It's an archive of sorts, although there are no dates and times. Kite flying is timeless, don't you agree? I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform and often entertain!
These short flight reports once appeared in the site blog page - that's the one you enter via the 'what's new!' site navigation link. Reports for the largest kites appear first. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)
Big Diamond Chases The Sun
It's been hard to get out and fly this month, due to the very wet weather. And ever since the start of the month, I have been looking for an opportunity to get out to a particular location by mid-morning for some KAP (Kite Aerial Photography). Today was a possibility, but time got away and it was decided to just go for a fly instead...
Weather conditions were hard to assess from the online weather sites. One direction and strength at one location and quite different wind data at another. To cover all possibilities, I packed the Fresh Wind Sled, Multi-Dowel Diamond and the Multi-Dowel Rokkaku.
On arrival at Knox Park, the breeze seemed a little too lively for the Rok, taking into account the higher wind speeds up around 200 feet. Clouds were slipping by, so it wasn't exactly light up there.
So, the big blue Diamond was chosen. For a while I just flew it around quite low, taking movies and photos. Wouldn't you know it, the sun was doing its best to align exactly with the kite, making photography very tricky. Hence I let the kite move around a lot in the rough air down low, waiting for every little photo opportunity.
With the camera work out of the way, it was time to let the Multi-Dowel Diamond kite up high. A small rain squall was approaching, so the kite's drogue chute gave peace of mind as the gusts tugged harder and harder at the drop-sheet plastic sail. I took some more photos with the kite on 105 meters (350 feet) of line. By now the sun had disappeared behind thick cloud cover.
Not wanting to chance it with the approaching mass of even darker cloud, I took the kite down and departed. Although somewhat short, it was still a relaxing outing! As for the wind... 10 to 15kph according to the wind meter, while an online weather station recorded 11 to 19kph.
Late Afternoon Magic With Big Diamond
The huge Multi-Dowel Diamond took shape on the dry grass, while being sniffed by a large dog. The curious canine was on a leash, thankfully, and it's owners soon moved on. This was down at Knox Park once again, with light gusts barely shifting the upper twigs of the surrounding trees. Not to worry, since the 2.4m (8ft) tall Diamond is at home in light winds.
A float-out launch was just possible. A bit of a skill-test really, since letting-out was only possible during gusts. It also involved taking a few backward steps to keep the tail clear of the ground at times. There was certainly no point in attaching a tail or drogue chute under these conditions. After a minute or two, the big blue kite was hovering well away from the field perimeter, in clear air. Subsequently, a climb was initiated on about 30 meters (100 ft) of line. Easy!
Once well above tree height, a little more line tension came on, and it was clear that conditions were absolutely perfect for the kite. I continued letting line out, pausing at 30m (100 ft) intervals to allow the Diamond to reach full height each time.
So after just 10 or fifteen minutes, there it was, floating placidly at a high line angle, lit from the side by the late afternoon sun. The huge dowel and plastic craft barely moved at times, riding the smooth light breeze from the South.
Eventually the kite had to come down, and my small son earned 50c for laboriously winding on the line while I took the kite down hand-over-hand. Nice flight indeed!
Big Diamond Strains Over Sand
Down at the beach with relatives from Perth, it was a toss-up whether to pick the Multi-Dowel Diamond or the Fresh Wind Sled, going by the weather report. It seemed a bit light, on getting out of the car, so the Multi-Dowel Diamond was selected. Once down on the sand however... the steady breeze blowing along the waterfront was not so light after all.
The first job was to pile quite a few handfuls of sand into the calico shopping bag that doubles as a small sand anchor. Just a few kilos would be required for the Diamond even though it would be flying near the top of its wind range and hence pulling rather firmly.
Launching was quickly accomplished, but the kite showed a tendency to drift to the right. Not the best situation since that brought the huge blue Diamond right over the lapping water-line! So, I walked out to the kite and made a 2 cm (1") adjustment to the appropriate bridle knot.
Now the line could be let out further, and the kite ended up battling away on a length of just over 60m (200ft). The bridle adjustment was doing a good job of keeping the kite away from the water. In fact, the strongest gusts were now forcing the kite down low, to the left. One more very small adjustment to the bridle was made, back the other way.
Wind gusts at shoulder level were reaching 17kph according to the meter, but were considerably more at 100 feet above the sand.
