Dowel Kite Posts—Box

(Oak Dowel 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 as posts in the site-blog page, although that page is no longer present on this site. Below, the latest posts come first. Just scroll down and stop at any heading that appeals :-)

Dowel Box Kite
(fresh wind)

Boxes and Circles

It was the Dowel Box (fresh wind version) this time, and it uncharacteristically described half of one huge circle.

The MBK Dowel Box kite in flight (fresh wind version).MBK Dowel Box (fresh wind version)

So what was going on? Very gusty wind with some thermal component was making things interesting, for sure. Another factor came to mind while I was out there—all the repairs to the longerons.

One by one, over a period of many months, these spars had been snapped and repaired just forward of where the upper cell cross-pieces sit against the spar. The most recent repair hadn't been tested in flight!

Despite the curving to the right under moderate wind-strengths, the kite flew just fine through the gentle range. That's wind speeds in the teens in kph, roughly speaking.

With weak winter thermals about, the pale-blue box kite even sailed around and surged up to quite high line angles, on 60 meters (200 feet) of line. But after a few seconds of much fresher breeze, over it would go, careering far over to the right. This is a kite that would normally handle 40 kph without having a bias one way or the other. So something was wrong.

Back home, after transporting the kite fully rigged on the back seat of the car, I had a good look down all the longerons. With the kite in an attitude of flight, the top-rear edge had a definite kink to the right which possibly was acting like a rudder. Being a very stable design, the rudder effect was only showing up when the breeze was strong enough. By re-taping the top longeron to one side a little, where it was attached to the leading edge of the lower cell, the kink should be reduced.

The proof will be in the flying of course, so we'll see what happens next time!

On this site, there's more kite-making info than you can poke a stick at :-)  Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads—printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.

Dowel Box Kite Limps into the Air

Well, you would think it would "limp" with a broken longitudinal spar, but in fact the kite flew pretty well.

Picking up the kite this morning, I had a vague thought that it might not be 100%, but didn't remember the broken spar until rigging it out at the field! Never mind, there was plenty of breeze so it was worth a shot. In any case, when the accident first happened some weeks ago, the kite continued to fly.

The top front portion of the upper cell would sometimes fold downward and come to rest against the cross-pieces. However, the fault being symmetrical, the kite still had ample lifting force and no tendency to turn. The wonky upper cell had a noticeable effect, giving the 1.2 m (4 ft.) tall box kite a small turbo-boost when it flipped open—and a light tap on the brakes when it came down again.

The breeze today was extremely gusty, going from about 5 kph right up to the mid-20s. A few launches were necessary before the kite finally stayed up in the stronger airflow above 100 feet altitude. Some video was taken, from two different perspectives.

Aren had a friend along who commented that the kite was "huge." That made me smile, as I waited for Aren to come back with some sort of "you ain't seen nothin' yet" kind of comment—which he duly did. My lad has seen most (if not all) of the 2.4 m (8 ft.) Multi-Dowel kites in action.

Eventually, I let out around 90 meters (300 feet) of the 50-pound Dacron line and it was fun seeing and feeling the kite charge around the cloudless winter sky. Sometimes it went low, sometimes high, depending on the presence of weak rising air. Also, the line angle was affected by periods of stronger wind which tossed around the leafy treetops surrounding the field.

Breeze Buffets Brave Box Kite

I just had to have a little fun with alliteration in that title. Anyway...

The purpose of the outing was actually to test another kite in fresh wind. But before getting busy with that, it was time to take a few movies with the Dowel Box on just 10 or 15 meters (50 feet) of line. Unfortunately, the sun was in an awkward position and hence most of the footage featured an invisible kite being carefully followed around the sky. It occasionally made an appearance when close to the ground or off to one side against a patch of blue!

Even on a much longer length of line, the results were not too different, so all the movie files ended up being deleted once checked at home.

Perhaps I should have let the kite right up to 200 feet or more, since it eventually nosedived into the damp ground, snapping the upper tip of the top main-spar. It's been a good reliable kite, but box designs do move around a lot in turbulent air while down low.

The funny thing is, the Dowel Box took off again in a hefty gust and continued flying for many minutes while I was busy with the other kite being tested! This was despite the top two sides of the upper cell being folded inward, right back to the vertical cross-piece.

The breeze was gusting into the mid-30s in kph, buffeting the brave box kite ;-)

Just before going home, an older kid walked past and commented on the prototype kite being tested—"good kite." After another moment of checking it out, flying smoothly and high in the fresh breeze, it was pronounced "heaps good!" That was nice feedback indeed.

Extreme Gusts Test Box Kite

This outing was at first intended to test a mod that had been done to the Carbon Diamond #2. However, the extreme gusts and sheer wind speed resulted in a nose-in while the kite was still on a short line. Thankfully, the only damage was the lower tip of the vertical-spar tube punching through the two layers of Tyvek of the lower corner-strap.

So, it was out with the backup kite—the Fresh Wind Dowel Box!

This was an opportunity for this kite to really live up to its name. Rather than struggle with rigging out in the open, I retreated to the nearby toilet block. Soon, crouched outside right next to a wall, the box was ready.

Launching was very easy, even between gusts! While letting out line, the kite dove off to the left a bit further than expected. This is not usually a problem, but on its way back the kite charged straight through the twigs of a long tree branch. This pointed it toward the ground, so the kite contacted the grass nose-first. Fortunately, this was during a brief lull so no damage was done. It was a slow-speed version of what happened to the diamond earlier!

