How To Make A Delta Kite

Step-by-Step - The MBK Dowel Delta

This set of instructions on how to make a Delta kite assumes you know absolutely nothing about kite making. You might already have some of the simple tools and materials required. Anything you don't have is easily bought. If not exactly what I used, then at least something pretty similar!

Here's how to make a Delta kite - the MBK Dowel Delta.

These instructions might look quite detailed. However, your reward is an impressive but quite cheap kite that looks almost bird-like in the air. Watch other birds fly in for a closer look, at times!

This Delta is designed to fold down a slim cylindrical package like a Sled, thanks to the removable spreader. Setting up on the flying field takes just a couple of minutes.

Of course, if you have enough room in your car, you can always leave this kite ready-to-fly.

The MBK Dowel Delta is a tail-less design that is 0.8DL (96cm, 38 1/2") tall and has a wingspan of 2.0DL (240cm, 96"). Like traditional Deltas, this kite has a floating spreader which keeps the leading edge spars apart. This design is a very light to gentle wind flier.

The "Making Dowel Kites" e-book has this design and many others in hardwood dowel and plastic. Plus some giant 2.4m (8ft) bonus designs!

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, tablet or other device.


I have chosen to make '1 Dowel Length' equal to 120cm for every kite in the Dowel series. If you are in North America, 48" of 3/16" dowel is close enough to 120cm of 5mm dowel. This will result in a kite with similar flying characteristics to my original.




How To Make A Delta Kite
Cutting The Sail

Now's the time to read up on the kite making tools and materials required for making a Dowel Delta, if you haven't already.

The sail and keel templates for the Dowel Delta.

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

Note: Although it's based on 120cm meter dowels, the Delta design means the total wingspan is a lot more than that. Hence, two garden bags are required, one for the left side of the sail and one for the right.

Hint: To mark long lines with a short ruler, try the following...

  1. Run a piece of flying line along the entire length, and keep in place with a weighty object at each end.
  2. Pull a little line through, to ensure it is under tension hence perfectly straight.
  3. Mark dots under the line, at intervals slightly shorter than your ruler.
  4. Remove the line and weights.
  5. With ruler and pen, join the dots!
The Dowel Delta - half the sail marked out on plastic.
  • Firstly, take one large bag that you want to use for the sail, cut it down one side and along the bottom and lay it flat on the floor.
  • Mark dots on the plastic which correspond to the top, bottom and 'wing tip' corners of the Template. Leave a margin of several cm (or inches) between the center-line and the edge of the plastic.
  • Using the marking pen, rule those 3 long lines.
  • Starting from the 'wing tip', measure along the leading edge line, and draw in the tabs. The short lines can be done by eye, but just make sure the tabs are at least 5 dowel widths (diameters) wide.
  • The left side of the plastic might be a bit ragged. So, draw another black line next to the center line, all the way from top to bottom, about 2 cm (an inch or so) away from the center-line. Now draw short horizontal lines connecting to the top and bottom of the template, as in the photo.



The Dowel Delta - 2 wing halves brought together
  • Only half the sail has been outlined. Take another bag, cutting it and laying it flat over the top of the first bag. No measuring to do now, just trace over all the black lines, making sure nothing shifts as you do each line.
  • Using scissors, and doing one line at a time, cut along the long lines near the center-lines. All the way from top to bottom of the plastic sheets.
  • Flip the second plastic bag over and align the center-lines of both Template shapes. Tape down both joins with clear sticky tape, all the way from top to bottom. One join will be facing you, the other facing the floor. The center section is darker since it is where both sheets of plastic overlap.



When doing the following, most of the width of the tape should be inside the kite's outline. Use just 1 or 2 lengths of tape for each line. Hold it out straight, touch it down to the plastic at one end, then at the other end, dab it down in the middle, then press down all along its length.

The Dowel Delta - where to put the edge tape
  • Lay clear sticking tape along some of the edges, where indicated by the yellow rectangles. In a nut-shell, tape every edge except the long edges of the tabs.
  • With scissors, cut along all the black outline. This will leave most of the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline. See the photo.
  • Finally, wrap clear sticky tape around the double-thickness edges at the nose and tail ends of the sail.




How To Make A Delta Kite
Spars

For this Delta, you need long lengths of 5mm (3/16") wooden dowel. Enough for the 2 leading edge spars of 1.0DL (120cm, 48") and the vertical spar of 0.8DL (96cm, 38 1/2"). Plus the spreader which is less than 0.9DL (108cm, 43"). They are easily cut to the lengths required with a small cheap hack-saw. But don't do any cutting just yet...

