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.

Make a Rokkaku kite like this Dowel Rok.

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

The MBK Dowel Rokkaku is a fairly large tail-less design based on the traditional Japanese kite. However, it will still fit into nearly all road vehicles, ready to fly. Either just in front of the rear seat, or flat in the trunk (boot).

Like the other Japanese design in this series, the Sode, this kite is a light to moderate wind flier.

Setting up on the flying field is just a matter of attaching the bow-line toggles to put some curvature into both the horizontal spars. Then the flying line is attached to the bridle. At this point you are ready to launch! The method of attachment is illustrated further down this page.

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 Rokkaku Kite
Cutting the 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.

Sail template for the Dowel Rokkaku 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 Dowel Rokkaku - template shape marked on plastic bag.

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.
  • Mark 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 sail.
  • 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.




The Dowel Rokkaku - complete sail shape marked out.
  • 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 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.

The Dowel Rokkaku - sail cut out and edged with sticky tape.
  • 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 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.

The Dowel Rokkaku - bowedspars.
  • 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.
  • 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.




How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
Spar Caps

Prepare 10 lengths of electrical insulation tape, each one about four 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 needed.

The Dowel Rokkaku - close-up of tip cap tape
  • Spread out the sail, with the edge tape facing upwards.
  • Lay 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.
  • Cap 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 two more pieces of tape.
  • Similarly, attach the lower horizontal spar to the sail, using another four pieces of tape.
  • Finally, slip the vertical spar between the horizontal spars and the sail plastic. Cap the top and bottom tips of the dowel with the remaining two pieces of tape, attaching them to the sail.




How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
Lashing The Spars

The Dowel Rokkaku - shoe-lace tie on vetical spar.

At both crossing points, lash and glue the spars together, using a short length of flying line. Fix each knot with a drop of glue so it can never come undone.






How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
Bridle

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.

All the construction details for the bridle are contained in the large photo below. Look and read carefully, and you can't go wrong on this rather important bit!

KNOTS:

If you are new to this, you might need instructions on how to tie the following knots...

Loop Knot
Double Wrap Slip Knot
Prusik Knot

TIP: Secure the slip knots onto the dowels with enough wood glue to ensure the knots can never slip along the dowel. They won't loosen either.

The Dowel Rokkaku - bridle

ADJUSTMENT:

Once your kite + bridle looks like the photo up there...

Hold the short bridle line up so all the bridle lines are straight, with the kite laying flat on the table or floor.

Make sure the Prusik knots closest to the kite are adjusted to the middle. Right over the vertical spar.

Referring to the diagram below, shift the highest Prusik knot to the shown position. It's not necessarily the perfect position for your individual kite, but it should at least fly on the first attempt! Later, you can experiment with shifting the position towards or away from the nose, a little at a time, to improve how high your kite flies.





How To Make A Rokkaku Kite
Prepare To Fly

The Dowel Rokkaku - bridle knots

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.

Check the bridle slip knots on the horizontal spars. Re-tighten if necessary, or 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!

The MBK Dowel Rokkaku kite in flight on a sunny day.

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.

Out In The Field

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

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

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 flying session.

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 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. They show you how to make the kite more transportable too, so you can remove a spar and roll the kite up into a slim bundle.




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...

Pushing the MBK Rokkaku Kite 
Recently, I got the kite bug and again and I had to build something new. This time I wanted success so I set out to build an MBK Rokkaku kite that was …

Dowel Rokkaku - First Try 
This is my first kite. I am living in Berlin, Germany and it has started to get windy! I thought it would be fun to build and fly a kite. Here's my …

Click here to write your own.

 

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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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