until it sets; secure with 5/8-inch stainless-steel nails. Clean up any extra glue before it dries.

Step 4: Secure Body and Arms

Cut two pieces of brass tube 3/4 inch long and epoxy each brass tube in a connector for the arms. The tube should extend slightly beyond the connector on each side of the hole. Clean up any adhesive that may be inside the tube. Secure the dowel in the body with wood glue; reinforce the bond with a 1-1/8-inch stainless-steel nail from the back of the body.

Step 5: Attach Tubing

Install the B.B. into the hole in the bottom of the feet. Epoxy the remaining brass tube (1-1/2-inch long) into the hole in the feet, hammering it down until the tube stops at the B.B. The tube should be nearly hidden in the body. Do not attach the arms to the dowel until the whirligig is completely painted and varnished.

Step 6: Balance Arms

To spin easily, balance arm assemblies before painting. Temporarily install arms. Gently spin first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. The arm should stay in the position in which it stops. If it returns to just one position, it is unbalanced. By sanding small amounts of wood from the arm section that stops at the bottom, it will eventually become balanced.

Step 7: Assemble the Stand

Glue and nail the stand pieces together, centering the stand over the stand base. Drill a hole 2 inches deep in the center of the stand, as shown on the diagram. Apply wood sealer to all surfaces; let it dry. Sand again; wipe clean.

Step 8: Paint Base and Shades

Base-coat #10 and #4 flat brushes, using the size that best fits the area. Then begin float shading and highlighting with 1/2-inch and 1/4-inch angular shader brushes. Paint small areas and apply details with a #0 liner brush.

Step 9: Transfer Paint Patterns

Transfer the main pattern lines to Uncle Sam. (Cut a hole in the pattern to go over the dowel rod.) There's no need to copy the details yet—you'll base-coat over them.

Step 10: Start Base Coat

Base-coat Uncle Sam's jacket BY. Base-coat his gloves TW, and float BY shading next to his sleeves. Dilute TW with water to ink consistency and, using a #0 liner brush, paint the braid on all sides of the sleeves, along the collar, and around the belt at the back of his jacket. Float DM shading along the outside of his collar, around his belt, and down the center of his coattails in back. Paint TW stars on his belt and Uncle Sam's sleeves; dot the center of each star with SR.

Step 11: Finish Base Coat

Base-coat Uncle Sam's hatband BY. Base-coat the rest of his hat, his pants, his shirt, and his vest TW. Paint one BY stripe in the center on each side of his pants. Paint all remaining stripes on his pants and on his hat SR. (Notice that the stripes get wider toward the top of his pants and his hat.) Float BY shading on the top of the hat brim, under his jacket on his pants, and inside his pants pockets. Float BY shading on his shirt and his vest where shown on the pattern.


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