A Ben Franklin Kite To Make

DON'T Try The Famous Experiment!

Once in a while, someone in the U.S. wants to make a replica of the famous Ben Franklin kite. This page is dedicated to helping you do just that!

However, the instructions here are mainly for getting the 'look' right. That is, putting together something that looks very much like the original would have - if it was ever built! There's no proof that it actually was.

OK, take a look at the diagram below. Everything is labeled in some detail...

(By the way, the sticks are behind the sail material. The bridle lines are therefore poked through holes in the sail before being tied to the vertical stick.)

Ben Franklin Kite - diagram of the original design

If you simply follow the diagram as closely as possibly, you will certainly end up with a very authentic-looking historical kite. At least from some distance away!

An expert would say 'tut tut, the handkerchief isn't real silk, and the string should be hemp twine.' And so on. But hey, this Ben Franklin kite is close enough to use as a prop in a play, for example.

Further down, a few tips are provided for getting the design as shown to actually fly. Plenty of people have tried and failed. But this is a specialist kite site ;-)

The book Benjamin Franklin: An American Life on Amazon might come in handy of you are curious about the man himself!




Flying This Ben Franklin Kite

Now supposing you really need this replica to actually fly successfully. The guys on Myth Busters (a post-millenium U.S. TV show) failed to do it and ended up using a traditional Diamond with round wooden doweling. At least they used real silk for the sail - I think!

This short list of points should ensure that your replica flies well. It will give you the best chance possible of success...

  • The handkerchief should be as large as possible. Big kites always fly better than small kites of the same type.
  • Ben Franklin specified a silk handkerchief. Whatever sail material you use, the weave should be as fine as possible. Too much porosity to air will result in failure. So, make sure you can't blow air through it!
  • The sticks should be just thick enough to resist excessive bending in a light or moderate breeze. The thicker the sticks, the more wind required. If they are way too thick and heavy, the kite will just not fly.
  • The tail as specified in the Ben Franklin kite diagram should be fine, but the cloth ties should not be too heavy. Here, it's 'drag' that counts, not weight. Extra length in the tail line, plus a few extra ties, should fix any tendency for the kite to loop around continuously.
  • That wire on the top should be pretty thin. Otherwise, it will weigh down the kite. Not only that, but it will shift the balance point of the kite towards the nose, which is a no-no for kite stability.
  • Connect the bridle loop and flying line as shown in the diagram. But use a shift-able knot such as the Prusik to connect the flying line to the bridle loop. Some experimentation in the field will be required before the ideal position is found. Shift the knot along the bridle loop just millimeters (1/8" or 2) at a time, until the kite flies high with little effort. Assuming the breeze is somewhere in the 'light' to 'moderate' range.

Out In The Field

Diamond kite stories of my real-life flying experiences are worth checking out!

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

Have I made one myself? Not yet - have you seen the prices on big high-quality silk handkerchiefs?!

I do intend to one day post photos and video of a flying Ben Franklin Kite replica.





E-book special of the month (25% off)...


The
Sode is a traditional Japanese design, and this MBK version is exciting to watch in rough air!

If you have made Diamonds before, this kite takes a little more time to make. It's still a straight-forward build though, using the same techniques as used for my Dowel Diamond. 

Get the e-book for making the MBK Dowel Sode kite. The cambered sail makes this a very efficient design. Of the Dowel kites, this design is one of my personal favorites!

This Sode flies steep and steady over the Light wind range, and starts to move around quite a bit when the wind picks up to Moderate levels. Tail(s) are entirely optional, but may be added for looks.

The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.



What's New!

  1. YOUR Kite Aerial Photography

    Dec 07, 16 09:00 AM

    This page features some KAP work by site visitors. From the 'just having a go' to the rather more professional!

    Read More





Comments

Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...



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Testimonials
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"Love the easy to understand step by step instructions, made from next to nothing materials and above all so much fun to fly... cheers Tim for sharing your well thought out pdf kite designs with the whole world.

Very satisfying making your own and watching them get air-born for the first time."

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"I've just bought your super e-book and spent most of last night pouring through all the great stuff in it!

Very detailed and USEFUL information - thanks for such a great book."

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"30+ years ago, I tried making a kite using the 'instructions' in a free kite-safety booklet. What a disappointment for a young boy.

 Your instructions and methods are wonderful. You help the builder to focus on accuracy, without making it hard. Also, you use materials that are durable, yet cheap!"

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Wind Speeds


Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7