The Sled Kite

Some Background

Not every Sled kite is super simple, although my MBK designs are quite straightforward to make. Some designs for kids can be made in as little as 15 minutes!

A Ram-Air Sled Kite In Duplicate.

Or you can buy soft ones that can be stuffed into a very small space for carrying.

There's a couple of bigger ones of the soft variety, in the photo over there.

The original type of Sled has 2 straight spars running the length of the kite, and a tail hanging from the bottom end of each spar. Air pressure then keeps the sail open and holds the kite's shape while it flies.

A larger Sled, if accurately made, has no trouble remaining stable without tails...

This Boulder Sled kite on Amazon uses the traditional 2-stick approach.




Almost no set-up time before flying! That's the beauty of Sleds of all kinds.

Let me try and sum up the most common variations that can be found in this kind of kite.

  • overall size of course, although most Sleds are much less than a meter (3 feet) tall
  • some have an extra spar running right down the middle of the sail
  • some have inflatable spars that take the place of rigid spars
  • the spars might be parallel to each other, or they might get closer together towards the trailing edge
  • instead of just 2, there might be multiple inflatable spars, each with its own bridle attachment
  • some Sleds are stabilized with vent holes near the bottom edge of the sail, instead of tails
  • a wide tail is either attached to the entire trailing edge of the sail, or narrower tails are attached to the bottom end of each spar
  • like any kite, the sail can be decorated with any design you like!

Let me make a few comments on each of these points.

Size. I've read of a giant Sled kite that was once flown at a Dutch kite festival. From leading edge to trailing edge was no less than 14 meters (45 feet)! On the other hand, there is a Pocket Sled kite available that is sparless and so scrunches up to fit in your shirt pocket! A small, very cheap children's kite. It measures 33 cm (1 ft) in height when in the air. I'm sure even smaller ones have been made and flown too.

Extra spar I don't know how many of these are flying now, but an early variation on the basic design had this extra spar running right down the middle of the sail, with no bridle lines attached to it.

Inflatable spars. These are tubes of material that inflate with air pressure during flight, and so hold their shape and act like rigid spars. See the picture at the top of this page! Sometimes there are more than 2 spars. The nice thing about these is that the kite is totally collapsible and takes very little storage space. And of course, a fully flexible kite is much harder to damage than a kite with spindly rigid spars.

Non-parallel spars. The very first Sled kite had spars that were closer together toward the trailing edge of the kite. Hence, the kite had a slightly tapered look in the air, being bigger at the top than at the bottom. Most Sleds these days however have spars that are parallel to each other.

Vent holes. This feature has the very practical purpose of allowing the kite to fly in a stable way without any tails attached. It doesn't really matter exactly what shape the holes are, so many creatively designed vented designs may be found. As long as the vents are near the trailing edge, and let roughly the right amount of air through, they work fine.

Wide or narrow tails. Since the trailing edge of a Sled kite is completely flexible, adding a single tail is best done by attaching it across the full width of the sail. So they say. Mind you, I have modified a Baby Sled kite by adding a narrow tail to the center of the trailing edge with no problems! The tail material was extremely light, so that might have helped. Normally, thin tails are attached to the bottom end of each spar. An interesting variation on this involves attaching each end of a single tail to the spar ends. The tail then forms a loop, which tends to pull the bottom ends of the spars towards each other in flight. This helps stability. It drags a bit more too, so less tail material is required this way than if two separate tails were used.

Decoration. At one extreme, Sleds can be built with plain, even clear, plastic or rip-stop nylon. But of course, artistic kite builders love to make the kite sail their canvass! Like Chinese kites, sleds can be real works of art.





Sled Kites In Action

Despite the great variety in Sleds flying today, most of the usage of these kites is in either kite fishing or children's recreation. The fairly big Sleds you sometimes see at kite festivals might form a third category I suppose.

A Sled kite with inflatable spars is probably seen more now than the traditional 2-stick variety. Here's a very nice example...

An interesting 3-keeled Sled.

Photo courtesy of Schnitzgeli.

But if you look at pure numbers, there's a lot of anglers out there, fishing in the sea. Those of them that use kites to take the line way out often use Sled kites. These kites are made for fishing, and are sold from fishing stores. They are rigged to fly low, since the idea is to take the fishing line a long distance across the water from the angler.

Out In The Field

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

Illustrated with photos and videos, of course.

Looking at even greater numbers, kids have a fascination for kites, and many of them are flying little Sleds!

It's amazing the attention you get from kids when flying kites. I sometimes find that out when testing the latest MBK kite I have made!






Some History Of Sled Kites

Like some other types of Western kites, the Sled had its origins not long after the end of the Second World War. The 50s in other words. Isn't it interesting how kite design blossomed after the planet started to relax a bit...

The first design was credited to William Allison of Ohio, in the U.S.A., in 1950 although it wasn't patented until 1956. This was a simple 2-spar tapered kite that was invented for recreational use. Later, in 1954, another resident of Ohio, Frank Scott, came up with another version. This one had vents for stability, and the sides were parallel instead of tapering. This design was pretty successful, so for a long time this type of kite was known as the Scott Sled.

I won't go into any more detailed history except to say that people have constantly found new ways to alter the original Sled concept. Brightly colored sleds in many different configurations can be seen advertised in the online kite shops. Besides that, kite enthusiasts are always experimenting with their own versions of what has gone before. Occasionally, something quite new and different pops up. However, people have found that complex kite designs don't always fly well on the first attempt! Simple is best...

Like this Boulder Sled kite on Amazon which is a simple 2-stick design.



You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...

For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!

So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.

And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    1-Skewer Sode Dusted Off

    Oct 01, 14 03:48 AM

    With rather too much wind speed for most of my larger light-wind kites, it struck me that it wouldn't hurt to take out a little 1-Skewer kite for a change! So, several were put in the car - the Rok, S...

    Read More





New! Comments

Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...



Apologies for this site's current lack of video when viewed on mobile devices...

For now, please view this site on a Desktop or Laptop computer to see the videos. And there's plenty of them!

 

Return to Types Of Kites from The Sled Kite

All the way back to Home Page

 

E-books

Kite-making e-book: Simplest Dowel Kites

This one's FREE
Download it now!


Kite e-book: Making The MBK Dowel Sled Kite

Download
"Making The
MBK Dowel Sled Kite"
(see flight video!)


Make
all the Dowel kites, including the one above...

Kite e-book: Making Dowel Kites

Download
"Making Dowel Kites"



ALL the e-books.
Best value of all...

Kite e-books: The Big MBK Book Bundle

Download the
"MBK Book Bundle"





E-book
Testimonials

(unedited)

"Love the easy to understand step by step instructions, made from next to nothing materials and above all so much fun to fly... cheers Tim for sharing your well thought out pdf kite designs with the whole world.

Very satisfying making your own and watching them get air-born for the first time."

_________________

"I've just bought your super e-book and spent most of last night pouring through all the great stuff in it!

Very detailed and USEFUL information - thanks for such a great book."

_________________

"30+ years ago, I tried making a kite using the 'instructions' in a free kite-safety booklet. What a disappointment for a young boy.

 Your instructions and methods are wonderful. You help the builder to focus on accuracy, without making it hard. Also, you use materials that are durable, yet cheap!"

_________________

"omg i made a kite from this site and i fly it ....... booom i didnt expect this bc in the other sites instuction are trash

thank you"