Weather Report

A desktop weather station to improve your predictions 

You can keep abreast of weather conditions and the time of day with this attractive desktop weather station. Its mahogany plaque and brass-rimmed instruments are eye-catching, and its compact size allows you to display it just about anywhere. It can even be made to hang on a wall. It consists of a combination barometer/thermometer, a hygrometer and a clock. The barometer/thermometer is useful for predicting local weather trends because it tells you at a glance whether atmospheric pressure is rising or falling. The hygrometer measures the relative humidity, which is the moisture in the air as a percent of what the air is capable of holding at that temperature. And the clock is there to remind you how far behind you are falling!

The project is ideal if you don't have time for elaborate woodworking and you just want to knock off something in a few hours. It requires few tools, and the plaque is so small that you can make it from a piece of scrap. We used a 7/8-in.-thick piece of mahogany. But this thickness is only necessary if you plan to hang the weather station on the wall, as the barometer/thermometer is 7/8-in. thick. For a desk set, a 3/4-in.-thick piece will work just fine.

Making The Plaque

Because pencil lines on mahogany are difficult to see, you'll find it easier to scroll saw the curved cutting lines if you tape a paper pattern of the plaque onto the workpiece. If you use ribbon-stripe mahogany as we did, take a moment to orient the pattern relative to the grain direction (Photo 1). This will prevent you from making a plaque with grain that runs in an awkward direction relative to the plaque's shape. Adjust the pattern to achieve a pleasing orientation.

Cut the plaque on the scroll saw, or use a band saw or sabre saw. We used a blade with 10 teeth per inch and fed the workpiece into the blade at a moderate rate (Photo 2).

The edges of the workpiece have to be smoothed after sawing. We clamped the workpiece in a vise and removed the saw marks with a razor-sharp spokeshave and worked outward from the curve in both directions (Photo 3). If you do this properly, you don't even have to sand the edge after it has been smoothed. If you don't own a spokeshave, you can use a drum sander in a drill press or even a hand sanding block made from the mahogany scrap.

1 - It's difficult to see pencil lines on mahogany, so tape the plaque's pattern to the workpiece. Orient the pattern to produce a pleasing grain pattern.

2 - Cut the curved portion of the plaque to shape using a scroll saw, band saw or sabre saw. The white pattern is easy to follow.

3 - Remove saw marks using a spokeshave. Move the tool outward from the top of the curve in both directions.

 Mounting The Instruments

The next step is to cut the holes for the instruments. Lay out the center marks for each instrument, then bore a pilot hole through the workpiece at each center mark. Use a drill bit that has the same diameter as the centering bit on the circle cutter. The centering bit is usually 3/8 in. in diameter. Adjust the circle cutter for a 2 5/16-in.-dia. hole. Then, clamp the workpiece firmly in place and bore the hole, making a partial cut from both sides (Photo 4). Although mahogany is not a particularly hard wood, don't run the drill press higher than 600 rpm, or medium speed, in order to avoid burning the wood.

Next, use a router to make the stopped molded cuts on the plaque edges (Photo 5). To achieve these cuts, tack nail four corner blocks to a plywood panel. Each block should stop the travel of the router when the router bit's pilot bearing strikes it. The blocks also prevent the router from tipping as you near the end of the cut. It's important that the blocks be the same thickness as the workpiece. If the blocks are slightly thicker than the workpiece, the router base will catch on them and you'll produce a small wave in the edge of the cut as the router bumps into the stopblock and you jostle the router to ride over the block.


4 - Clamp the workpiece firmly while using a circle cutter to make the holes. Cut from both sides toward the center.


5 - Cut the stopped molding on the plaque with a router. The blocks hold the workpiece and stop the router bit travel.


Cut the T-slot hole for hanging the plaque using a keyhole router bit chucked in the drill press (Photo 6). Again, run the drill press at medium speed. Cut down into the workpiece with the bit, then switch off the power and lock the quill in the down position. Turn the drill press on again and push the workpiece back slightly to make the undercut slot. Omit this step if you want to make the weather station a desk accessory.

Each instrument is secured in its hole with a flanged mounting ring that bears against a rabbet cut on the back of the hole. To cut the rabbet, use a 3/8-in.-dia. router bit set to make a 1/2-in.-deep cut (Photo 7).

Before sanding and finishing, test the instruments and rings for fit (Photo 8). The barometer/thermometer (Part No. 46K50.12, $13.95), the clock (Part No. 46K50.22, $19.95) and the hygrometer (Part No. 46K50.02, $6.95) can be ordered from Lee Valley Tools Ltd., P.O. Box 1780, Ogdensburg, NY 13669; 800-871-8158. Include $6 for shipping with the order.

6 - To cut the T-shaped slot, lower the bit into the workpiece, and lock the drill-press quill. Next, move the workpiece backward.

7 - Hold the workpiece firmly in place, and cut a rabbet around the mounting hole's circumference using a router and rabbet bit.


8 - Before finishing the weather station, test fit the three instruments and their mounting rings.

Making The Stand

To make the desktop stand, cut the pieces as shown in the plan. Bore and countersink the two holes for the No. 8 screws in the upright, then attach it to the base with glue and nails. Next, use a small C-clamp to hold the stand in position on the back of the plaque. Then, press a screw through each hole to mark the position of the pilot holes in the back of the plaque. Bore 1/2-in.-deep pilot holes using a 7/64-in.-dia. bit. Attach the stand to the plaque and proceed with finishing.

Finishing It Off

Sand the plaque with progressively finer sandpaper, from 120-grit to 220-grit. Remove sanding dust with a tack cloth and apply three coats of polyurethane on the front and back of the project. Allow each coat of finish to harden thoroughly before sanding it with 220-grit paper and applying the next coat. Install the instruments, and you're ready to predict the weather.