Sled Kite Posts

(Bamboo BBQ Skewer Spars)

It's an archive of sorts, although there are no dates and times. Kite flying is timeless, don't you agree? I trust there is plenty in here to educate, inform and often entertain!

These short flight reports once appeared in the site blog page - that's the one you enter via the 'what's new!' site navigation link. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

3-Skewer Sled Kite

3-Skewer Sled Collapse-Proof And Efficient

With a gusty light breeze and sun peeking through outside, it seemed an ideal time to test the new 3-Skewer Sled. 3mm skewers were unavailable in the shops, but the 4mm ones are probably quite ideal for this 3-Skewer design and others which will follow. The kite has 9 skewers in total, plus some short reinforcement pieces. However each spar is approximately 3 skewer-lengths long, hence the 3-Skewer designation.

The MBK 3-Skewer Sled

A photo was taken with the kite on only a few meters of line, brightly lit by the sun. Letting out line to over 30 meters (100 feet) was easy, although lulls sent the Sled back towards the grass from time to time.

More photos this time, and a few videos. So far, so good! Due to the ample width of the skewers, hence a bit more weight, this kite didn't soar on the very lightest puffs of wind. Who cares, most of my 2-Skewer kites are good for that, with their 3mm or even 2.5mm width skewers!

The 3-Skewer tail-less Sled kite waggles slowly left / right under low air pressure, but settles down to steady flight as the wind speed comes up further. This kite seems to sit at around 50 or perhaps 55 degrees from the horizontal when wind strength is ideal.

Soon I had the line out to just over 100 meters (300 feet) and the 3-Skewer Sled proved very reliable compared to most 2-stickers I have flown. Not one collapse, and not even much billowing in and out despite some roughness in the air. It does seem to pull a little to the right, but a small bridle adjustment should fix that. 

Despite the cold late afternoon setting, the bright orange Sled briefly floated right up to 70 degrees or more in a patch of rising air. Nice!

This kite is a perfect match for 20 pound Dacron line, pulling it almost straight much of the time, yet without a risky amount of tension.

Measured near the ground, the wind meter showed an average of 3.4 kph and a maximum gust of 12 kph. A thought crossed my mind - why bother with 2-stick Sleds at all... The 3 spar Allison Sled with its sloped side-spars was really an inspired concept!

3-Skewer Sled Trims Nicely

In an earlier outing, moving the bridle knot didn't seem to do much. So today, with breezier conditions, I tried an experiment with a little air-bucket taped to the trailing edge, on 1 side.

With the kite in the air, it still seemed to loop right in stronger gusts so there was no option... Shift the knot a lot further and see what happens! This was quite fortunate since the knot shifting worked very well. However it was somewhat counter-intuitive since to correct a loop to the right I had to shift the knot in the same direction. For most flat kites it's the opposite.

After toying with the knot position and seeing the 3-Skewer Sled veer off obediently in either direction, I used 2 or 3 short flights to get the knot position close to perfect. The air bucket wasn't needed so I got rid of it. Then, up the Sled went in moderate strength wind. Right up to some pretty steep flying angles I'm happy to report! The breeze was cool and gusty but there was no trouble with collapses.

Checking the wind meter at shoulder height for half a minute, it registered an average of 11kph, gusting to 21kph. It must have been gusting into the high 20s up at 150 feet but the 3-Skewer Sled was quite comfortable. Then I started letting more line out...

Unfortunately there was trouble after that, when one of the top corner spar caps ripped out. Never mind, some extra reinforcement with packing tape will fix that. The mod should allow the kite to fly reliably over the whole Moderate wind range - from 18kph right up into the high 20s. The towing points were showing no signs of strain at all.

2-Skewer Sled Kite

Speedy Sled Parts Polyester

That's what happened, bringing the flying session to an abbreviated end. The 2-Skewer Sled had been zipping around on at least 30 meters (100 feet) of polyester sewing thread, when the line broke...

The MBK 2-Skewer Sled

Fiddling with the camera, I looked back up only to see a far away fluttering, a flashing of orange plastic, as the hapless kite drifted downwind and disappeared behind a very large tree. Was it lost forever in the upper branches? Keep reading this post to find out...

Aren and I had been down at the local small reserve, each doing our own thing. The lad kicking a soccer ball and the grown man flying a small kite. Wrong way round? Some may think so, but they won't be reading this.

The breeze was light but gusting to almost moderate strength from time to time. To begin with, the kite was flown low over the green winter grass. Getting sewing thread off the square cardboard winder was taking a while. At least the small kite was getting some air time, weaving around and climbing a few meters every now and then. Down low though, it kept sinking out during lulls in the breeze's strength.

Eventually, a decent amount of thread was off the winder and the trusty bamboo-sparred Sled flew high above the tree tops. The kite was now being subjected to rather more air pressure than it could handle comfortably...

Forced into frontal collapses, the kite started to show off it's ability to re-inflate by itself. This was happening every few seconds with each collapse being brought on by excessive forward kite speed. POP - there it goes again. And each time, with no intervention by me, the two angled spars would feed air back into the sail and re-inflate it after a second or two of free-fall.

