These are the steps on how to properly set a sundial. A sundial must be anchored in a garden by someone who knows how to set the dial at the correct angle to tell accurate time. Placement is different for every location. To set your sundial:

  1. Put your sundial in a location that is flat and gets full sun, not shaded by trees, bushes or the house.
  2. Calibrate the gnomon. A gnomon is the part of the sundial that sticks up from the face of the dial. Orient the gnomon directly in line with the North Star.
  3. These are the best days to set a sundial for an accurate reading. The best time is at noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. “Sun time” and “clock time” agree only four times a year:
    • April 15
    • June 15
    • September 1
    • December 24

    On one of these dates, go outside at noon and position the sundial so the shadow cast by the gnomon indicates noon as well.

  4. If you want accurate time all year, you will need to recalibrate your sundial seasonally as the sun moves faster in the spring and slower in the winter.


Some notes:

Sundials do NOT account for Daylight Savings Time so your sundial will be off by an hour.

A compass shows magnetic north but not true or geographic north. To use a compass, you will have to adjust for your location (magnetic declination) using the data on the NOAA website.

Your gnomon may be the wrong size or at the wrong angle for your latitude. You can compensate for this by raising or lowering the bottom edge of your sundial.

A sundial is a useful and attractive addition to your garden. Find prices of more sundials in our online price guide.


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