The Dowel Delta - fitting a leading edge spar
  • Lay down a dowel over the center line of the sail plastic, mark it at the exact height of the sail, and cut off at the mark. Round off the tips with a wood file. This is the vertical spar.
  • Lay down some more dowel along one leading edge of the sail, and cut to length as in the photo up there.
  • Round the tips off with a wood file.
  • Mark the dowel where the 2 tabs meet. This is where the spreader crosses (later).
  • Do the same for the other leading edge of the kite, with another dowel. If the measurements don't match precisely compared with the first dowel at this point, all is not lost. The kite can still be trimmed to fly straight. More on that later...

TIP: Do your best to ensure the 2 leading edge spars are about the same stiffness. You can weigh them, or just flex them in your hands, to compare.




Now for the spreader, which holds the leading edges apart during flight.

The Dowel Delta - spreader tips
  • Lay some dowel across the sail, and cut to length so that the tips end up between the 2 leading edge tabs. Allow the tips to over-hang a little, using the photo over there as a guide.
  • Making sure the sail is fully stretched out, make marks on the spreader, 0.005DL (0.6cm, 1/4") in-board of where it crosses the leading edge spars. See the photo again.
  • Make a mark on the spreader where it crosses the center-line of the sail.
  • File a groove into the dowel, where you marked it at each end. Make it half the width of the dowel deep, and about the same amount in width. See the photo over there.
  • Round off the tips of the spreader with a wood file.
  • From another dowel, cut off a 0.35DL (42cm, 16 3/4") length, and make a mark at its center. Line up the center marks and bind the dowels together with 3 turns of sticky tape, at 5 spots along the spreader, as in the photo below. (The tape is hard to see, so I have added orange rectangles at the 5 spots.)
The Dowel Delta spreader.




How To Make A Delta Kite
Attachment Ties

Each leading edge spar will have a shoe-lace tie which attaches it to one end of the spreader.

Spreader attachment ties for the Dowel Delta kite.
  • Measure and cut off two 0.25DL (30cm, 12") lengths of shoe-lace. To prevent the cut ends from fraying, just tie a Simple Knot near the end.
  • Attach the ties at the spar-crossing points which you marked on the leading edge spars. A tight Granny Knot will do, leaving equal lengths of shoe-lace on either side of the knot.
  • Put some glue around the knot and onto the wood, as in the photo. Otherwise, the tie will slip rearwards when the kite flies.



For the following, you will need to use pieces of electrical insulation tape. Unless otherwise noted, make each one about 4 times longer than it is wide...

The Dowel Delta - nose taping detail
  • Spread out the sail, with the edge tape facing upwards.
  • Lay down the vertical spar over the sail, with the heavy end at the bottom. Cap the top tip of the spar with tape, by sticking tape down over the dowel and plastic then folding it around and under the plastic to stick on the other side - a bit tricky, take your time!
  • For added strength, put another piece of tape around the leading edge. See the completed cap in the top photo.
  • Now do the bottom tip of the spar similarly, but just use 1 piece of tape.
  • Put the leading edge spars in place and then tape down the sail tabs with clear sticky tape, forming those sleeves. After the first 1 or 2 test flights, you might need to remove one leading edge spar to reduce its diameter a little with a wood file! More on this later...
  • Fold a piece of tape around the lower tip of each leading edge spar, capping the spar so it can't slide out. Try to ensure there is very little of the dowel actually touching the tape, in case you need to remove the spar later. Then fold another piece of tape around the leading edge for added strength. See the middle photo.
  • Place a square piece of tape over the upper tip of each leading edge spar. See the bottom photo. After the kite is flying perfectly, you can make these a little more secure by using more tape, if you want to.




How To Make A Delta Kite
Keel

Try this Stake Line Winder from Amazon, if you are not sure where to get suitable flying line. The 50 pound strength is ideal for these Dowel Series kites.

It's possible to make a Delta kite without a keel, but this one flies very well as designed. Besides, if you make the keel from plastic in a contrasting color, black for example, it can really add to the kite's looks in the air.