And then we lost the kite in the tree, a very common kite tale. But had we? Walking back home, the kite came into view, lying on the road near a corner. A car approached and straddled the kite. Whew. Before the next car could arrive, I rushed over and did the rescue. No harm done. This kite will fly again!

2-Skewer Sled Capable Of Thermaling

Bringing up the online weather report, it had the wind measured at 16kph gusting to 22kph. Great, time to try the 2-Skewer Sled again, in somewhat smoother winds than before.

However, at the reserve, things had really calmed down. It had all the appearances of a 'zero wind and thermals' day. For quite some minutes, all I could do was loft the kite a few meters at a time on little puffs of air that came through.

Eventually the kite got high enough, with a little careful working of the line, to get carried away and up on a gentle thermal. The air <i>was</i> relatively smooth, although the little Sled did tend to collapse occasionally when sitting face-down, with the flying line dangling vertically below it. The kite never went overhead though, since there was an enormous bow in the line. The winds were barely strong enough to keep the kite airborne.

This kite will collapse if it accelerates too fast, but I've never had any Sled recover so well on its own. Numerous times, I was able to resume a flight without needing to land the kite or bring it in. Still, it would be helpful to make sure this kite collapses less often than the original tailed 2-Skewer Sled. It was supposed to be an improvement! Next mod will be to remove even more sail from along the center-line. Just a cm or 2, keeping the angle of the side-spars the same. 

Never-the-less, I managed to get a couple of high thermal climbs out of the kite. Once, this happened all the way from launch. From 2 meters to over 120 meters (400 feet) of line out in just a few minutes. A nice thing to happen with any small light-wind kite.

Checking the wind meter afterwards, it had registered an average of 2.2kph, gusting to 9.6kph. That's light!

2-Skewer Sled On Thread

Time to fly another bright-orange 2-Skewer kite. I've been chastised for posting too much blue-kite-in-blue-sky you see, mainly on Facebook. I admit that it was a bit boring, visually. Hence the skewer kites have been the first choice for a little while now!

Today's flights were combined with a walk with Aren, who kept up on his scooter. Rolled up, the kite and its square cardboard winder were effortless to carry. Aren continued to scoot at the reserve while the Sled did it's thing in the cool winter air.

Large banks of cloud were everywhere, one of which fortuitously hid the sun while I took video. Yes, the wind direction had once again placed the kite directly in line with the sun...

The breeze seemed to be gusting close to moderate speeds, that is around 20kph. A little dicey for the Sled, which initially flew straight up on 10m (30ft) of polyester thread. The kite stayed up long enough to get some video however.

On a second flight, with more thread let out, there was some tendency for the sail to collapse due to excessive wind speed during the gusts. Again and again, the bright orange Sled flopped shut but just as regularly the sail would re-inflate with a pop. This would happen every few seconds during long gusts.

Finally, as half expected due to the age of the kite, a taped tip came loose. This quickly brought the kite back to the damp green grass. Easily fixed of course, with some electrical tape that I had stowed in a pocket.

Finally, after about 30m (100ft) of thread was taken off the winder, the kite found less chaotic air...

The breeze now being just below the kite's upper limit, the small Sled flew smoothly at around at 60 degrees of line angle. The dark thread remained in an almost straight line to the kite for minutes at a time.

Nice flying indeed. With the sum total of equipment being used probably worth less than $2!

2-Skewer Sled Near Sunset

Due to family commitments over the last week or two, there haven't been many opportunities to fly the big kites, do KAP and so on. But sometimes a small kite fly can be worked into the schedule...

Today we went down to the beach with the priority being the construction of a sandcastle. Everyone involved. After completing all due diligence at this task, my own agenda came to the fore. Yep, out with a kite of course ;-)

The breeze was just off the ocean and very smooth. Not perfectly constant though, as the average speed would peak from time to time. Read that again, it does make sense!

Anyway, the wind was quite ideal for the small light Sled, which had its spars angled slightly closer together towards the lower end. At least once while I was taking video, the kite collapsed low down when swirling about in a gust. But it promptly re-inflated and stayed in the air, thanks to those angled spars.

While the little orange kite was parked on the end of 20 meters (65 feet) of polyester embroidery thread, anchored to a tent pole, I took a wind meter reading. 6 kph gusting to 8.2 kph, just above shoulder height. Perfect!

Eventually it was time to pack up. But not before capturing a few stills of the sunset lighting up the dappled cloudy sky over Brighton beach.

Two Skewer Sleds Tested To The Limit

It was blowing quite a bit outside, but I thought it might be instructive to take out both the 2-Skewer and 3-Skewer Sleds and see how they handled it.

Down at a nearby school oval, the 2-Skewer Sled went up first. Some days ago I had removed some area along the center-line of the kite, bringing the spars slightly closer together. To cut a longer story short, the kite behaved similarly as before. However, this time it seemed almost immune to leading edge collapses through sheer speed, when gusts would force it to fly very fast in the direction it happened to be pointing. That was good!

