Making A Box Kite

Step-by-Step - MBK Dowel Box (mod. winds)

This set of instructions on making a Box kite assumes you know absolutely nothing about kite building. 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!

Making a box kite is a rewarding exercise.

The instructions on how to make a Box kite might look awfully long, but each step is quite simple to do. Just quickly work your way through from top to bottom, skimming over any detail that you don't need.

The MBK Dowel Box kite (moderate wind version) is a 1.2 meter (4 feet) long design which is very similar to the traditional Box. This design flies best in moderate winds, but will also stay in the air in wind strengths below and slightly above this range.

The Dowel Box is designed to roll up into a slim cylindrical package like a Sled, thanks to the detachable cross-pieces. Setting up on the flying field takes a few minutes at first, but gets quicker with practice.

Also, it's handy to set up in a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Of course, if you have room, you can always leave this Box ready-to-fly.

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.

Making A Box Kite
Main Spars

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

The Dowel Box - spars

Using your hack-saw, cut off 4 lengths of dowel to a length of 1.0DL (120cm, 48”) each. The dowel should be 5mm (3/16”) in diameter.

With a wood file, round the dowel ends. Just enough to take off the sharp edges will do.

Making A Box Kite

Sail template for the Dowel Box kite.

The Template over there represents one cell of the kite, laid flat. That's so it can be cut from a single, large plastic bag. Now transfer the measurements to the sail plastic as follows...

  • Firstly, take a large light plastic bag and lay it flat on the table. I use cheap orange garden bag plastic – the more expensive bags are usually 2 or 3-ply, which are more durable but somewhat heavier.
  • Measure and mark the outline of the whole cell first, with your black marking pen and ruler. If the bag isn't long enough, do the template shape in 2 halves, using 2 bags if necessary.
  • Now measure and mark the fold lines. There's my template marked out in the photo below – just 1 bag was enough.

The Dowel Box - cells marked on plastic.
  • Flip the bag(s) over and trace over all the lines.
  • Cut where necessary to open the bag(s) out flat, so it lays out as a single thickness of plastic.
  • Cut around all the rectangular outlines, one at a time. Don't attempt to cut both thicknesses of plastic at once, since the bottom one will tend to slip out of position, causing an inaccurate cut.
  • If you halved the template shape, join the halves together using clear sticky tape on both sides. Do not overlap the plastic, just butt the edges together.
  • Lay down lengths of clear sticky tape, along all the long edges of the 2 cells. See below, left. You can just see the tape on the right edge.
  • Add extra lengths of sticky tape, at the right hand end of every fold-line. See the close-up photo on the right.
The Dowel Box - edge taping and reinforcements.

Making A Box Kite
Adding Spars

  • Lay down the long dowel spars you created earlier, and tape them down to the plastic sails with electrical insulation tape. See the larger photo below, left.
  • The 2 small photos on the right show how the spar tips are capped with insulation tape, which is wrapped around to the other side of the sail.
The Dowel Box - adding spars to plastic.

The Dowel Box - closer view of spar taping
The Dowel Box - spar tip close-up
  • Short lengths of dowel must now be glued to the spars, everywhere where there are those short lengths of sticky tape. Cut off 16 pieces of dowel, to a length of 0.01DL (1.2cm, 1/2”), and position them in pairs as shown in the close-up photo over there on the right.
  • These pieces of dowel will lock the cross-pieces in place. Two cross-pieces near the trailing edge of the upper cell and two cross-pieces near the trailing edge of the lower cell.
The Dowel Box - joining the cell plastic
  • Fold a sail, bringing the short edges together and joining them with sticky tape as shown in the photo. Do the other one in the same way.
  • Now open the box kite out, and lay down tape along the inside edges as well, to make the 2 joins even more secure. A bit tricky, so take your time!

Making A Box Kite

The Dowel Box - cross-piece tip close-up
  • Cut off 2 pieces of dowel, each 0.5DL (60cm, 24”) long. These are 2 of the 'cross-pieces', which will brace the kite to make it rigid.
  • Cut off another 2 pieces of dowel, each 0.605DL (72.6cm, 29”) in length.
  • Cut off 16 pieces of dowel to a length of 0.01DL (1.2cm, 1/2”) and glue them to the cross-pieces as shown in the photo below and the close-up there on the right.
The Dowel Box - the 4cross-pieces.
The Dowel Box - shoe-lace tie on a cross-piece

When dry, use extra glue along the joins on each side, to make sure they are strong. In a Box kite of this size, the weight of the glue is not much of an issue!

You also need to tie a 0.3DL (36cm, 14 1/2”) length of small shoe-lace to the exact center of each shorter cross-piece. Then, smear a little wood glue over each knot so it can't slip along the dowel. See the close-up over there...

