Tetrahedral Kite Connectors?

by Corey
(Dallas, Texas, USA)

Q:

Where can I buy or how can I make - tetrahedral kite connectors? I want to build a tetrahedral kite but can't seem to find a way to connect the pieces. I would greatly appreciate any help.

A:

Good question, and I'll answer it by firstly doing a little research to uncover the ways people have already solved this problem. For a range of tetras, from tiny to large. But I suspect you want to build a 'real' kite, am I correct? So, I won't spend too much time on the kiddy kites :-)

Bear in mind that the corners of a tetrahedral structure don't have to be completely rigid to function as a kite frame. A small amount of shifting may occur, but since this happens in a symmetrical way on a multi-celled kite in flight, it is not a problem.

Here are some ideas, from the smallest kites up to large ones. 'Fully braced' tetras are assumed, in other words those with 6 identical sticks per cell. I will stick to discussing the spar material and the corresponding connection idea, ignoring all other aspects of the kite...


  1. Drinking straws for spars. Thread a length of polyester sewing thread through every straw, and tie off the threads with a simple multi-strand knot at each vertex of the frame. Then, the threads can be tied to connect the cells to each other. This seems to be by far the most well known and commonly used method!

  2. Bamboo skewers for spars. For one approach, using sticky tape connectors, see my Skewer Tetra kite design.

  3. Bamboo skewers or the thinnest dowels. Round the tips with a file, then glue 3 spars into a triangle, using woodworking glue. When dry, glue 3 more spars in place to complete the tetrahedron. The vertices could then be tied with polyester embroidery thread or light string, to connect cells.

  4. Bamboo skewers or 3mm (1/8") dowels. There is a cunning technique which involves plastic tubing which is a tight fit over the spars. By poking one length of tubing through a small hole or slit in another piece, joints for 4 or more tips can be created. See this page for details.

  5. Bamboo skewers or 3mm (1/8") dowels. See this page for some commercially available connectors which might still be available.

  6. Thicker dowel, say 5mm and up. With the right tape, for example packing tape, the approach used for the Skewer Tetra kite should work. Not pretty perhaps, but it would fly!

  7. Thicker dowel, say 5mm and up. Round the tips with a file, run lengths of shoelace up one side, over the rounded tip then down the other side, for a few cm on each side. Bind and glue in place, to form a strong loop on each tip. To both connect spars and cells together, feed a length of shoelace through every loop at every vertex of the kite, and tie off.

  8. Carbon fiber tubing (not solid rods). The drinking straw approach should work, except of course a more appropriate 'thread' should be used. Hefty Nylon or Polyester flying line would be OK. Maybe sleeved with tape at each end to prevent chafing on the inner diameters at the ends of each tube.

  9. Fairly thick dowel. Insert a screw with an eyelet directly into each spar tip. It is then a straightforward, if tedious, matter to tie off all the eyelets at each vertex with lengths of kite line or perhaps shoelace.



As a general guide for dowel, make the spar lengths about 80 times longer than the dowel's width. For solid carbon fiber rods you could experiment with much greater ratios than that.

I hope there is something in there that might help. Also, I intend to make a Dowel Tetrahedral myself later. Perhaps using idea number 5 above!

Finally, and this has just dawned on me today, here's another idea... You could gather silicon or plastic tubes together in groups of 3 and tightly bind each group near 1 end with plastic-coated wire, crushing the tubes. Or even use good old shoe-lace perhaps. Anything to avoid slicing into the tubing. Then you could double the tube lengths, binding these groups of 3 in the middle, for some 6-way connectors. Instant tetrahedral connectors for a multi-cell kite! As long as the tubes are a tight fit onto the rods.

Hope this helps ... no, I'm sure something here should help :-)

Comments for Tetrahedral Kite Connectors?

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May 04, 2016
Great idea
by: Anonymous

Your idea for tubing sure sounds doable. Thanks.

Jul 06, 2012
Thank You
by: Corey

I am amazed at all your advice - that is wonderful. I might look into buying some connectors. We will see. Thank you so much.

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