How To Make A Roller Kite

Step-by-Step - The MBK Dowel Roller

This set of instructions on how to make a Roller kite assumes you know absolutely nothing about kite making.

Learn how to make a Roller kite from dowel and plastic.

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!

The MBK Dowel Roller is a large tail-less kite based on the old Pearson Roller design. Like the original, this kite is a great light to moderate wind flier.

Also like the original, this Roller has quite a distinctive and attractive appearance in the air! Certainly something different from your usual Diamonds and Deltas.

These instructions might look quite detailed. However, your reward is a decent sized and very cheap kite that should fit in most vehicles. Of course it helps if you undo the bow-line toggles. Then, the kite can lie flat in the trunk (boot) or even rest on edge in the rear passenger section.

Setting up on the flying field is just a matter of attaching the bow-line toggles. Or perhaps not, if you were able to leave them done up. Then, you just attach the flying line to the bridle and let the wind do the rest.

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 Roller Kite
Cutting the Sail

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

The sail template for the Dowel 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 Dowel Roller - template shape marked on plastic bag.
  • 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 Roller - complete upper and lower sail shapes 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 photos.




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 Roller - where to tape the sail edges
  • Lay down clear sticking tape where indicated by the yellow lines in the photos. Just over half the kite is shown, so do the other side exactly the same.
  • With scissors, cut along all the black lines. This will leave most of the width of the sticking tape inside the sail outline.





How To Make A Roller Kite
Spars

For this Roller, 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 Roller - spars
  • Select the straightest piece of dowel you can find. Measure off a 1.0DL (120cm, 48") length, mark it and saw it 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, just to save a bit of weight.
  • 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, 2 3/4"). 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. The depth of this bow should be 0.12DL (14.4cm, 5 3/4"). Now you have made the lower horizontal spar. The photo shows all 3 spars, with the bow-lines attached on the 2 horizontal spars. (The amount of bow was changed after the kite was test flown, if you were wondering!)




How To Make A Roller Kite
Joining The Sails

The upper and lower sails now need to be joined in the center.

The Dowel Roller - joining the upper and lower sails
  • Lay the vertical spar down the center-line of the two sails, and line up the upper tip with the nose corner of the upper sail. Also line up the lower tip with the bottom corner of the lower sail. With all the plastic flattened against the table or floor, this shows you exactly how far apart the 2 sails should be!
  • Carefully remove the spar, without shifting the sails.
  • Add 4 strips of clear sticky tape onto the sails, as illustrated by the yellow rectangles in the photo. The order is not important. Yes, the tapes might stick a bit to the floor, between the sails...
  • Flip the sails over, and stick down another 2 strips of tape so they stick to the other tapes in the area between the sails. These 2 tapes are represented by the 2 thick red lines. The exact length is not important, just copy the photo.




How To Make A Roller Kite
Tabs And Spar Caps

Prepare 6 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 needed.

The Dowel Roller - spar 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 un-attached, 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! See the completed cap in the first photo.
  • Now do the other tip of the spar similarly, using another piece of tape.
  • Attach both tips of the lower horizontal spar to the sail in a similar same way, using another 2 pieces of tape.
  • The long tabs of the lower sail need to have a slit, to let the bow-line through when the tab is folded over. Make a short vertical snip with scissors, in each tab, right down to the bow-line knot.
  • Fold down the plastic tabs over the spar and tape in place using clear sticky tape. See the second photo, which shows the center of the kite.
  • Now slip the vertical spar into place, sliding it between the horizontal spar and the sail plastic at both crossing points.
  • Cap the vertical spar with the remaining two pieces of tape, attaching it to the top corner of the upper sail and bottom corner of the lower sail.




How To Make A Roller Kite
Lashing the Spars

The two horizontal spars will now be lashed to the vertical spar. Firstly, just make sure that everything 'looks right', with no bunched up plastic anywhere.

After putting several turns of flying line around each crossing point, fix the joins with a generous drop of glue each. This will also prevent any shifting along the vertical spar.






