A Ben Franklin Kite To Make

DON'T Try The Famous Experiment!

Once in a while, someone in the U.S. wants to make a replica of the famous Ben Franklin kite. This page is dedicated to helping you do just that!

However, the instructions here are mainly for getting the 'look' right. That is, putting together something that looks very much like the original would have - if it was ever built! There's no proof that it actually was.

(By the way, the sticks are behind the sail material. The bridle lines are therefore poked through holes in the sail before being tied to the vertical stick.)

An expert would say 'tut tut, the handkerchief isn't real silk, and the string should be hemp twine.' And so on. But hey, this Ben Franklin kite is close enough to use as a prop in a play, for example.

A few tips are provided for getting the design as shown to actually fly. Plenty of people have tried and failed. But this is a specialist kite site ;-)

If you simply follow the diagram (further down) as closely as possible, you will certainly end up with a very authentic-looking historical kite. At least from some distance away!

Really, there is a lot of variation in the looks of Diamond kites that are capable of flying. For example, compare the Franklin design with my own light-wind Dowel Diamond...

Making The MBK Dowel Diamond is a printable e-book. It's a PDF file download.

Flying This Ben Franklin Kite

Now supposing you really need this replica to actually fly successfully. The guys on Myth Busters (a post-millenium U.S. TV show) failed to do it and ended up using a traditional Diamond with round wooden doweling. At least they used real silk for the sail - I think!

Ben Franklin Kite - diagram of the original design
Ben Franklin Kite - diagram of the original design

This short list of points should ensure that your replica flies well. It will give you the best chance possible of success...

  • The handkerchief should be as large as possible. Big kites always fly better than small kites of the same type.
  • Ben Franklin specified a silk handkerchief. Whatever sail material you use, the weave should be as fine as possible. Too much porosity to air will result in failure. So, make sure you can't blow air through it!
  • The sticks should be just thick enough to resist excessive bending in a light or moderate breeze. The thicker the sticks, the more wind required. If they are way too thick and heavy, the kite will just not fly.
  • The tail as specified in the Ben Franklin kite diagram should be fine, but the cloth ties should not be too heavy. Here, it's 'drag' that counts, not weight. Extra length in the tail line, plus a few extra ties, should fix any tendency for the kite to loop around continuously.
  • That wire on the top should be pretty thin. Otherwise, it will weigh down the kite. Not only that, but it will shift the balance point of the kite towards the nose, which is a no-no for kite stability.
  • Connect the bridle loop and flying line as shown in the diagram. But use a shift-able knot such as the Prusik to connect the flying line to the bridle loop. Some experimentation in the field will be required before the ideal position is found. Shift the knot along the bridle loop just millimeters (1/8" or 2) at a time, until the kite flies high with little effort. Assuming the breeze is somewhere in the 'light' to 'moderate' range.

Have I made one myself? Not yet - have you seen the prices on big high-quality silk handkerchiefs?!

I do intend to one day post photos and video of a flying Ben Franklin Kite replica.

Mind you, I might get out a few more times with my own Diamond, before then...

Making The MBK Dowel Diamond is a printable e-book. It's a PDF file download.

I can tell you love kites...

Otherwise you wouldn't be all the way down here near the bottom of the page :-)

So, could you do me just a small favor? 

Please sign up for my free monthly publication, "Tethered Flying". No other emails will be sent, and your details are safe with me. You do need to be at least 16 years old. There's...

  • A huge "photo of the month" (linked from a much smaller one in the email of course)
  • 3 "tips of the month" (1 for beginners, 1 for parents and 1 for more experienced kite-fliers)
  • A "flight report of the month" (selected from my own flying logs and illustrated with a photo)

Looking forward to hearing from you...

P.S. My free kite-making e-book "Simplest Dowel Kites" can be downloaded as soon as you sign up.


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P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

What's New!

  1. RC Kites

    May 22, 19 06:00 AM

    This previously published page was written up after we visited Singapore. I had the opportunity to speak to the inventor himself and observe a spectacular night flying demo!

    Read More

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

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

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

Strong ...
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

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