Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nantucket Sailor Boy Whirligig

After some digging around online and looking for a quick little project to do today while my chair parts dry in the kiln, I decided to make something I have never made before, a Whirligig. You've most likely seen the ducks or the goose, maybe the guy sawing a log or the woman washing clothes, but for those of you who haven't seen them, the Nantucket Sailor Boy Whirligig is one that is very, very collectible and very, very expensive in antique form. I have looked at some online that are in the $3800 range. While this isn't the norm and I don't know who would buy one for that, it's kind of cool little guy to make.

     Here is the version I made today just to pass the time. Its just a 3/4" thick piece of wood cut to shape, I turned the hat and the arms on the lathe, made the paddles out of 3/16" thick walnut and shaped it with a block plane then took a knife and whittled the profile. After some headscratching to get the paint colors right, I mixed up about 5 different colors and started to paint. I wanted mine to have that old and crusty dry paint texture of an antique, so with a little sanding and buffing this is what came out. You can just make out the word Nantucket on the sailors shirt but that, in my opinion, was the hardest part. I'm not a real steady hand when it comes to details like that and had to repaint it once, hence the darker blue under the word. All and all it was fun just to make something new and different. I could see getting into making these just to please the 8 year old in me. Theres something about a wooden toy with moving parts that makes the young'un in me smile.


  1. Nice paint job. Initially I thought I was looking at the antique. How did you get the arms on? Is there a dowel through the torso that the arms are glued to?

    1. Ralph,
      Thank for the comment! The arms are on with an 1/8" metal rod drilled all the way through the body and into the arms and glued in with epoxy. I used 5 minute epoxy and it worked great.

  2. Neat project I really like the way you do your finishes, they authentically old.

  3. Thanks! The finish is what sells it. It's really a quick and easy project to make til you try to make it look old. I had more time spent on the painting than I did making it by far. To make it seem as old as time, really does take time!