How To Build A Roller Kite

Step-by-Step - 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

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 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.

How To Build A Roller Kite

Try this Kite Winder from Amazon, if you are not sure where to get suitable flying line. The 20 pound strength is ample for all the Skewer Series kites.
The 2-Skewer Roller - the keel

In this photo, pieces of clear sticky tape are indicated by yellow rectangles.

  • Mark out a triangle on some spare sail plastic, as per the dimensions on the template.
  • Cut off 4 pieces of flying line, each about 1.25SL (36cm, 14") long.
  • Cut out the triangle and tape down 2 lengths of flying line onto one side, as visible in the photo.
  • Now flip the plastic over and tape down another 2 lengths of flying line, directly over the first 2.
  • Also lay down tape along the remaining edge of the keel, on both sides of the plastic.
  • Reinforce the keel by sticking down and wrapping extra bits of tape where the pieces of line come out, making sure the plastic remains flat.
  • Where the 4 pieces of line come together, tie a Multi-Strand Simple Knot close to the plastic, then tie another one further out, as in the photo.
  • Also tie Simple Knots close to the plastic at the other 2 corners.

How To Build A Roller Kite
Sail Tethering

The 2-Skewer Roller - upper sail tethering

At this point you need to make sure the glue is dry on the frame. If it is...

  • Lay down the kite with the bamboo on top, and cut 2 short lengths of flying line. About 0.75SL (22cm, 9") each.
  • First, tape the lines to the lower sail near the tips - over the bamboo, around the sail edge and then back towards the bamboo. As shown by the yellow rectangle in the photo.
  • Lay the lines across the upper sail and tape them down with just a small piece of tape near the sail corner.
  • Carefully pull each line through the tape until there is no slack - as in the photo.

During test flying, it might be necessary to slacken off one of these lines to get the kite to fly straight. Once you are happy with the trim, you should add more tape to make sure the line never slips during flight. It should still be possible to pull a little line through by hand though.

How To Build A Roller Kite

The 2-Skewer Roller - attaching the keel

Firstly, attach the keel...

  • Poke 2 holes in the lower sail, near the lower horizontal spar, where indicated by the black dots near the top of the photo.
  • Take the keel and poke the upper 2 lines through the holes near the horizontal spar. Then pull tight against the knot, and tie them off around the bamboo using a Granny Knot.
  • Now poke the bottom 2 holes in the plastic, using the keel to find the exact spots for the holes.
  • Thread the lines, pull tight against the knots, and tie them off tightly around the bamboo, using a Granny Knot.

These knots must never come loose, so use tiny drops of glue to keep them secure.

The 2-Skewer Roller - the bridle line

Next, attach the bridle...

  • Lay the kite down with the keel on top, then cut a length of flying line, about 5.0SL (145cm, 58") long.
  • Tie a small Loop Knot into each end of the line.
  • Poke 2 holes in the upper sail where indicated by black dots in the photo.
  • Attach one end to the vertical spar through the 2 holes in the upper sail. Use a Double Wrap Slip Knot and pull tight. Then secure with a tiny dob of glue.
  • Attach the other end to the keel using a Larks Head Knot, and pull tight against the keel's big knot.

Finally, take a length of flying line about 0.5SL (15cm, 6") long, and tie one end to the bridle line with a shiftable knot such as the Prusik. Tie a small Loop Knot into the other end.

At this point, you've pretty much finished making the 2-Skewer Roller!

How To Build A Roller Kite
Prepare To Fly

Attaching the flying line to the brtidle.

Finally, make up a flying line and attach it to the bridle with a Lark's Head Knot. See the photo above.

As a final check, lift the kite by the knot on the end of the bridle line. Shift the Prusik knot along the bridle line until the kite hangs at about a 30 degree angle from the horizontal.

Also lift the kite with a finger under the nose and a finger under the tail, balancing it on the vertical spar. Try this a few times, and if it's clear that one side of the kite is heavier, add small bits of electrical tape to the spar caps on the lighter side, to balance it up.

