David Rand’s day revolves around the sun. 

The warm rays heat his water, tell him the time and help his flowers grow. 

Rand, who resides in Lewiston, can tell where and when the sun will rise and set and how much daylight is gained or lost from month to month.

The 85-year-old retired civil engineer makes sundials that tell time by the position of the sun. 

“It’s easy,” Rand said. “You take a circle and divide it into 24 parts. Throw away half of it. Angle the thing for latitude and make an adjustment for longitude. That’s it.”

A couple of Rand’s sundials are made from a practical standpoint, but others are not. 


Rand grew tired of an old iron tractor wheel that decorated his yard.

“It leaned against the tree for 15 years, another 10 against the house and then against the garage,” he said. “I had that wheel leaning everywhere. So I decided to make a sundial out of it.

“The tractor wheel sundial is only good for half the year,” he added.  

Another one of his sundials hardly gets seen, but serves a purpose. 

“I needed a cover for my well and decided now is my big chance,” he said.

Rand has made a total of seven sundials. One is portable and was loaned to the Auburn Land Lab, where science teacher Jim Chandler used it as a teaching tool. One is made from a 65-pound piece of culvert pipe and another just gets in the way. 


“The sundial in the middle of the garden is a nuisance, but it’s the only place I had to put it,” he said.

Rand is running out of space to put his creations. He built his first sundial in 1969 and the pine trees that surround his summer camp in Auburn have grown taller since then, blocking the sun.

“I don’t plan to make any more, because I don’t have any place to put them,” he said.

Rand spends summers in Auburn and winters in Lewiston. He makes the sundials during the colder months.

They take time to make, said Rand, who runs into problems every now and then.

“I went over my calculations 10 times,” Rand said about making one of his sundials. “I would set it at night and it would be wrong by the next morning,” he said. “I would set it in the morning and it would be wrong later that night.”


The devil is in the details — Rand’s measurement should have been 45.7 millimeters — not 47.5 millimeters. 

Rand placed the culvert into the oven so he could change the diameter and his problem was solved. 

All seven of Rand’s sundials have a few things in common. They all point to Polaris, commonly known as the North Star, and are angled for 44 degrees, the latitude of Auburn, which is almost halfway between the Equator (0 degrees) and the North Pole (90 degrees). Each sundial is accurate to within two minutes. 

By using his sundials, Rand can tell where the sun will rise and set by month. He calculates the increase and decrease in hours of daylight by season as well.

“It’s amazing what you can learn from these critters,” Rand said. “They look big and clumsy, but they are actually precision instruments.” 

Rand made one other instrument — a solar panel to heat his hot water.

“I made that following the energy crisis in 1973,” he said. “The whole world laughed at me. Now they’re on to me.

“I keep busy here,” Rand said. “By the time I check all my sundials, the solar panel and my flowers, it’s time to come in and take a nap.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.