Making A Box Kite

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.
  • Measure 0.1DL (12cm, 4 3/4”) in from one end of a spar (less than half the width of the sail), and use a pen to poke a round hole in the plastic, right over the spar.
  • Cut off a 1.5DL (180cm, 72”) length of 50 pound flying line, and tie a small overhand loop into one end.
  • Attach the looped end to the kite, by passing it through the hole, twice around the spar and then out again, before putting in a hitch to form a Slip Knot. Pull tight.
  • Using the same kind of knot, attach the other end of the line to the same spar, just in front of the lower cell of the kite.
  • Smear some glue into both knots to secure them and prevent slippage up and down the spar.
  • Now take a length of flying line about 0.5DL (60cm, 24”) long, and tie one end to the bridle line with a Prusik Knot, or any other shiftable knot. Tie a small Double Loop knot into the other end, just to get a big knot.

All this is visible in the photo below, although the cross-pieces are not inserted. At this point, you've pretty much finished making the MBK Dowel Box kite!

The Dowel Box - comjpleted bridle.

Making A Box Kite
Setting Up

The Dowel Box - rigged and ready to fly
  • Lay the kite flat on the ground, with the bridle spar in the middle and on the bottom next to the ground.
  • Insert a long cross-piece into the upper cell, spreading the 2 side spars apart.
  • Insert a short cross-piece into the same cell, locating one end connects with the spar which has the bridle attached.
  • Stretch the cell upwards and snap the other end of the cross-piece into the remaining slot.
  • Tie the shoe-lace securely to the longer cross-piece. This prevents it from bending in the middle, and so increases its strength a lot. Use a bow so it can be undone easily! There's the completed upper cell in the photo.
  • Insert and tie the remaining 2 cross-pieces into the lower cell, so they match the other 2 cross pieces. The short one should contact the bridle spar.

If either cell doesn't seem to be stretched tight, you might need to add glue inside the tips of the cross-pieces, to lengthen them slightly. If that's not enough – make another pair, slightly longer.

Making A Box Kite
Breaking Down

The Dowel Box - cross-pieces removed and cellsrolled up.breaking down

Lay the kite on the ground with the flying line removed.

  1. Undo both the shoe-lace ties.
  2. Flex a little bow into one of the longer cross-pieces, just enough to remove it from the kite.
  3. Similarly, remove the other longer cross-piece.
  4. Remove the 2 shorter cross-pieces.
  5. Place all the cross-pieces alongside the spars and roll up the kite. The bridle can be wrapped around the spars too, to help keep it all together.

Making A Box Kite
Before The First Flight

Bridl 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.

Suspend the kite from the Double Loop knot of the bridle. Shift the Prusik knot along the bridle line until the upper bridle leg makes a right-angle (90 degrees) with the spar. The kite should fly like this, but you can try shifting the knot rearwards a little for best results in lighter winds. That is, no more than a few centimeters or a couple of inches.

Making A Box Kite

The Dowel Box kite in flight, on a perfect day.

Firstly, this kite requires more than a 'very light' breeze to stay in the air. So if you can see barely any movement in the leaves of trees or bushes, perhaps take some other Dowel kite instead!

Out In The Field

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

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

At the other extreme, you might snap a cross-piece if you attempt to fly in 'very windy' weather. So, a nice average moderate breeze is best.

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 a fair amount of 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! 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 15 meters (50 feet) of line. This way, the kite soon gets high enough to make it easy to let more line out.

The picture up there shows the Dowel Box on its first outing, in a gusty moderate breeze. Have fun flying, and I hope you've had fun learning how to make a Box kite.

Some Improvements: After testing the original kite, some improvements came to mind. Eventually a new kite will be made and these instructions will be updated...

If the wind is too strong, the horizontal cross-piece in the upper cell will snap. So, use slightly thicker dowel for the horizontal cross-piece in both the upper and lower cells, to keep the kite balanced. 

Right now, all the cross-pieces attach quite close to the trailing edge of both cells. Try shifting them 0.1DL (12cm, 4 3/4”) away from the trailing edge. Don't forget the tape reinforcements too, so the ends of the cross-pieces don't puncture the sail. This change should reduce the amount of spar-bending that happens in fresh breezes, will still keeping the cross-pieces within easy reach during setup.

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...

Making And Flying The Dowel Box Kite 
I made a few modifications to the instructions: 1. Instead of one long piece for the cell, I pieced together alternate black and white plastic to make …

Click here to write your own.

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What's New!

  1. Rough Moderate Winds - No Problem!

    Sep 18, 14 03:00 PM

    An old flight report, detailing the remarkable reliability of the original 3-sparred Allison Sled kite. Mine is a much smaller version, made from plastic sheet, tape and bamboo skewers...

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