The large dark blue kite remained up while we talked and Aren (9) had fun getting up and down the small sand cliffs nearby. A small amount of turbulence was occasionally reaching us, coming off the houses and buildings way up-wind. The big kite was generally flying low, forced down by the drag force of the airflow. Gusts would sometimes push it down to one side, to within several meters of the sand. Once in the slightly slower air down there, the kite would recover, soaring straight back up and climbing even higher as the gust passed. Over and over, impressing my non-kiting brother with its reliability!
The Northerly breeze finally moderated just a little. The sun was starting to near the horizon, producing blazing pinks toward the West with all the upper and mid-level cloud about. Also, the tide was almost in, lapping just meters away, so we took kite down and rolled it up. It was a logical time to leave.
Launching With Centimeters to Spare
Just on impulse, we dived out to the back yard late yesterday afternoon. With the ... Multi-Dowel Diamond. Quite comical really, given that the ideal launch direction meant the kite had to rise up from the skinny end of our back lawn.
There it was, propped up by the swing set that Aren no longer uses. A swift pull would jump-start the big blue kite, causing it to come forwards and up, just missing the sharp corner of our back verandah. And just missing some bush foliage on the opposite side.
Several short flights were had like this, into a very soft and variable breeze that was having a hard time negotiating houses, fences and trees. Never-the-less, the big Diamond almost got its teeth into some flight-sustaining wind as it drifted over the highest portion of our roof. Nearly every time, it was an exercise in judgment to bring the kite down on its face, to a safe landing spot. The Hills Hoist clothes-line was one such spot!
Aren (8) managed to take a few photos in the several seconds he had available on each flight.
Of course, when it was time to pack up and go indoors for tea, the breeze freshened ever so slightly. Grr. It would have been perfect for a flight of several minutes on perhaps 15m (50ft) of line!
Using A Kite Log
A new page going up soon on this site will feature some discussion on using a Kite Log. Just as pilots of all types of aircraft log their hours, so do some fliers with kites at the larger end of the scale. According to one site visitor who contacted me, more of us should be keeping logs!
Accordingly, I have put together a small PDF and called it a Kite Log Book Sheet. Today, with a log sheet printout in a pocket, I went out with the Multi-Dowel Diamond kite to test it. The log sheet that is, not the kite ;-)
The breeze was very light to begin with and the big Diamond had a brief flight to about 100 feet before sinking back to the grass.
On a second attempt the kite managed to stay in the air. But not without a lot of help from the guy working the line down below! With plenty of weak convection going on, there were periods of faster air and areas of rising air coming through occasionally.
Eventually I worked the kite up higher and managed to get 75 meters (250 feet) of line out.
Some video was taken as the Multi-Dowel Diamond kite drifted slowly this way and that at about 50 degrees of line angle. A tension test revealed that the kite was only pulling 2.5 kg at most.
In fact, on my first attempt to measure the tension, the kite sank out to within a meter (3 feet) of the ground. I promptly put down the scales and hauled the Diamond back up again!
Time was limited, as usual, so the kite was soon being pulled down. Otherwise, it might have stayed up for another 20 minutes or so without any intervention.
Diamonds Large And Small
Another breezy day, and to my surprise Aren was keen to go out kite flying! Perhaps the recent session with the Peter Powell stunt kite has enthused him anew. But we mainly fly single-liners...
It seemed an ideal opportunity to test how the Multi-Dowel Diamond would cope with moderate wind strengths. To date, this kite has only flown in light air.
Aren requested the Tiny Tots Diamond, which I knew would have no trouble since it has flown in near-gales before! Single line attachment plus that long light tail you see.
Anyway, back to the very sizable Multi-Dowel Diamond...
As expected, the big kite struggled at first in the moderate gusts. The horizontal spar bent so much that the bow-line fell undone. Result: two little Dacron tails draping from the side tips.
After a couple of short flights I moved the towing point forward almost as far as the bridle loop knot. This put the towing point somewhat forward of the spar crossing point. On an Eddy-style kite, that's a long way forward! It did the trick, relieving a lot of line tension but not compromising stability.
Now it was possible to let the kite up much higher with confidence. Eventually we had it tethered to the wooden railings with about 80 meters (280 feet) of line out.
The strongest periods of breeze were pushing the kite to the right so I took it down, adjusted the bridle loop knot left by just a couple of mm (1/8"+) and put it back up. Beautiful - straight up! While doing this, Aren had the great idea of securing the carabiner to the line and then watching it slide down all the way to the fence, as the kite shot up. He tried to beat it, but the carabiner won.
