How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
Step-by-Step - The MBK Dowel Rokkaku
This set of instructions on how to make a Rokkaku 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
MBK Dowel Rokkaku is a large tail-less design based on the traditional
Japanese kite. Like the other Japanese design in this series, the Sode,
this kite is a light to moderate wind flier. The video further down this
page shows it floating in a light breeze just before sun-set.
This Rokkaku is designed to roll up into a
slim cylindrical package like a Sled, thanks to the removable vertical
spar and the toggle-linked bow lines. Setting up on the flying field
takes less than 2 minutes once you get the hang of it.
Of course, if you have room, you can always leave this kite ready-to-fly.
If it's not convenient to use these instructions straight off the screen, have a look at the e-book up there on the right. That's the way to get nicely formatted print-outs.
If it's not convenient to use these instructions straight off the screen...
The e-book for this kite is the way to get nicely formatted print-outs.
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 Rokkaku Kite - Sail
Now's the time to read up on the kite making tools and materials required for making a Dowel Rokkaku, if you haven't already. For this kite, you will also need some cheap thin shoe-laces.
The template shown above represents one side of the kite sail. You will now transfer these measurements to the sail plastic as follows...
Note: In order to fit the length of an 80 liter garden bag, I
made this design shorter than a traditional 4:5:6 Rok of the same
wing-span. You see, I'm trying to standardize on a 1.2 meter wingspan
for all the Dowel kites!
- Firstly, take a large bag that you want to use for the sail, and lay it flat on the floor.
dots on the plastic which correspond to the corners of the Template.
There is no need to use a T-square, or an extra-long ruler since any
small errors in position will be duplicated on the other side of the
- Using the marking pen, rule lines between the dots, as in
the photo. For lines longer than the ruler, just add a few extra dots
using one of the dowel spars as a ruler! Then it's easy to connect the
dots with a ruler. It's probably best not to rule the whole line with the dowel, since it bends easily.
- Flip the plastic bag over, and trace over all the black lines using your marker pen and ruler.
out a rectangular section of the bag containing the kite sail, open it
out and lay it flat on the floor - you can now see the complete sail outline, as in the photo.
When doing the following, most of the width of the tape should be inside
the kite's outline. Use a single length 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.
- Lay clear sticking tape along all the lines, letting it overlap at the corners.
- With scissors, cut along all the black lines. This will leave most of the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline. See the top photo
- Add a corner strap to the top corner of the sail. This strap, with a length of 0.25DL (30cm, 12"), is much longer than in the examples. See the middle photo.
- The bottom corner of the sail requires a pocket. The dimensions don't have to be exact, so just copy what you see in the bottom photo. First you cut out a triangular pocket from some spare sail plastic, and lay it down on the sail corner.
- Next, cut off enough insulation tape to cover the bottom edges of the pocket and fold around and under the sail plastic.
cut a square piece of insulation tape and fold it right over the point
of the corner. This will prevent the spar from poking through there.
another piece of tape across the top edge of the pocket, and fold under
the sail where necessary. The corner should now look like the photo.
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Spars
For this Rokkaku, you need long lengths of 5mm (3/16") wooden dowel.
Enough for the 3 spars of 1.0DL (120cm, 48") each. They are easily cut
to the lengths required with a small cheap hack-saw.
- Lay down a dowel over the center crease 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.
- Cut off 2 very short 0.01DL (1.2cm, 1/2") lengths of dowel. Round off the tips with a wood file. These will be used as the bow-line toggles. You can use thinner dowel for these if you have some lying around. I use 4mm dowel for toggles.
- Lay down some more dowel across the width
of the sail, mark it at the exact width, and cut off at the mark. Also
make an easily-seen mark around the dowel where it touches the center
crease of the sail.
- Round off the tips with a wood file, then add a bow-line
so the depth of the bow is 0.06DL (7.2cm, 3"). With the kite flat on
the ground, that's how far the tips should be from the grass. This is
the upper horizontal spar.
- While the glue is drying on
the knots, do those previous 2 steps again to create a 3rd spar.
However, the depth of the bow this time should be 0.1DL (12cm, 4 3/4").
Now you have made the lower horizontal spar. The photo shows both spars with bow-lines attached. See how the upper horizontal spar has less bow.
You might find it handy to make a mark both horizontal spars to quickly
tell them apart, when they are lying straight. For example, a 'U' on
the upper spar and an 'L' on the lower spar.
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Attachment Ties
The vertical spar will have 2 shoe-lace ties attached to it, which will
be used to lash it to the horizontal spars before flying.
- Firstly lay down the vertical spar, then the 2 horizontal spars
over the sail. Carefully line up the tips of the horizontal spars with
the sail corners.
- Make marks on the vertical spar, showing where the horizontal spars cross. Then remove all the horizontal spars.
- Measure and cut off two 0.16DL (19cm, 8") lengths of shoe-lace. To prevent the cut ends from fraying, just tie a Simple Knot near the end.
and cut off a length of insulation tape that is long enough to go all
the way around the dowel, plus a little more. Cut it in half, in the length-wise direction, so its width is halved. Now you have 2 pieces, one for each tie.
the ties at the spar-crossing points which you marked on the vertical
spar. Each red tape wraps around the dowel, attaching the middle of the
shoe-lace to the dowel, as in the photo.