How To Make A Roller Kite
Sail Ties

The Dowel Roller - close-up of sail corner tie
  • Add a short length of clear sticky tape to an upper sail corner, then add another one of the same length to the other side of the plastic. Where they stick out from the sail edge, press the 2 tapes together so they stick to each other. About the length of a fore-finger should be sufficient, half on the sail, half off.
  • Put a Loop Knot into a length of flying line, and thread the tapes through the loop, before folding the tapes over and securing them to the sail with another short length of tape.
  • As in the photo, snip off the line so you have enough length to fasten it to the lower horizontal spar with some Half Hitchs. There should be a little slack in the line.
  • Do the other sail corner exactly the same way.




How To Make A Roller 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.
The Dowel Roller - making the keel.
  • Mark out the keel shape on some spare plastic, as per the dimensions on the template.
  • Cut out the keel and tape down 2 lengths of flying line onto one side. One goes from the bridle attachment point to the upper attachment point, and the other goes from the bridle attachment point to the lower attachment point. Use sticky tape, not electrical tape. The pieces of line hanging free should be at least as long as your finger.
  • Now flip the plastic over and tape down another 2 lengths of flying line, directly over the first 2.
  • Where 2 pieces of line come together, tie a Multi-Strand Simple Knot close to the plastic. These 2 knots will sit against the vertical spar. See the top, left photo.
  • Where the 4 pieces of line come together, tie them into another Multi-Strand Simple Knot close to the plastic, then tie another one further out, as in the top, right photo. The bottom photo shows the complete keel.
  • Reinforce the keel with short lengths of sticky tape, where indicated by the yellow rectangles.



The Dowel Roller - attaching the keel
  • Cut a slit in the plastic sail, between the 2 long vertical pieces of tape. The slit should go all the way from the edge of the insulation tape spar cap, up to the lower horizontal spar.
  • Pass the lower keel lines through the slit in the lower sail. Now tightly tie them around the vertical spar, using a Granny Knot. Get the knot as close to the tip of the dowel as you can.
  • Using the keel itself to find the exact spot, tightly tie the upper lines around the dowel also. This will be quite close to where lower horizontal spar crosses the vertical spar.
  • Fold the 4 dowel-width tab over the dowel and tape it down all along its length with a piece of clear sticky tape.
  • Put a drop of wood glue all over the 2 knots and all around the dowel where the keel lines touch the wood.
  • Tape a small coin to the rear of the keel, as you can see in the photo. I almost never recommend adding weight to a kite, but my original Roller actually needed it to be stable!




How To Make A Roller Kite
Tying The Bridle

The Dowel Roller - bridle detail
  • 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.
  • Poke holes in the plastic, on either side of the upper horizontal spar. Four holes altogether, 0.24DL (28.8cm, 11 1/2") from the vertical spar, as indicated by the 4 yellow dots in the photo.
  • Tie each end of the line to the spar, through the holes. Use a Double Wrap Slip Knot, and pull tight against the knot of the small loop. This is the bridle loop.
  • Cut off some flying line to a length of 3.0DL (360cm, 144"), and attach one end to the bridle loop. Use a shiftable knot such as the Prusik Knot, and adjust it to center. Let's just call this the bridle line.
  • Tie a Double Loop Knot into the other end of the bridle line.

Finally, take a length of flying line about 0.2DL (240mm, 9 1/2") 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. See the photo down below, in the next section.

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





How To Make A Roller Kite
Prepare To Fly

The Dowel Roller - 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.

The bridle is a bit long to check on the ground, so fly the kite on a very short line to see where the towing point is. Shift the Prusik Knot along the bridle line until the towing point appears to be level with the upper horizontal spar or a little below it. 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 middle.

Check the bridle slip knots on the upper horizontal spar. 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 Roller Kite
Flying!

The MBK Dowel Roller 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. If the wind is too strong, it might get damaged.

Out In The Field

My collection of real-life Roller 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 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 Roller 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...

Dowel Roller Kite - Worth The Effort 
I was really excited to build this kite. I used some of the suggested improvements. I built the kite using Tyvek cloth. I made both spars with a 6" bow. …

A Success Story With A Roller Kite 
So, got inspired to build a Roller by this site. It took about 6 hours, but I used taffeta nylon instead of a bag. It was OK for a first try... When …

Click here to write your own.

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What's New!

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    Aug 28, 14 04:00 PM

    A survey of all the MBK Sode kites, illustrated with photos and video.

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