This soda bottle wind vane tutorial checks off all the boxes – straightforward, fun, and functional! Place this simple whirligig in your backyard garden and watch it catch in the breeze on a sleepy spring afternoon. The weather is very strange these days and I never know what tomorrow will bring. Windy days here are not unusual. My other windspinners are having a field day (don’t worry, they’re secured well so they don’t come unhinged. Right now it’s close to 70 very gusty.
This whirligig has two ways it can be mounted – I’ll share both of them, since I made 2 (hey, it took the same amount of effort )
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First you need a 1 or 2-liter soda bottle, a pole with a narrow enough diameter to fit through the bottle, some tape, glue and a sharp cutting tool, like an X-acto knife. I’m using both a 1 and 2 liter bottle, and my “pole” is actually a rod used to open and close blinds (after installing new blinds I kept the rod that came with it to reuse later on.)
Remove the label, there may still be some sticky residue on one side where the label was attached – I removed that place on mine with some Goo Gone.
The part we’re going to focus on now is creating the “vents” on the side of the bottle. These cutouts will “catch” when a breeze blows and make the bottle spin around. They can be ornate looking, I’ve seen some people do very basic cutouts that are more linear – like diamonds or squares… either way, it will be open enough to catch on, but I like and prefer decorative things.
A template would make this easier – it needs to be a symmetrical design you can cut on one side.
After a lot of careful consideration (and a few thumbnail sketches…) I settled on a butterfly. Butterflies are a great idea for a symmetrical image. It’s best to draw or print one side, fold it in half and cut around the outline so both sides are equal. Now we’re going to take the template and trace around it on the bottle.
The other side, I have created a tulip template. A simple flower can make a great “vent” too. Garden themes for garden art, right? If you’re having trouble settling on a design, just Google “symmetrical shapes” and you may find dozens of templates – any that are free to print, you may want to scale them down to about 4-5″ so they will fit with the diameter of the bottle, and duplicate on the other side, too.
Next steps (see corresponding images)
1.) Trace around the image on the bottle …be sure and arrange it on both sides and be sure it will fit with adequate space around each side.
2.) Use a sharp instrument to cut around the outline EXCEPT the half-inch space in the middle – if your template is purely symmetrical, this should be easy to find.
3.) Fold each side of the cutout – I’m using a 6″ mini-ruler – this tool will make straight creases easier – try to create a nice crease.
4.) After you’ve completed the cutout, use your coloring pens and markers to trace the outline. Use permanent ones as they will adhere much better. I’m using a combination of these and a few fine-line Sharpies. You can add color with blocking (positive/negative space is easier to do on this type of plastic).
You can make it as colorful as you want – maybe add a little bling in the form of faux rhinestones or some cutout pieces of washi tape just for grins?
Now, here comes the tricky part – hopefully you kept the bottle top, We’ll need it for this part. You’ll be glueing the cap on the inside of the bottle so the rod/pole you use will have a stable center as the bottle moves around. I am using Aleene’s Tacky Clear in case you’re curious.
5.)To glue it on the bottom of the bottle. You’ll need to reach through the cutout areas, the tip of the glue bottle may not reach that far, but it will drip it in the right spot if you hold it close enough. Squirt a little dab in that center spot.
6.) Push the bottlecap through the cutout, and use the rod to situate it in the right place. You can also hold it in place with the rod for a few minutes to form the proper glue bond.
You may be wondering if it’s possible to invert the bottle, and drill through the bottom of it to create the opening. Although the plastic of your typical soda bottle is very flexible, it’s mostly in the middle, the bottom is pretty tough. The center is way too hard to drill through, and not worth your time (I know, I tried!)
Insert the bottle onto the pole and be sure its end fits into the cap on the inside. You can stake it in the ground, or into a nearby planted pot. Here’s how mine turned out!
If you chose the hanging approach, use fishing line and a sinker to put a little weight onto the bottle so it won’t blow in the wrong direction. Hang it from a tree limb, a Shepherd crook arm, what have you. It will look great too in the wind.
Here’s another closeup, hopefully you can see the designs better . I realize there are 3 on the 2-liter bottle (1 tulip and 2 butterflies, and 2 on the 1 liter bottle, (both tulips).
Bottle Wind spinner – Alternate Method
I thought I would share a second method to making a soda bottle wind vane you may enjoy as well. I think kids as well as adults will enjoy this, again, they need supervision, most likely, since it too, involves cutting with a sharp tool.
The approach is very similar…but instead of making symmetrical cutouts all around the bottle, you cut slits down the side and manipulate them so they bend in the middle and create a blur in the wind as it moves. Apply strips of colorful tape all around the soda bottle. You could use a smaller 20-oz bottle if you wanted to.
Image credit: Image by: ninya999
Cut the strips lengthwise using a x-acto knife and cut from the part where the bottle starts to round off towards the top all the way to the bottom where, again, the curve starts. When it is all cut, it will “squish” down easily. Bend the strips one by one. I didn’t like this design as much which is why I used the top one.
After hanging them up, now you can enjoy watching your handiwork spinning around in the breeze. Sometimes it’ll be fast, sometimes slow. Either way, they should look very eye-catching!