Flying Roller Kites

Ours Are DIY, In 3 Sizes!

Making small Roller kites from bamboo BBQ skewers and plastic bags is really dirt cheap. The dowel for making larger Rollers does cost a few dollars, but still still works out to be very economical compared to buying a quality kite from a shop. I have nothing against such retail Rollers, but going the DIY route certainly has its rewards! Read on below to find out a little more about our 3 Roller designs which you can make for yourself...

Our little 1-Skewer Roller design requires a tail, but is then a good light-to-moderate wind flier. We made just one prototype of this design, in clear plastic, and it was a reliable little flier after trimming it to fly straight.

Next up in size comes the 2-Skewer Roller, which does well in light winds without requiring a tail. However, on the first outing with the prototype, I had to resort to putting a slight bend in the vertical spar to correct a tendency to turn! Skewers straight from the supermarket packet are rarely perfectly straight. The kite has flown very well ever since that day.

Finally, we started making larger kites like the Dowel Roller. This kite can cope with a reasonable wind range, from light to almost fresh. Getting it stable was something of a saga, until a small amount of weight at the extreme tail end finally did the trick! Ever since, this kite has been a pleasure to fly, as you will see from the flight reports on it.

Down below is a photo or 2 and a video of all the MBK Roller kites. This illustrates the end result, in case you decide to use our instructions to make one of these kites.





Roller Kites - original 1-Skewer Roller

This dinky little number is called the 1-Skewer Roller. The smallest of all our Roller kites. Technically, a Magnum-scale miniature! Each spar is a 29 cm (1 foot) bamboo BBQ skewer.

The original was made from clear freezer-bag plastic, which made it almost impossible to see against a gray sky. A good reliable flier in light to moderate winds. It just has a simple 2-leg bridle. Newly made, the kite is likely to turn slightly in one direction or the other. One way to correct this is to pull one of the upper sail ties through a little, to slacken off one of the sail corners.

If the kite turns to the left, you slacken off the right sail corner to compensate. When you get it right, the kite will soar straight up from then on.

Roller Kites - the latest 1-Skewer Roller.

We fly this tiny Roller on 50 meters (150 feet) of 20 pound line. It doesn't need that strength, but we also fly our 2-skewer kites on the same line.

The clear-plastic Roller was eventually replaced with a slightly re-designed version in light orange plastic. It still required a fair length of tail, so we used a long ribbon of black garbage bag plastic to contrast with the orange sail.

This color combination is much more visible, even against gray cloud.



Here's a video of the 1-Skewer Roller in the air, trying hard to stay up in a rather light and inconsistent breeze...







Roller Kites - the 2-Skewer Roller in flight.

The 2-Skewer Roller is, as the name suggests, exactly twice as tall as the 1-Skewer design. This gives it 4 times the sail area with not much more than double the weight. Hence, it's pretty good in light winds. The kite pictured is the original referred to earlier, which needed that on-field tweak to the vertical spar.

The kite looked pretty good and even when viewed from the top or bottom. However, looking straight down the vertical spar uncovered the problem. Both skewers had just a slight curve down their length, which effectively steered the kite to one side.

By putting a kink in the middle in the opposite direction, the turning tendency was eliminated. Yay! I still remember the relief when the kite suddenly started to fly perfectly straight in climbs. No need to touch those upper sail tethers either.

The video below was taken before the turn was corrected, with the kite on a short line. The wind light and gusty. Notice how the nose pokes to the left every time a gust catches the kite! With more wind strength, the Roller would loop around to the left more severely, stopping it from climbing. Annoying!







Roller Kites - the Dowel Roller in flight.

The big Daddy of MBK Roller kites. This one was designed from the start to be tail-less. The Dowel Roller is an attractive kite that is a reliable flier over a good wind range. The line angles in smooth constant wind are modest, much like a Diamond or Barn Door.

Size? It's about twice as tall as the 2-Skewer Roller, so that's about 4 times the sail area. Compared to the 1-Skewer version, the Dowel Roller has about 16 times as much sail area!

The video below shows the Dowel Roller on it's first test flight. Bouncing around low down, in some rather turbulent air! Later on, we had some good high flights with this kite, where it flew smoothly in light winds.







Out In The Field

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

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

That's about it for this page on our Roller kites. In 3 convenient sizes!

Hope you enjoyed the pics and the info.


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What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Dowel Barn Door Rides Inland Gusts

    Sep 17, 14 06:33 AM

    Well, it was the same reserve and a similar time of day. A bit closer to sun-down perhaps. Only the kite was different - the Dowel Barn Door kite this time, chosen to suit the 'gentle' strength wind gusts of between 15 and 20 kph.

    The first flight went well, with the kite soaring straight up on around 45 meters (150 feet) of line. The late afternoon sun glinting off the panels as the kite moved about at steep line angles. In the gusts and lulls, the kite had a tendency to pull to the right at times.

    As I was taking the kite down to do a bridle adjustment, the main problem became apparent. The horizontal spar had pushed through the tip-tape on the right corner of the sail, drastically reducing the sail area to the right of center. It was actually surprising how well the kite was still flying, given the gross problem with the sail!

    On a second flight, with the tip repaired, there still appeared to be a slight pull to the right. So, after taking some video footage of the Barn Door's antics, it was brought down once again. This time the bridle knot was taken across by about a centimeter (1/2"). That was better! The 1.2 meter (4 feet) span pale orange kite shot right back up, showing much less tendency to pull across when under pressure.

    After some more video was taken, with the kite soaring around almost directly overhead at times, it seemed safe enough to let out more line. It was surprising to feel the flying line touching my jeans while it was anchored under-foot! How much rising air can there be at this time of day? At the time I was concentrating on keeping the wandering kite in-frame as I took video.

    Finally, after enjoying the kite doing its thing on over 60 meters (200 feet) of line, it came time to pull the Dowel Barn Door down. When within 30 feet or so of the ground it started to float and sink face-down. Then it was an easy matter to pull in the remaining few meters of line, keeping the kite flying until the bridle lines were in hand.

    Weather stations were reporting around 10kph average wind speeds with gusts almost to 20kph.

    "Simplest Dowel Kites": A free but very useful kite-making e-book. Make a super-simple Sled, Diamond and Delta - step-by-step with photos. Sign up for the e-book and get an emailed series of messages called "MBK Tips'n'Ideas". If you don't need the e-book, consider signing up anyway... You won't believe what's on offer in that message series!

    Read More





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