Figure 1


How many of you practice sheet metal craft just to enjoy time away from the daily routine? This article describes how to make a sheet metal barn star.

It’s a perfect time to take a break from the typical sheet metal work that you do daily and do something different. Can you imagine making something that you don’t have to sell or fabricating some sheet metal piece you won’t need to install? Too many workers are pinned down in the shop in front of the bench laying out fitting after fitting and always in a hurry to run out the door at the end of the shift.

So for this month, let’s leave the ductwork alone and do something different, and perhaps a bit fun, too.

Sheet metal work can make for a very challenging and interesting hobby. It can also be a great way to break away from our everyday jobs.

Here is a pattern for making “barn stars,” which are symbols of good luck that adorn many barns and homes. The online library here has a 1922 article written by John Troland and how to make them, which is the basis for this article.

Geometry lessons

This layout is pretty easy to follow if you haven’t lost your knowledge of basic geometry and can develop the pattern of a pentagon, which is where the five-pointed star comes from.

It starts with Figure 1. To make the five points, begin by drawing a line the length of the diameter needed for the star as shown in Figure 1, Line 1-2. Bisect Line 1-2 to establish Point 3.

Draw a perpendicular line through Point 3 as shown from Line 4-5. Set the trammel points to half the diameter of the circle, or from Point 3 to Point 1. Using Point 3 as center, draw a complete circle as shown. Bisect Line 3-4, which establishes Point 6.

Setting the trammel from Point 6 to Point 1, placing one end on Point 6 and using it as center, make an arc intersecting Line 4-5 to establish Point 7.

Figure 3


Reset your trammel from Point 1 to Point 7 and using Point 1 as center, make an arc to intersect the circle to establish Point 8. The distance from 1 to 8 is the length of each side of the pentagon or the distance between each point on the star.

Using the trammel, take the distance from Point 1 to Point 8 and work your way around the circumference of the circle establishing the other three (of five) points for the star, as shown as points 8a, 8b and 8c. Connect the points 1 to 8a, 1 to 8b, 8 to 8c, 8 to 8b and 8a to 8c. This is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 4


Set your trammel or dividers to XX’ (this is the corner of the inside pentagon in Figure 3) and strike a complete circle as shown in Figure 3. To establish the second outer circle, set the trammel the distance from Point 2 to Point 3 and using Point 2 as center, draw a circle. Reset the trammel from X to X”, which will be tangent to the smaller circle. Draw the second circle also shown in Figure 3. Draw a line from X to each corner of the inside pentagon and extend this past the outer circle last drawn as shown, by the distance of X to A.

The last step is to simply connect each point of the star (marked as Point 8) in Figure 4 to Point A established on the outer circle.

Figure 5


For the actual bending, you’re going to have to just play with it. You can use your forming stakes if you have them available, or you can remove some of the fingers from the box and pan brake. Keeping them slightly away from center, start to fold up each of the longer bend lines. Turn the star over to work the smaller bends and your one-piece barn star is done.

Stop by the forums at Wisconsin contractor Bud Goodman’s here for discussions on “the latest thing off the bench” and printable practice drawings on sheet metal layout.


Stars a common sight on U.S. barns

You may not always notice them, but barn stars have adorned farm buildings across America for hundreds of years.

Online encyclopedia Wikepedia says that the decorations are most commonly seen in communities populated by German-Americans, such as the Pennsylvania countryside.

Originally, the designs were meant to represent the barn’s builder, but eventually they were just added for decoration or as a good luck charm, similar to hanging a horseshoe over a door.

Instead of the traditional five-point metal star, some barns have a similar painted symbol known as a hex sign, which replaced the traditional barn star in some areas. Some hex sign designs use star shapes while others include pictures of animals.