The Dowel Rokkaku Kite

Had To Fly Higher To Find Slower Air!

The weather looked like it would suit the Dowel Rokkaku kite nicely. Earlier in the day it had looked like a dead-calm. However, as we got out of the car in the mid-afternoon, there was definitely some breeze about. Cool, light winds under an almost overcast sky.

The Dowel Rokkaku kite in flight.

The kite was soon rigged. Very light puffs of breeze hardly disturbed it as I did up the shoe-lace ties and bow-line toggles.

With the kite just sitting face-down on the grass, we backed away upwind, letting out line. Soon enough, the 30 meter (100 feet) tag came off the winder.

It was an easy matter to slowly drag the kite towards us. The Rok moved less than a meter across the grass before it rose.

Then it rotated like a jet taking off and climbed slowly and smoothly straight overhead. Right into a thermal! It happens occasionally, but today it was a little surprising because of the cool conditions.

After taking some photos, we made our way towards the center of the field, letting out line to 60 meters (200 feet). I was content to fly at this line length for a while.

However, the wind was surprisingly fresh above 50 feet, and the Dowel Rokkaku kite spent a lot of time on its side, struggling to climb! Not willing to put up with this for the next half an hour or so, I took kite down. It was nearly on the grass when I noticed that both bridle loop knots were shifted almost a couple of centimeters to the right. An earlier attempt to cure the left-leaning problem!

Oh well, it seems I need to get to those horizontal spars again with the wood file. One side is still a fraction too stiff. In the meantime, I pulled the spars through the ties a little, hoping this might be a temporary fix. Also, I shifted the towing point forward by a centimeter (1/2"), to ease the wind pressure on the sail a bit.

We walked out to the winder again, and I let line slip through my fingers as I went. The Dowel Rokkaku kite climbed rapidly. It was soon flying high again, although still with a slight turning problem.

We continued walking towards the far fence-line, letting out line to 90 meters this time.

At 90 meters, it wasn't long before I thought 'what the heck, let's go to 120!'. We ended up near the fence-line of the oval. A handy tree became the anchor for the flying line. Two and a half turns around the trunk was all that was required, with the winder left on the ground. The line went out at about 60 degrees, while the kite itself was at about 70.

I took some video, with the zoom cranked up to 4x so the kite wouldn't look like a dot! At close to 400 feet up, the Rok was looking more comfortable.

I assumed that the wind was moderating as it often does during late afternoon. The time was around 4:30pm. Over the next 20 minutes or so, the Dowel Rokkaku kite flew between 45 and 70 degrees depending on wind strength.

Movie footage later showed up some shifts in wind direction too.

Eventually it was time to leave. I unhitched the line from the tree and started winding in slowly. As the kite came down, it hit faster air again, below 350 feet! More sideways antics.

This is an unusual situation, with a low layer of faster flowing air, but here was proof that it happens!

Finally, below 50 feet, the Rokkaku dropped into the wind gradient plus some turbulence from the houses and trees behind the fence-line.

I snapped off a few photos as the kite got close enough to get a good-quality image. Well, as good as the low light level would allow anyway! See up there on the left...

A nice soft tail-first landing on the grass ended the flight, with several meters of line still out. Not a bad outing, but it will be nice to see how the Dowel Rokkaku kite performs after those horizontal spars are fixed!

The story above was an actual flying experience with the described kite. My write-ups are definitely warts-and-all since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!


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

The Dopero is someone's clever idea to combine 2 Roller kites! Double Pearson Roller is where the name comes from. The resulting flat portion of sail in the middle makes this a very efficient design in light wind.

Even more so than the Roller before it, this kite has an attractive aircraft-like appearance in the air. This MBK version also excels in light winds.

If you have made Diamonds before, this kite takes somewhat more time to make. With the help of my instructions, it's still do-able by a beginner.

Get the e-book for making the MBK Dowel Dopero kite. After making your first one in plastic and seeing how it performs, you can try soft Tyvek or rip-stop nylon for your next build.

This Dopero can fly in quite a wide range of wind speeds thanks to the 4-pont bridle. The bridle lines keep the frame more rigid than a 2-point bridle could. 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.

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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