Triangular Box Kites

From Conyne Kite To Prism Triad

Triangular box kites are not quite as well-known as the traditional square box, but they are nearly as old. Like the square box kite, the triangular design has been used for many practical purposes as well as for pure fun flying.

The simplest type has just 2 cells. That is, 2 sets of sail cloth are wrapped around a set of long spars with a gap in the middle. Just like a traditional box kite, except there are 3 long spars forming 3 sides instead of 4.

The triangular type of kite represents the fewest number of sides that a box kite can have. Kites built in this style can actually have any number of sides. For example, hexagonal and octagonal box kites have 6 and 8 sides respectively. These too have been built and flown for many years.

What do you think a box kite with a very large number of sides might look like? That's right, a couple of hoops! A few kites like this have been built and flown.

An Unusual Triangular Box

Here's a modern kite which is technically a triangular box, but doesn't have much else in common with the kites discussed so far.

It's the Prism Triad, a kite with 41x41 cm (16x16 inch) sails. It has just the one cell, not 2 so that's just 3 sail panels arranged in a triangular box. The panels are tensioned and kept in shape with 6 flexible rods, 3 around each opening of the cell.

Available from Amazon, the Prism Triad Box kite is a very light wind kite, completely unlike most box kites. This is achieved by using the latest materials, including MicroCarbon for the frame. The kite weighs just 43 grams (1.6 ounces)!

For extra appeal, the Triad is designed to be easily flown in trains. You can hitch together as many as you can afford, all in a line stretching up into the sky.

Another feature of this design is its tendency to tumble down through the air when the line tension is reduced.

Triangular Box Kite Sprouts Wings

Just like the traditional box kite, the triangular type was eventually modified with wings to lift better. This was first done in 1902 by an American called Silas Conyne. This idea also inspired the French Military kite of the early 1900s. These kites had some similarities to the more complex Cody military kites, except they used 3 instead of 4 main spars for each cell.

Kite enthusiasts still fly winged triangular box kites today. Not surprisingly, they are often referred to as Conyne or French Military kites.

The wings of the French Military design were quite short. A single short spar extended out from the top of the kite on each side, forming the pointed tip of the wing. Eventually, as delta kites began to be developed, someone had the idea of merging the 2 ideas. The resulting Delta Conyne could fly at higher line angles and also stay up in lighter winds.

If you see someone flying a triangular box today, chances are it will be one of the Delta variety! Some even have two sets of cells in the middle, like this Double Conyne Box kite from Amazon.

In the 21st century, just about any kind of kite is available from a shop, either on or off-line. Various kinds of triangular box kites can be bought. They are made from the usual modern kite materials such as rip-stop nylon or mylar for the sails and fiberglass or carbon fiber for the spars. To keep costs down, these kites are usually small to average sized.

However, people who like to build their own often opt for really big sizes! Particularly if they are chasing altitude records, or hoisting heavy photographic gear.

Large Delta Conynes are also popular with the KAP crowd. KAP stands for Kite Aerial Photography. The high lift of the delta plus the stability of the triangular cells make the Delta Conyne kite a good choice for KAP. People tend to experiment with other configurations too. For example, hitching 2 box kites side-by-side under a delta wing, forming a Double Conyne box kite.

Here's a fine example of a big Delta Conyne...

Making A Simple 3 Sided Box Kite

It might look a little simpler than a 4-sided kite, but triangular box kites actually need more parts in order to stay rigid. Like square box kites, they can be made permanently rigid or collapsible for easy transportation.

One way to make a triangular kite is to make up 2 triangular frames from 6 short pieces of wood, all the same length. After the frames are ready, 3 long spars are fitted, running through each corner of the triangular frames. Sail cloth is then wrapped around and secured to each end of the complete assembly to form the sail panels. These panels should be about a quarter to a third the length of the entire kite. Finally, a bridle can be attached to each end of one of the long spars. Like the square box, a bridle is not strictly necessary since the flying line can just be attached to a long spar about a quarter of its length in from one end.

Another way to make a triangular box kite is to start by laying out the 2 strips of sail material on a flat surface. Then the 3 long spars are laid down across the sail material, at intervals. Just imagine a kite undone and laid out flat. Then, 12 short lengths of spar material are laid down at right angles to the main spars. These shorter spars, about 1/6 the length of the main spars, stiffen the leading and trailing edges of each panel. The ends of the short spars do not quite touch the long spars. Long pieces of tape can then be used to securely fasten the short spars to the sail. The tape also reinforces the sail where it bends around the long spars. When the whole thing is folded up and fastened with tape, it becomes rigid and is ready to fly once a flying line is attached. Velcro could be used instead to make it collapsible.

If you actually make a triangular box kite that is of similar dimensions to a square box kite you already have, it will soon become clear that it requires a bit more wind to fly well. That's partly because of those short spars. The extra weight increases the 'wing loading' of the kite. But who cares, really, when you can still fly in a wide range of strong wind conditions! Pull out a 2 or 3 stick flat kite for those light wind days.

The triangular type of kite represents the fewest number of sides that a box kite can have. Kites built in this style can actually have any number of sides. For example, hexagonal and octagonal box kites have 6 and 8 sides respectively. These too have been built and flown for many years.

What do you think a box kite with a very large number of sides might look like? That's right, a couple of hoops! A few kites like this have been built and flown.

In Conclusion

The original simple triangular box with just the 2 cells is not seen much now. However, its influence is considerable. These days, triangular box kites are most often seen as...

  • components of large complex multi-cellular kites
  • lifters of photographic equipment, in various Conyne configurations
  • colorful shop-bought Delta Conyne kites being flown for fun

Talking about complex, how's that yellow 3-celled design over there... Inspired by the French Military kite, but with more wings and more cells!

Something much simpler like the Prism Triad Box kite appeals to more every-day fliers though. Fast setup time is a good thing.

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

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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!
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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. The Classic Cody Kite

    Aug 23, 17 06:00 AM

    This previously published page gives a quick insight into the structure and materials of the original 'War Kites' by Samuel Cody. Plus some history and photos of course. Intriguing stuff...

    Read More


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...

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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
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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