Unfortunately, it still had a strong tendency to collapse when it reached high line angles while under high line tension. Perhaps that's not too much of a problem since it is supposed to be a fairly light-wind kite after all. It just needs to be flown in more suitable conditions.

So, out with the 3-Skewer Sled. Within seconds of getting it to around 50 feet, an almighty gust caused one side spar to bow alarmingly out to one side. The spar caps at each end managed to hold. I've never seen that before, but it was a clear indication that taping the middle of each Sled spar to the sail is a very good idea! That's been done now, and I'll be updating all the relevant instructions.

Near ground level, and in a somewhat sheltered position, the wind meter had recorded an average of 6.6 kph with gusts to 22 kph. Closer to 30 kph at around 200 feet perhaps. With such hairy flying going on, there hadn't been an opportunity to let out much more line than that! Must be nice to these Sleds from now on...

Prototyping Fun With New 2-Skewer Sled

Well, it was fun when the kite started behaving itself! The aim this time around was to create a 2-skewer sized Sled that would be stable enough to do away with the 2 long tails of the original.

Firstly, the side flaps were drastically down-sized to similar proportions to my other Sleds. I also tried slanting the spars so the leading edge was wider than the trailing edge. Finally, the leading edge cut-out was done with 4 straight lines rather than 2. Hence it was more like a curve than a shallow V. To compensate for the extra missing sail area, the towing points were shifted upwards a little.

This version launched ok, but was very prone to a leading-edge collapse. It never got above 20 degrees of line angle! Back to the drawing board. Actually, just back to the car seat where I slit the kite up its center line, and removed about 3cm (1 inch) of sail width. The narrower kite behaved better, but still had trouble when accelerating fast or when it reached high line angles.

Back home, I decided to add a little sail area back onto the leading edge. At the same time I simplified it back to the tried and true shallow V shape... The extra area would force the kite to fly at slightly greater angles of attack to the breeze most of the time. Back out at the flying field, the Sled immediately flew much better. Super stable and only suffering a leading-edge collapse in the strongest gusts, which might have been over 15 kph in strength.

Despite the gusty air, it was fairly straight-forward to get 60 meters (200 feet) of line out, with the kite surging up to high line angles from time to time. Still the occasional collapse, but the air was really rough up there! With heavier sail plastic and less gusty conditions, I think this 2-Skewer Sled will be a real delight to fly - with or without tails. A nice beach kite.

Wind meter readings? During the second outing, the breeze at ground level averaged 3.6 kph, with the strongest gust at 12.3 kph.

1-Skewer Sled Kite

1-Skewer Sled Surprises

Went out earlier today for a spot of flight testing, which came to a premature end when the wind speed dropped off...

The MBK 1-Skewer Sled

However, I also had the little 1-Skewer Sled in the car. The intention was to fly it to get some video, taking advantage of its good tolerance for moderate-strength breezes. Of course, now the question was - would it fly at all, in much lighter wind?

Unwrapping the little Sled, I noticed that the plastic had become distinctly 2-tone due to the effects of UV in sunlight. Never mind, everything seemed to be holding together, and there were no splits in the sail. With the next light gust that came across the field, up it went! The increased wind speed would last for a minute or two at a time, so it was easy to get a few short videos.

Although even 20 pound line is a touch heavy for kites of this size, the 29cm (11 1/2") 1-Skewer Sled willingly rose up when more line was let out. Perhaps it was around 20 meters (65ft) in the end.

Thermals had started lifting off and the tiny Sled made it to rather high line angles a few times before it was decided to wind the kite in and go home. It's a very simple and very reliable little kite.

E-book special of the month (25% off)...

Click to get 'Making The MBK Parachute Kite'

This printable e-book takes you step-by-step through making a 119 cm (4 ft) wide Parachute kite. It's not quite that wide in the air since the canopy takes on a distinct curved shape when inflated. This 14-cell kite performs best in moderate to fresh wind speeds. That's 20 to 38 kph or 13 to 24 mph. In gentle winds, this kite will hang in the air at fairly low line angles. In fresh winds, it pulls firmly for it's size, so small kids should only fly it while supervised!

Every kite design in the MBK Soft Series satisfies the following points...

  • Materials are plastic sheet, tape and line – and nothing more!
  • Tools are a ruler, scissors and a marker pen - and nothing more!
  • All cuts are along straight lines.

For the greatest chance of success, I make recommendations regarding the materials. For example, the type/weight of plastic, type/width of tape and line type/strength. Close enough should nearly always be good enough, since the design is well-tested and should be tolerant of small differences from my original.

Get the e-book for making the MBK Parachute kite. After making your first one in plastic and seeing how it performs, you can try soft Tyvek or rip-stop nylon for your next build.

The e-book is a PDF file - which means printable instructions to refer to while you make the kite. It also means convenient off-line access if that suits you better.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Sunny And Light For Della Porta

    Aug 19, 17 12:29 AM

    Winter-like weather has been the norm here for many weeks. But today was sunny with very light winds. A rare opportunity to take out the tail-less Della Porta variant with it's latest mini-bridle conf…

    Read More


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Wind Speeds

Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7