How To Build A Roller Kite

How to build a Roller kite - launching

The above picture is of the MBK 2-Skewer Roller Kite being launched, down at a local flying field.The vertical spar had a slight bend in it, can you tell? It was fixed later, and the kite flew much better.

Out In The Field

My collection of real-life Roller kite stories is worth checking out!

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

Assuming there is some breeze outside, just dangle the kite at arm's length until the wind catches it. As long as you feel the kite pulling, let out line slowly by letting it slip through your fingers. If it refuses to climb despite pulling on your hand, shift the Prusik knot towards the nose a bit, and try again. Keep going until the kite behaves itself!

Another approach is to get a helper to hold the kite up and let it go, with maybe 10 or 20 meters of line let out. This way, the kite soon gets high enough to make it easy to let more line out.

Finally, if the kite doesn't seem stable enough, looping around in both directions even in light wind, just add a simple short tail and try again. However, if you have put the correct dihedral in both spars, this should not be necessary!

If the kite flies ok, but tends to hang to the left or right, try pulling some tether line through, on the opposite side of the main sail. For example, if the kite always seems to want to loop to the left when gusts hit it, pull some line through on the right side, as viewed from the flier. Make very small adjustments until the kite flies noticeably better.

Have fun flying, and I hope you've enjoyed learning how to build a Roller kite!

Now, just in case you have actually made and flown this kite at least once already...

Ever Made This Kite?

You've probably read a kite-flying story or 2 of mine, after they appear under the "what's new?" link on this site. I sometimes wonder if anyone else has made and flown this particular design...

If you feel your efforts really paid off when the the kite finally got airborne - please type a few paragraphs in here telling us all about it!

P.S. I can only accept stories of at least 300 words. Just mention a few details like the weather, onlookers, the kite's behavior and so on - 300 words is easy!

Please Enter A Title

Flight Reports From Other Visitors

Click below to read about various kite-flying adventures, contributed by other visitors to this page...

The MBK Roller 
No real story to tell... Grand-kids and I had a lot of fun building this Roller. The next one they're on their own while I do the watching. They picked …

Click here to write your own.

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For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!

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And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Super Light And Variable In Victoria Park

    Sep 21, 14 09:44 PM

    Victoria Park adjacent to the Adelaide CBD in South Australia, that is. This large grassed area which forms part of the eastern parklands of the city is used for various events from time to time. Including, in the past, major horse racing and a section of a Formula 1 Grand Prix track.

    An invite had gone out to various kite enthusiasts to meet and fly, since the weather looked good. We arrived after lunch, only to discover very light winds. A lone R/C flier was enjoying the easy conditions with his 3-channel electric trainer. Like a tiny Cessna, if you're not familiar with model aircraft.

    For a while it seemed we were alone, before spotting a power kite in the distance, making brief forays into the air. Victoria Park is rather large!

    It actually turned out to be quite an enjoyable outing, with the 2.4m (8ft) Multi-Dowel Barn Door kite just scraping into the air. But then, thermals were everywhere. It wasn't long before the large pale blue kite went right overhead! At other times, I simply toyed with the Barn Door, floating it way out on a long line then pulling it up to over 200 feet.

    Another RC flier was now having success launching his glider, finding thermals, and gaining height in them.

    We were eventually joined by two other AKFA members including the President. A couple of ripstop-and-carbon light-wind kites went up, with plenty of success. By now the breeze had come across the park from just about every point of the compass. Variable indeed!

    In the distance, someone had been lofting a large but light-wind parafoil. It was interesting to see it sink out as an utter 'bag of washing' during a dead calm spell! Someone else had some success with a small blue Delta for a while.

    All up, a worthwhile day IF you were flying lightly-loaded kites! No luck for Mike with his power kite and skateboard...

    About This Post: These days, most flight reports are in the short format you've just seen, above. Usually, photos and/or video from the day are posted a few days later on the MBK Facebook Page. However, longer format reports are done occasionally, which also feature photos and video taken on the day. Here is a link to all those full flight report pages on this site.

    Read More

New! 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...

Apologies for this site's current lack of video when viewed on mobile devices...

For now, please view this site on a Desktop or Laptop computer to see the videos. And there's plenty of them!


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