A wind check revealed an average around 12kph with one big gust to 28kph. So the light-wind Diamond had probably been hit with 30kph+ from time to time! So glad it survived - but the bridle adjustments were critical.
Dowel Diamond At Dusk
This was somewhat spur-of-the-moment, but it turned out extremely well. The weather reports for the following week were dismal. Definitely time to grab a kite and head outside while flying was still possible!
With the sun just below the horizon the sky above was darkening by the minute. The most subtle puffs of breeze were tickling the fronds of neighbors' trees.
Several attempts were made to get the Diamond kite into the air. By sitting it up against the side-lawn fence, backing off then pulling in line quickly to get the kite just above roof height. No luck. Not a chance of even maintaining height, it seemed.
Next, a similar approach was tried on the rear lawn, which offered more room to tow up. This was more promising. Also a little more exciting since it involved navigating the kite over the roof on one side and a large peach tree on the other!
By now, Aren was helping by sitting the kite up against the fence for each tow-up, and also by timing the flights on his stop watch. Fun stuff for an 8-year-old.
Finally, some line tension materialized as the kite soared to about twice roof height. From there, it was easy to slip out a few more meters of the 20 pound Dacron and let the pale orange Diamond gently climb back up to around 50 degrees of angle each time.
As the minutes ticked by, the darkness deepened but it was still easy to see the kite overhead. Responding to every little wind shift and gentle gust. Boosted at times to over 60 degrees of angle, on about 20 meters (70 feet) of line.
An airliner approached, way above, landing lights ablaze and red / green tip lights glowing brightly. It passed overhead several thousand feet up. Around the same time, a bright star peeked through the cloud cover, reminding us that we were flying well after sun-down.
What a magic flight! After Aren called out '10 minutes!', we brought the kite down. Flying from small back yards definitely has its charms...
Dowel Diamond Magic
A late evening outing produced some great light-wind action with the latest Dowel Diamond kite. First up was a short series of flights on just a few meters of line, to photographically record this individual kite. It has a very clean look now, with the clear packing tape caps quite invisible from just a short distance away.
With the images taken I looked forward to getting the kite much higher on its 50 pound line. Above 100 feet, the breeze was smooth but slightly too strong for the kite with its current bridle adjustment. The Diamond would tend to arc over on its side and then sink towards the ground, in a sort of 'neutral stability'. Not getting any worse - but not better either! Another clue was the occasional fish-tailing of the vertical spar.
Time to relieve some of that excess air pressure...
After bringing the kite down and shifting the towing point forward by a good 3 centimeters (1"+) the flying was much improved. Also, genuinely stable this time!
As time passed, the wind seemed to moderate somewhat. This suited the rather light-weight Diamond perfectly. Not only that, but the flying line tension was so light that I didn't hesitate to switch over to the 20 pound line. Just several minutes later, the kite was flying at around 50 degrees on almost 100 meters (330 feet) of line.
During the climb it was interesting to observe the gradual wind gradient that existed more than 100 feet off the ground...
A slight tug on the line would urge the kite up by just a few feet. There it would stay, not dropping back down, due to the tiny increase in wind speed compared to just a few feet lower. This was repeated several times. Amazing! Such a delicate balance of forces.
Eventually, with the sun going down behind a bank of cloud cover, it was time to wind the kite in. Right down to my hand, while a couple of guys gawked - possibly realizing for the first time that I had been flying a kite! I tend to fly so high that people just don't realize it's up there.
The wind meter had recorded 1.1kph with a gust to 5.0kph. I don't think the breeze was ever more than 10 or 12kph up higher.
Dowel Diamond Light-Air Antics
With the power out for a few hours, it seemed a good idea to walk down to the local reserve with Aren. Not without a kite of course! There was just over an hour of sunlight left in the day and leaves were barely moving. But that's just how the Dowel Diamond kite likes it.
It turned out to be quite an interesting outing with the pale orange Eddy-inspired tail-less kite. A few tows were necessary to contact perhaps the 3kph necessary to stay up there. Very marginal indeed, with the kite sometimes losing height on its face or in the gentlest possible tail-slides, before edging upwards again. In point form, here's a few highlights...
Holding altitude at around 150 feet, but pulling so lightly that the 25cm (10 inch) wooden winder could just be left on the grass! Later, I put the kite bag on it, just in case. I could have used the 20 pound line, rather than the 50 pound it was on.