- Prepare 8 lengths of electrical insulation tape, each
one about 4 times longer than it is wide. Stick them by a corner onto
something handy like a table edge. You can remove them one at a time as
- Spread out the sail, with the edge tape facing upwards.
down the upper horizontal spar over the sail, so it would bow away from
the sail if you attached the toggle. With the toggle unattached, line
up the tips of the spar with the upper corners of the sail.
one 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. The part of the first
tape that was sticking out is now folded back under the leading edge by
the second piece of tape. See the completed cap in the photo.
- Now do the other tip of the spar similarly, using 2 more pieces of tape.
- Finally, attach the lower horizontal spar to the sail in the same way, using the last 4 pieces of tape.
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Bridle
- Cut off some 50 pound flying line to a length of 1.0DL (120cm, 48"), and tie a very small Loop Knot into each end.
holes in the plastic, on either side of the upper horizontal spar. Four
holes altogether, 0.2DL (24cm, 9 1/2") from the vertical spar, as
indicated by the 4 black dots in the photo. Actually, try 0.25DL (30cm, 12") instead, for less spar-bending in stronger winds!
- Tie each end of the line to the spar, through the holes. Use a Slip Knot, and pull tight against the knot of the small loop. This is the upper bridle loop.
- Now move down to the lower horizontal spar. In exactly the same way, add the lower bridle loop.
off some flying line to a length of 1.5DL (180cm, 72"), attach one end
to the upper bridle loop and the other end to the lower bridle loop. Use
a shiftable knot such as the Prusik Knot, and adjust them both to center. Let's just call this the bridle line.
Finally, take a length of flying line about 0.2DL (24cm, 10") long, and tie one end to the bridle line with a Prusik Knot. Tie a small Double Loop Knot into the other end, just to get a large knot. There's a photo of this further down, in the section titled First Pre-Flight.
this point, you've pretty much finished making the Dowel Rokkaku!
However, there is a short Setup procedure to go through before it will
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Setting Up
- Spread out the plastic sail on the ground, with the horizontal spars on top.
the bottom tip of the vertical spar under the upper spar, then under
the lower spar then into its pocket at the bottom corner of the sail.
- Fasten the vertical spar to the horizontal spars with the shoe-lace ties, as if you were doing up your own shoe.
the top tip of the vertical spar in the top corner strap, pull just a
little tension into the sail, feed the strap around the middle of the
upper horizontal spar a couple of times then tie off with a half-hitch
or bow. See the photo, where I have offset the corner strap a little,
just to make it clear to see.
- Finally, attach the bow lines of the horizontal spars.
That was fairly simple wasn't it!
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Breaking Down
I don't mean breaking down in grief because your flying session has come
to an end - I mean getting the kite packed up ready for transport or
- Lay the kite on the ground with the spars on top, and flying line removed.
- Un-attach the bow lines of the horizontal spars.
and loosen the top corner strap. Or you can experiment with leaving it
in place and just slipping the dowel out sideways. That's quicker!
- Undo both shoe-lace ties, then remove the vertical spar.
- Place the vertical spar between the horizontal spars, parallel to them, and roll up the kite from bottom to top.
wrap the remaining bridle line around the kite a few times to prevent
it unrolling. There it is in the photo, taking up no more space than a
Sled kite. The Rokkaku doesn't look so big now does it!
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - First Pre-Flight
Make up a flying line and attach it to the bridle with a Lark's Head Knot. See the photo over there, where the Lark's Head has been left loose.
the kite from the knot at the end of the bridle. Shift the Prusik Knot
along the bridle line until the kite hangs at around a 30 degree angle
from the horizontal. To lock the Prusik in place, take the 2 bridle
lines in one hand, the flying line in the other, and pull tight. To
unlock it, you just pull the bridle line straight, with the knot in the
Check the bridle slip knots on the horizontal spars.
Re-tighten if necessary, and put a small drop of wood glue on each so
they can never come loose. You won't have to wait the full drying time
for this glue to dry, since the amounts are small.
How To Make A Rokkaku Kite - Flying!
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 too strong, it will deform badly and
refuse to fly properly.
The Prusik Knot on the bridle line can loosen off a little over time.
If necessary, pull on all the lines to tighten the knot up before a
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 a big gust hits the kite, the line could burn you! For any
kite this big or bigger, it's a good idea to wear a glove of some sort.
Another approach is to get a helper to hold the kite up and let
it go, on the end of 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 Rokkaku kite!
The "Making Dowel Kites" e-book
has this design and many others in hardwood dowel 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 other
That's great value already, but "The Big MBK Book Bundle" is even better! This includes the "Making Skewer Kites" compilation e-book, plus several other handy kiting e-books.
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!
Flight Reports From Other Visitors
Click below to read about various kite-flying adventures, contributed by other visitors to this page...
Return to How To Make A Kite from How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
All the way back to Home Page