How To Build A Roller Kite

Step-by-Step - Page 1 of 3

The MBK 2-Skewer Roller

This set of instructions on how to build a Roller kite assumes you know absolutely nothing about kite making. You might already have some of the simple tools and materials required.

Learn how to build a Roller kite from bamboo skewers and plastic!

Anything you don't have is easily bought. If not exactly what I used, then at least something pretty similar!

The MBK 2-Skewer Roller Kite is a medium-sized Roller 58cm (23") across and 58 cm tall. That makes it somewhat smaller than the the original design that was flown in Europe many decades ago.

Some 'dihedral' on the upper spar gives extra stability. Somewhat more dihedral on the lower spar plus a rear keel enable the Roller to fly without a tail.

This 2-Skewer Roller is a reliable light wind flier.

Take it out when it's not very windy, and you won't be disappointed.

The "Making Skewer Kites" e-book has this design and many others in bamboo skewers and plastic.

A handy approach is to just print out the pages for the kite you want to make next. The e-book is also handy for working off-line on a laptop or tablet.




How To Build A Roller Kite
Frame

Have you read the page on kite materials? If you haven't already, do it now to see what's needed for building a Roller kite.

The 2-Skewer Roller - spars.

For this Roller, you need to glue skewers together to form the 3 spars. Since this kite has plenty of sail area for its width, there is no need to worry about selecting the lightest skewers! In fact, stiffer and heavier skewers would be good for the vertical spar. As for any kite, it's best to try and match the left and right horizontal spars as well. Having said all that, just using any old skewers at random should not present any real problems. The wind range of the kite might not be as good as it could be, that's all.

  • Snip the points off 6 skewers, then check to see that they are all exactly the same length - measure it, this is '1 skewer length'.
  • From another skewer, snip off 5 lengths of bamboo, each 0.1SL (3cm, 1") long. These are the short reinforcers you can see in the photo.
  • Arrange the 3 pairs of skewers as in the photo, with some paper underneath to catch excess glue.
  • Prop up each end of the second pair of skewers to 0.1SL (3cm, 1") above the table, to give them 'dihedral'.
  • Prop up each end of the third pair of skewers to 0.2SL (6cm, 2") above the table, to give them even more 'dihedral'.
  • Get down to table top height and look along the spars, and make sure they are as straight as possible.
  • Lay down a thick line of glue all the way down each join, as in the photo.




How To Build A Roller Kite
Sail

Sail template for the MBK 2-Skewer Roller kite.

The template shown above represents one side of the kite sail. You will now transfer these measurements to the sail plastic as follows...

The 2-Skewer Roller - template shape marked on plastic.
  • Firstly, take the large bag that you will be using for the sail, and lay it flat on the table.
  • Make sure the spars are dry, then lay the vertical spar on the edge of the bag and mark the position of the nose and tail of the kite.
  • With a ruler, measure and mark all the other points as in the photo on the left. Do the sail 'wing-tips' last, laying down the horizontal spars to mark a dot at each spar end.
  • Remove the spars then use the marking pen to rule lines between the dots. See the photo on the right.

Note: Arranging the spars on the plastic by eye is quite accurate enough, as long as you take some care. Since both sides of the sail will be identical, any small error in judging the 90 degree angle has almost no effect. I have made the dots big just so they show up easily in the photo.




The 2-Skewer Roller - complete sail outline on plastic.
  • Flip the plastic bag over, and trace over all the black lines using your marker pen and ruler.
  • Cut out a rectangular section of the bag containing the kite sail, open it out and lay it flat on the table. You can now see the complete sail outline, as in the photo.



The 2-Skewer Roller - sail cut out and edged with sticky tape
  • Lay clear sticking tape along all the lines except the trailing edge of the upper sail and the leading edge of the lower sail. Each taped line should show through the center of the tape.
  • With scissors, cut along the all the black lines. This will leave half the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline.

Note 1: I pull off the length of tape required, plus a bit extra on each end, then lay it down in one motion, pressing to the plastic at both ends at once - then I smooth along the tape with a finger, making sure it is stuck down firmly along its entire length.

Note 2: Don't worry about overlapping lengths of tape at the corners, it will all look tidier after the cutting is done.




The 2-Skewer Roller - spars taped onto sail.
  • Place the long vertical spar over the plastic, with the edge tape facing up.
  • Cap the ends of the spar with electrical tape, as in the photo, by sticking it down over the bamboo and plastic then folding it under the plastic to stick on the other side. It's a bit tricky, take your time!
  • Next, lay down the 2 horizontal spars and cap each end with electrical tape. Pull the slack out of the plastic, but don't pull it really tight.
  • Finally, add extra pieces of tape. See the 5 pieces of yellow tape in the photo.
  • Secure the upper horizontal spar to the vertical spar by running lines of glue above and below where the spars cross, as in the photo
  • Secure the lower horizontal spar to the vertical spar with a drop of glue above and below where the spars cross, as in the photo.


Continue to page 2

 

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