Flying face-down in the weakest of thermal air, holding height with the flying line draped almost vertically down to where several meters of it just lay in the grass!
Took my eyes off it for half a minute or so while winding it back in. At a very high line angle, it managed to get itself into a vertical dive before I noticed. The Diamond just curved round in a large languid loop before righting itself, well above the tree tops. Whew.
With the line length back to around 10 meters (30 feet), I had fun dancing the kite just out of reach of Aren. He tried pelting it with a bark chip, and eventually succeeded in getting the chip stuck in the bottom corner pocket of the sail. Not once, but twice.
Checked the wind meter after half an hour or so of flying. Peak gust strength of 4.1kph (batten down the hatches) and average wind speed of ... 0.0 no mistake, 0.0kph! Most of the time the cups weren't moving at all. This was near ground level of course, but I think that 0.0 reading is a first.
Dowel Diamond Just Pips Dowel Delta
It was down at Knox Park on the last Saturday of the month, as is my custom...
Except that the weather has not cooperated on the last couple of occasions. Even today the breeze was barely there. A friend of mine had his best light wind kite out - an MBK Dowel Delta done in rip-stop nylon and sprayed in acrylics.
Giving the delta a good run for it's money was my Dowel Diamond. A special one I once made, specially for very light conditions. To save weight, the spars were permanently attached so no shoelace tie or wood glue. Also, the electrical tape spar caps were done in lighter packing tape. The sail material was the cheapest nastiest plastic bag sheet available :-) At least it is very thin - hence feather-light.
With both kites struggling to stay up on long light lines, I rather optimistically rigged the huge Multi-Dowel Delta kite. But by the time it was ready to launch, the other kites had come to the ground...
In vain I scanned the tree tops for an encouraging leaf. One that was moving even just a little to indicate air movement! But there was nothing. Occasionally birds fool you by jumping around inside the foliage and shaking the odd twig!
Before long we had packed up and moved to another location on a ridge-top just a few kilometers away. There was faster air up there, being forced over the ridge and surrounding hills. Both the Diamond and Delta were able to stay up easily. It became clear that the Diamond had a slight edge in light wind performance.
The setting was very picturesque, with glassy sea, a luminous red/orange sun about to set and dark smudges on the horizon indicating falling rain.
Diamond In 'Light Air'
Though overcast and nearly windless outside, there was still a chance the 1.2m Dowel Diamond would stay up...
I selected my special light wind version, which stays rigged - saving the weight of glue and shoe-lace tie. Also, it uses packing tape instead of the somewhat heavier electrical tape for securing the dowel tips to the sail. If a frog burps in the grass below, this thing will climb to 50 feet over it. Warm air rises. OK, I exaggerate (a lot), but yes - it's very good in light wind!
At the reserve, things didn't look promising at all. Not a leaf was moving - except now and then due to noisy birds hopping about from twig to shaky twig.
After a few unsuccessful launches into the barest of 'gusts', I laid out 30m (100 feet) of 20 pound line and towed the Diamond kite up. Earlier, I had measured some breeze at 1.8kph gusting to 3.9kph. Hold onto your hat!
Anyway, the tow-up did result in a brief contact with enough air movement to climb the kite very slowly at a 20 degree line angle. Very marginal! But sort of fun too...
After much letting out and taking in of line, the Dowel Diamond finally descended from the leaden skies to end up in my hands once again. Flight duration? 8 minutes - which was as good as it was going to get, unfortunately. By now, sunlight was dimming and the wind had stopped entirely.
Not one to give up easily, I thought 'there's nothing under 100 feet up there - but what about 200 feet?'. So I laid out over 90m (300ft) of line and towed up once more. But, it was a 'sled ride' to the grass. With perhaps a couple of slight pauses as very light puffs of breeze occurred. It was worth a try!
Too Cloudy For KAP, So...
Just for a change I retrieved three Dowel kites from the shed and headed out. An emphasis on light-wind capability this time. Hardly a leaf was stirring, but almost half the Dowel designs excel in those conditions.
First up was the Dowel Sled. Somehow, with age, this kite has become a little cranky and I haven't had a decent flight out of it for a long time. Perhaps the perfectly unruffled leading edge of the newly-minted kite gave it a real advantage. Some protection from the dreaded curl-unders. Anyway, the thought keeps returning to re-make this design once more to give it greater longevity. Spars canted inwards to promote better inflation, for one thing.
