Dowel Versus Skewer

by Sarah
(Florida, USA)

Q:

So I'm making a kite for my math class, and I chose to make a box kite. I was wondering what is the difference (benefits and stuff) between making a Dowel Box Kite or one of the two Skewer kites? I have to make sure my kite flies by itself for at least two minutes. Do you have suggestions as to which type I should make?

A:

For a start, I would choose between the 2-Skewer and the Dowel box kites.

(The 1-Skewer design is quickest to make, but a little trickier to keep up in the air - unless you have done a very accurate construction job and there is a constant moderate breeze!)

So, I'll just list the pros and cons of the other kites...

2-Skewer Box Kite - PROs


  • Excellent wind range. It will stay up in everything from fairly light wind right up to quite strong gusty winds.

  • Even a fairly average-quality construction job should still result in a good stable kite!

  • Convenient size. This kite can easily be transported around in a car 'as is' - ready to fly.



2-Skewer Box Kite - CONs

  • Some gluing and quite a bit of skewer-cutting is required. So you can't make it and fly it on the same day - unless perhaps you are using some really quick-drying glue!



Dowel Box Kite - PROs

  • Impressive size, but you can still pack it down to a smaller size for carrying around.

  • Fairly tolerant of average workmanship. I'm not the greatest craftsman myself :-)

  • High performance in light to moderate winds. High line angles! It just looks great up there, 'nailed to the sky'.



Dowel Box Kite - CONs

  • You need to be careful not to fly this lightly-built box kite in strong wind. It will break!

  • It takes a while to make, with some cutting, gluing and filing of wooden dowel required.

  • It needs a lot more floor space to lay out during construction, compared to the skewer kite.



So - all in all - I would probably recommend the 2-Skewer Box kite for your school project. Try and pick skewers that seem straighter than the rest. The straighter the better! Take your time, do a good job, and your kite might even stay up there for 2 hours if the wind holds out...

Comments for Dowel Versus Skewer

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Jun 08, 2015
Delta shapes
by: Tim Parish

Mr Tan - the variations in wing shape you mention are known in aeronautical circles as 'aspect ratio'. A thinner, or 'high aspect ratio' wing is generally associated with higher efficiency (lift to drag ratio). With kites, this also tends to make them less stable. At small scales (like kites), however, the efficiency gains are minimal!

You could test various shapes to see what length of tail each shape requires to make it stable at a similar wind speed.

Jun 08, 2015
Delta triangle design
by: Mr. Tan

Hello, I am a science teacher who would like to use your simple Delta kite design as part of an Engineering Design project in class.

One important aspect of Engineering that we teach is the concept of redesign--making modifications to a prototype after testing it. I noticed that the simple Delta design consists of a single right isosceles triangle. Is there an advantage to this over using a wider or thinner triangle?

Looking forward to testing your designs.

Apr 16, 2012
Box Kites - Skewer vs Dowel
by: Tony Sangster

On principle, the bigger the kite the more stable it is and more forgiving of small errors in construction as far as balance and evenness.
The skewer version is easier for younger children to make but depends on better evenness and balance as discussed above.

10 year olds and up I would be aiming for the dowel version.

A word on safety - if you can, I would suggest your pupils wear eye protection goggles as bits of skewer or dowel can get into eyes - and try for lots of work space between individual students to try and prevent such accidents.

When flying the same principle of eye protection applies.

Happy (and safe) flying!

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I've been making and flying traditional-style
Box Kites on-and-off ever since this site was started...

Get the e-book for making a range of bamboo or dowel designs. Down to $7 from the usual $9.95, for this month.

With a large range of wind speeds covered, not to mention a large choice of kite size to attempt, the ideal box kite for you has to be in there somewhere!

My personal favorite would have to be the giant 2.4m (8ft) long Multi-Dowel Box which flies steep and steady. It's on the e-book cover over there...

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