Kite Paper

What's Best For Making Kites?

Kite paper can be just about any kind of paper, but making kites fly really well requires more than just ordinary writing paper. The main properties required are strength and light weight. Gift wrap's not bad. Having said that, I'm going to touch on the whole variety of paper used in modern kite-making.

Kite paper can be colored light tissue, as used in these Taiwanese kites.

Modern paper kites cover the whole range, from super-quick designs that barely fly, through to carefully crafted traditional kites that shoot up high on the barest puff of wind.

In the photo over there is a long stack of traditional Taiwanese kites we saw at the Adelaide Kite Festival one year. Tissue paper and bamboo construction, all attached to a single flying line.

Many years ago, the very first kite I ever bought from a shop was an Indian design. Made from colored tissue and bamboo, it was an exceptionally good flier over a wide range of wind strengths!


Gift wrap tissue from Amazon is a convenient way of getting a wide selection of colored or decorated paper sail material for kites.


So, in general, what kinds of kites are made with paper sails anyway?

A few moments with my thinking cap on resulted in 3 very broad categories, to answer that question.

One category is covered in each of the sections below...





Western Kid's Kites

Going back to at least the middle of the 1900s, kites for children were available in shops. The bulk of these used paper for sail material. Although shop-bought kites now use mainly plastic or nylon, kite-making workshops for kids still often feature paper or tissue for sails.

The simple Diamond is a common choice, since it is so easy to make and is such a reliable flier. The longer the tail, the more reliable :-) Rokkakus are often made of paper too. Another choice for the more artistically minded are Butterfly kites, which tend to be pale imitations of the real flying art-work from China...

The kite paper...

Here, the range of options is pretty wide. For a kite with a frame, such as a Diamond or Rok, almost anything works to a degree. As long as it is not so porous that it lets air through! A perimeter line goes around the tips of the spars, and the paper or tissue is made slightly over-size. Hence, the sail can be folded over and pasted down around the edges to help keep it flat and resist tearing.

Let's see, bearing in mind lightness and porosity, you could try...

  • Gift wrap, such as this Light Orange Bulk Tissue Paper from Amazon.
  • Gift wrapping paper
  • Rice paper
  • Origami paper
  • Writing paper
  • Newspaper! (the poor man's sail material)

Not to mention a host of other materials that are not wood products, such as Mylar and Cellophane.





Minimum Kites

Not sure if there is such a term really, but it seemed appropriate enough. Some kite designs these days are meant for absolute minimum everything. Minimum...

The MBK Paper Sled in flight
  • Complexity
  • Construction time
  • Materials cost
  • Kite-maker ability!

Not surprisingly, this approach tends to result in .... minimum performance too, but that doesn't stop loads of people enjoying the thrill of making something themselves and then seeing it fly! Long tails are often required to keep the kites stable, and they won't fly at all in light winds since the paper and tape can be rather heavy. Of course, kids can always tow them around to make them fly.

The majority of these kites probably fall into 2 categories - Sleds and Paper Planes. Yes, one of the most well known of these does look somewhat like a paper plane, except that a bamboo skewer or straw is taped across it to function as a horizontal spar. Due to the small size of these designs, most of them can be flown on cotton sewing thread lines.

The kite paper...

What's the most commonly available kind of paper on the planet? A4 or Letter sized sheets of course, as commonly used for photo-copying. These are too heavy for great performance, but can be coaxed to fly as proven by the kite designs already mentioned. In fact, the picture up there is our Paper Sled design. Crafted from a single sheet of A4, and precious little else!

Any reasonably thin and stiff types of paper could be tried, and should work to a degree. For example wrapping paper, which could have some great patterns pre-printed on it. However, flimsy tissue or crepe paper won't work at all since it can't stay flat without a lot of help.





Traditional Kites

Although kite-making tradition goes back 100s or even 1000s of years in various locations, modern kite makers in Asia are still churning out large volumes of paper kites which are very faithful to ancient traditions. Often, the kite paper and techniques used are virtually unchanged.

A Taiwanese leaf kite

China, India and Japan have kite-making entwined through their cultures.

The major sail material for traditional-style kites is paper or tissue.

As you can see in the photo over there, of a Taiwanese leaf kite. A pretty good representation of a leaf don't you think?

Most of these kites are superb fliers. I will never forget my Indian kite which I bought as a teenager. It was my first experience of a high-performance single-liner.

The kite paper...

Apparently, the art of hand-making extremely strong but light kite paper originated in China before finding its way to Japan. In Japan, this 'Washi' paper is often created from the bark of mulberry trees. The final product is laminated from thin layers of fiber, one on top of another. It's the long length of the fibers which gives the extra strength. Commercially made paper created from wood-pulp just can't compare!

Indian fighter kites are traditionally made from tissue paper and bamboo strips, although modern versions often use such materials as Mylar or plastic sheet as well. Modern re-creations of these kites work adequately with tissue sheets from newsagents or gift shops. As long as the tissue has relatively low thickness, weight and stretch, it is fine. However, the Indian makers of the best fighters have their own special sources for tissue paper.






Have fun experimenting with all kinds of kite paper! I might try a big newspaper kite myself one day, I'm curious...

 

You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...

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!

So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.

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:
    Sea-sick Barn Door Kite

    Jul 28, 14 05:06 AM

    This was an experiment with mounting a camera directly onto the kite. With winds gusting to over 30kph up high, the Fresh Wind Barn Door kite was selected...

    In a word, it was tricky. I mounted the camera as close as possible to the center of gravity of the kite, but it still ended up quite a few cm closer to the trailing edge than I would have liked. It was only practical to mount he camera - on its bendy tripod (!) - near the diagonal spars crossing point. Electrical tape secured 2 short tripod legs to the diagonal spars, holding the camera upright with the kite sitting on its trailing edge.

    It was a struggle to get enough lift to gain much height, and the kite swung dangerously from side to side. Might try the drogues next time! I did my best to urge the kite higher in mid-swing.

    Eventually, for a few seconds, the kite got to around 100 feet on almost 200 feet of 200 pound Dacron.

    A video clip will of course be forthcoming on Facebook. And only seasoned kite fliers will bother watching it all the whole way through, possibly wrestling with sea-sickness all the while. Hence the title of this post. Still, it was an interesting, if slightly nerve-wracking, outing! At shoulder level, the breeze measured around 9kph gusting to 18.5kph. Some low cloud over the hills was absolutely tearing along, perhaps up around 40kph.

    Huge Homemade Kites And Aerial Photography: This is often the topic for posts which appear here. New things are always being tried so sign up for my newsletter to stay right up to date with the latest developments!

    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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