How To Make A Sode Kite
Step-by-Step - The MBK Dowel Sode
This set of instructions on how to make a Sode 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 Sode is a large tail-less design based on the traditional
Japanese kite. Like the other Japanese design in this series, the
Rokkaku, this kite is a light to moderate wind flier. However, it can take a little more wind strength than the Rok. The Sode scoots around the sky in very gusty moderate
winds. In smoother and lighter winds, it is a very efficient and
These instructions on how to make a Sode kite might look quite
detailed. However, your reward is a large, very cheap kite that is quick
to set up and break down.
This Sode 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 4 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.
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 Sode Kite - Sail
Now's the time to read up on the kite making tools and materials required for making a Dowel Sode, 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...
- 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
- Where indicated by the yellow rectangles, reinforce those 2 corners with extra sticking tape. On both sides of the plastic for extra strength!
- Add a corner strap to the top corner of the sail. This strap needs to have a length of at least 0.16DL (19cm, 7 3/4"). See the bottom photo.
How To Make A Sode Kite - Spars
For this Sode, you need long lengths of 5mm (3/16") wooden dowel. Enough
for the upper and lower horizontal spars of 1.0DL (120cm, 48") each,
the 0.96DL (115.2cm, 46") vertical spar and the 0.5DL (60cm, 24") bottom
spar. They are easily cut to the lengths required with a small cheap
- 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. Include the length of those tabs on the bottom edge of the sail! 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 (7cm, 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.
the glue is drying on the knots, do those previous 2 steps again to
create another 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.
lay your remaining dowel across the bottom edge of the sail, mark and
cut off. This is the bottom horizontal spar which should be about 0.5DL
(60cm, 24") long. Round the tips with your wood file. The photo shows
all the spars, with the horizontal spar 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 Sode Kite - Attachment Ties
The vertical spar will have 3 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, lining up a tip with the
nose point of the sail. Then lay the 3 horizontal spars over the sail.
Carefully line up the tips of the horizontal spars with the sail
- Make marks on the vertical spar, showing where the horizontal spars cross. Then remove all the horizontal spars.
- Measure and cut off 3 0.18DL (22cm, 9") lengths of shoe-lace. To prevent the cut ends from fraying, just tie a Simple Knot near the end.
- Measure and cut off 3 lengths of insulation tape that are long enough to go all the way around the dowel, plus a little more.
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. The photo shows the bottom-most tie.
- Prepare 4 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.
- Now do the other tip of the spar similarly, using 2 more pieces of tape.
those tabs on the top edge of the sail? Fold them over the dowel and
run clear sticky tape along the entire length of the tabs to secure
them. See the photo for a completed tip-cap plus one end of a secured
After the upper horizontal spar is all capped and wrapped :-) do the same for the lower horizontal spar.
bottom horizontal spar is very similar too, except that you can get
away with only 1 piece of tape over each tip instead of 2. With the tabs
folded over, the vertical spar sticks out a little, but that is
How To Make A Sode 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.
- Poke 2 holes in the plastic, right where the knots are in the top photo.
- Tie each end of the line to the spar, through the holes. Use a Slip Knot with 2 wraps around the dowel, and pull tight against the knot of the small loop. This is the upper bridle loop.
- Now prepare a 1.5DL (180cm, 72") length of line with loops in each end as before, and move down to the lower horizontal spar. Similar to the upper loop, add the lower bridle loop. Again, poke 2 holes in the plastic. The bottom photo shows the 2 knots - I've added white rings around them since they are hard to see.
off some flying line to a length of 1.0DL (120cm, 48"), 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.
How To Make A Sode Kite - Nose and Tail Loops
To keep the bowed horizontal spars from flopping back down to the sail,
they need to be tethered with short loops of flying line. Firstly, let's
look at the upper horizontal spar...
- Make a big loop from a length of flying line, by tying the 2 ends into a Multi-Strand Simple Knot. The loop should stretch from the center of the upper bow-line to the top of the vertical spar, with plenty of length to spare so you can tie it off. See the top photo.
- Attach the loop with a Lark's Head Knot to the bow-line, directly over the vertical spar or close to it.
- Wrap the other end of the loop around the corner strap a couple of times and tie off with a single Half Hitch so it's easy to undo.
- Make another loop for the tail end of the kite. The loop should stretch from the center of the lower bow-line to the bottom shoe-lace tie on the vertical spar. See the bottom photo.
- Attach the loop with a Lark's Head Knot to the bow-line, directly over the vertical spar or close to it.
place the other end of the loop over the tip of the vertical spar, so
it slips back up to where the shoe-lace tie is. If the length is a
little too long, just tie another Simple Knot near the first one until
you get the length right.
Note: These loops stay attached to the bow lines from now on.
this point, you've pretty much finished making the Dowel Sode! However,
there is a short Setup procedure to go through before it will fly...
How To Make A Sode 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 under the bottom spar, until the shoe-lace ties
line up with the bottom spar.
- Fasten the vertical spar to the bottom horizontal spar 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 and then feed the strap around the middle
of the upper horizontal spar a couple of times. Without letting it come
loose, tightly tie the shoe-lace tie around the horizontal spar. As well
as holding the spars together, this secures the corner strap! See the
- Do up the shoe-lace ties of the lower horizontal spar.
- For the upper and lower horizontal spars, insert the toggle through the loop to bow the spar.
- Finally, attach the nose and tail loops to keep the bowed spars upright.
This all looks a lot, but it isn't hard after you've done it a couple of times.
How To Make A Sode 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 loops from the nose and tail of the kite.
- Un-attach the bow lines of the horizontal spars.
- Undo all the 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 Sode doesn't look so big now does it!
How To Make A Sode 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 20 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 Sode 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 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 Sode 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...
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