The kite did ride up quite nicely on several puffs of the very light and variable breeze at the reserve. The big Sled never quite made it into the smoother airstream at about twice tree-top height. After several flutters to the ground I gave up and brought out the Dowel Diamond.
Now there was some real light-wind action... Surprisingly, the Diamond seemed a touch more efficient than the Sled and very readily rose right up. Despite having the same spar weight, but quite a bit less sail area! It was almost effortless to get it up to a 45 degree angle on 60 meters (200 feet) of 50 pound Dacron.
Soon, with slightly higher wind speeds up there, the Diamond started to lean to the left. So down it had to come so I could shift the bridle knot to the right by a couple of centimeters...
Oops - too much. So it had to come down yet again. Knot to the left a bit this time.
Finally the pale translucent orange Diamond was floating pretty much straight up. Maybe another millimeter or two was needed on the knot position, but it was close enough to climb to much steeper line angles than before.
It was a pleasure to feel the line tighten just a little more as the kite soared closer to the almost unmoving gray ceiling above. With time running out, I briefly let the kite fly up on 90 meters (300 feet) of line before starting to wind it in.
At ground level, before the flying line accidentally knocked it over, the Windtronic meter registered an average of 2.1 kph gusting to 9.4 kph. Maybe the gusts were 11 or 12 kph up higher, with the average perhaps half of that.
Light Wind Diamonds Dance
This was a late afternoon session in a breeze that was barely there. It occurred to me to put up both the Simple Diamond and the Dowel Diamond to observe the differences. One movie clip did catch them both aloft together.
Initially the Simple Diamond was launched time and time again, only to struggle to stay up at all. A spot of one-handed photography caught the kite waffling about several meters in the air while Aren looked on from below. Eventually it was time to give up and launch the real light-wind design, the Dowel Diamond. This particular one was a touch lighter than the original Diamond since it was the 'Plans version' - not designed for dis-assembly. We simply slid it into the rear of our small car, the 1.2m (4ft) span just making it through the door opening.
Of course, the Dowel Diamond climbed willingly in the gentle puffs coming over the field. In no time there was 60 meters (200 feet) of line out. After this, the breeze occasionally died so the kite descended quite low before slowly regaining height again.
Finally, the breeze picked up significantly as the late afternoon sun peeped out and warmed the ground. A little convection was pushing parcels of air here and there for minutes at a time. This was actually too much for the light-wind-only Dowel Diamond, pushing it sideways to the ground at least a couple of times. Once draping the line over a tree. However, the kite was easily flown out of trouble after it came to rest on its nose in the dry grass and weeds.
Before we packed up and left, the wind meter recorded 4.7kph and a gust to 7.7 kph. This suited both kites, so some more photography caught them in the air together. Mission accomplished!
A Tweaked Dowel Diamond Takes To The Sky
A couple of minor changes have been tried for the Dowel Diamond kite which aim to give slightly better tail-less stability and also slightly increased wind range.
One of these changes involved copying the 2-Skewer Diamond sail shape which works so well. The other is to simply shift the lower bridle attachment point up to the middle of the vertical spar. This allows a somewhat shorter bridle and hence more tolerance for wind gusts.
This kite also tries out the idea of using clear packing tape for the tip caps.
Besides being very hard-gripping and light, the almost perfectly clear material will not interfere with any art work that you might want to adorn the sail with.
'But', you might say, 'MBK kites have all looked pretty plain up until now...' True, but wait until the next revision of 'Making the MBK Dowel Diamond Kite' comes along ;-) The art work has already been done, but not by me you will be glad to know. In the DIY spirit of things, *you* will be able to re-create those designs on your kite. No artistic talent required!
Well, back to today's flying... Winds were reasonably light, but were gusting well over 15kph at times. Perhaps closer to 20kph. A bit much for the Dowel Diamond, which gets pushed to instability in those conditions, without a tail. The vertical spar gets a wobble up too!
However, with a few small adjustments to the bridle knots, the pale orange Diamond did OK on 60 meters (200 feet) of Dacron line. A few times the kite sank sideways to the ground in faster air, but willingly soared up high during the lulls. I just kept imagining how the kite would be doing in a 5 - 10kph breeze. That's what it's built for!
The wind meter had been left at home, so no wind speeds to report today.
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