The Dowel Delta kite keel - 1.
  • Mark out the keel shape on some spare plastic, as per the dimensions on the template.
  • Cut out the keel and tape down 3 lengths of flying line onto one side. Each line goes from the towing point to one of the 3 attachment points. Use sticky tape, not electrical tape. Allow the lines to extend about 0.12DL (15cm, 6") past the plastic at each end, as in the photo.
The Dowel Delta kite keel - 21.
  • Now flip the plastic over and tape down another 3 lengths of flying line, directly over the first 3.
  • Reinforce the keel corners by sticking down and wrapping extra bits of tape where the pieces of line come out, making sure the plastic remains flat.
  • Where 2 pieces of line come together, tie them both into a Multi-Strand Simple Knot close to the plastic. These 3 knots will sit against the vertical spar. See the next photo, which shows the middle attachment point knot.
The Dowel Delta kite keel - 31.
  • The 6 pieces of line come together at the Towing Point. Tie the 6 strands into a Multi-Strand Simple Knot close to the plastic, then tie another Multi-Strand Simple Knot further out, as in the third photo. I've also trimmed the free ends to neaten it up. There's the completed keel, below...

The Dowel Delta kite keel - complete.



The Dowel Delta kite keel - taping to sail.
  • Using a pen or pencil, poke a hole in the plastic sail exactly 0.36DL (43.2cm, 17 1/4") from the nose of the kite. Right over the vertical spar.
  • Thread the middle keel lines through the hole and tie off tightly. A Granny Knot will do.
  • Poke holes in the plastic for the upper and lower keel lines too, using the keel itself to find the exact spot along the vertical spar. Thread the lines through and tie off tightly, as you did for the middle hole.
  • With the keel flat against the plastic sail, add sticky tape between the knots, attaching the keel to the sail plastic. See the photo over there, where I have added a yellow rectangle to show where the tape is.
  • Flip the keel over and do the other side.
The Dowel Delta kite keel - knotted to vertical spar.

Also see the next photo, where the whole sail has been flipped over. The keel can be seen through the sail plastic, and also visible are the upper 2 knots tied off against the vertical spar.

At this point, you've pretty much finished making the Dowel Delta! However, there is a short setup procedure to go through before it will fly...





How To Make A Delta Kite
Attaching The Spreader

The Dowel Delta kite - plan view.keel - 1.
  1. Spread out the kite, with the keel touching the ground.
  2. Locate one tip of the spreader over its leading edge spar, wind each end of the shoe-lace around the spreader dowel, twice then tie the shoe-lace firmly with a simple bow.
  3. Similarly, locate the other spreader tip and tie off.

Note: You might be tempted to wind the shoe-lace around both dowels. That is, where the leading edge and the spreader cross. Don't do this, as the knot will loosen much more easily in flight!





How To Make A Delta Kite
First Pre-Flight

Flying line attachment to keel.

Make up a flying line and attach it to the keel's towing point with a Lark's Head Knot. See the photo over there, where the Lark's Head has been left loose.

Check the keel knots on the vertical spar. Re-tighten if necessary. Also put a generous drop of wood glue on each so they can never come loose, nor slide along the vertical spar.

You won't have to wait the full drying time for this glue to dry, since the amounts are small.





How To Make A Delta Kite
Flying!

The MBK Dowel Delta kite in flight.

Firstly, if it's very windy outside, stay home! This is a light-wind kite and won't like being launched in a gale or even a fairly fresh breeze. If the wind is way too strong, this Delta will become unstable, and you could even snap one of the dowels.

Out In The Field

My collection of real-life Delta 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 taking loop after loop off the winder. Be cautious about letting line slip through your fingers. If you let it slip too quickly, say in a moderate breeze, the line could burn you!

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

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

The e-book instructions for this kite include even more handy hints which will ensure you get the most success possible when flying this particular design.




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...

"Kirby" the Delta Kite 
I used a plain, pink, plastic table cloth as the material, with the recommended dowel rods. A few of my friends and I cut and trimmed the table cloth and …

A Dowel-Delta-Kite Success Story! 
After several years of searching for a kite that is capable of flying on even the lightest of breezes, I have finally found it! The MBK Dowel Delta was …

Scaled Down Dowel Delta Experiment 
Since the local hardware barn had 6mm and 4mm hardwood dowels, but not 5mm, I decided to adopt a two-pronged approach. The plan is to build two delta kites …

MBK Delta Kite Returns 
The March 11 earthquake was a very stressful experience. I work on the 14th floor of a tall building right next to Tokyo station, and at some point I was …

MBK Delta Kite - The Last Flight  
Following up on my first MBK Delta Kite story with the last flight of this valiant kite. Unable to find sufficiently long 5mm dowels, I resorted to …

My First MBK Delta experience 
I just wanted to let you know about my experience flying my very own and first MBK Delta (earlier today, February 13, 2011). I constructed mine using 4mm …

Click here to write your own.

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