After this, the high-performance 2-cell dowel-and-plastic box kite was in its element. It charged around in the gusts, soaring high and sinking out on a slack line during sudden drops in wind speed. A couple of times, the kite was forced into a power dive to the right, almost to the grass. Each time, in the slower air, natural stability kicked in and the kite was soon up high again.

Naturally, I was taking video of these antics. The wind spilling around the camera itself made plenty of noise. However, from time to time, the mic also recorded the noisy fluttering of the plastic sails. The kite was picking up speed like a stunter!

There wasn't time on this occasion to let the kite up much higher, after taking video on a line length of just under 30 meters (100 feet). I had a date with my wife in a supermarket, you see.

A hurried wind-speed check at shoulder height showed a gust to 31 kph. After arriving home later, it turned out the gusts higher up were around 40 kph. It was box-kite weather, indeed.

Dowel Box Kite Rides Inland Gusts

A recent bout of sickness has left me with double vision for a while, which rules out driving the car anywhere. So it was time for a return visit to the small grassy reserve where many of the 1-Skewer Series designs made their debut years ago. The easy walking distance from home was the main thing!

Looking out the window, I saw that the breeze shifting the treetops around seemed capable of supporting the Dowel Box kite—the fresh wind version with its smaller sail panels. Sure enough, down at the reserve, the kite managed to grip enough air around 50 feet to stay up fairly comfortably. A couple of times I had to interrupt some movie-taking to coax the kite higher as it threatened to sink right back to the grass.

After 20 minutes or so of flying near the lower end of the kite's wind range, a period of fresher breezes began. In the somewhat sheltered location where I stood, the wind meter showed about 8 kph gusting to over 12 kph. However, the breeze was clearly over 20 kph higher up. The firm pull on the flying line was one indication!

Isolated rain showers had been forecast for the area, so fairly low cumulus clouds were everywhere. No rain had fallen all day in our suburb though.

The cloudy skyscape made for some attractive footage of the 2-celled box surging about in the gusts, lulls, and wind shifts. Due to the small size of the reserve, it was wise to not let the kite fly on more than about 45 meters (150 feet) of line. But that was enough to let it take full advantage of the moderate-strength (20 kph+) airflow over the treetops.

So, some enjoyable box-kite flying was had today, with the 50-pound Dacron feeling like thread compared to the 200-pound variety with which I do most flying these days!

Dowel Box Beefed Up

Just to make sure the Fresh Wind Dowel Box survives the next time I take it out in 40+ kph winds, the 5 mm cross pieces were replaced with 6 mm dowel. Amazingly, today it still managed to thermal directly overhead in 15 to 20 kph winds!

It took a few short tows to get it up there, but finally the box kite got its teeth into the faster air about 50 feet up. From there, it climbed to 300 feet in about three stages. Each time, I would just let line fly off the winder as the kite floated downwind, losing height. Holding on to the line would allow the kite to steadily fly back up, and then the procedure would be repeated. All the while, I didn't let the kite dip below about 50 feet at the low points!

May (my wife) had snapped off a few photos. Some featured 6-year-old Aren, who was beginning to complain that the kite was pulling too hard—while it was at a very high line angle! Soon, the time came to move along to our next destination, since we were en route across the city. However, the kite was not willing. It insisted on remaining in that giant thermal, almost vertically above us, and it was a bit of a job to get the box kite down.

Near the ground, the winds averaged 5.4 kph with a peak at 17.4 kph. At 300 feet I'm guessing the average was around 15, gusting to perhaps 25. What a cool flight!

Finally, the Fresh Wind Box Meets its Match!

There were weird winds today. They were super gusty and the direction was all over the place at ground level—although I had launched the Fresh Wind Dowel Box kite not far from the tree line, which could explain it.

There had been drops of rain earlier in the afternoon, and the freshening winds were probably associated with a rain cell not too far away. After some trouble with the kite dropping out during lulls, it eventually got its teeth into some suitably brisk air.

Given that the line tension was considerable, I didn't bother letting out more than 60 meters (200 feet), in case I needed to bring the kite down in a hurry. There it was, scudding around all over the sky, being pushed close to its limits.

Well, eventually it came down in a hurry all by itself... During one almighty gust, the line tension exceeded anything I had ever felt with this particular kite. A moment later, the cross pieces disintegrated and I watched the bits of dowel descend to the grass. Meanwhile, the rest of the kite wasn't very far behind and it soon speared into the deck.

Yes, the wind meter was running! At ground level, winds averaged 8.8 kph and peaked at 22 kph. My estimate of the gust at 150 feet altitude which broke the kite would be somewhere between 30 and 40 kph. The highest treetops were swaying with plenty of gusto.

Wild Winds and Rain

...did not stop two intrepid kitists (how's that for a word) from having a go this afternoon. We were down at Knox Park at the appointed hour, this normally being the monthly MBK Kite Fly. Both of us had Fresh Wind Box kites at the ready. That's the MBK Dowel Box design modified for fresh winds.

First up was Trev's box kite. Unfortunately it didn't last long in the punishing conditions. On double checking my Making Dowel Kites e-book at home, I discovered that an important change had not found its way into the e-book. The small e-book for just that one kite had been updated, but not the larger compilation e-book for all the Dowel Series kites. Tsk tsk I'm sorry people. You see, the horizontal cross-pieces need to be 6 mm dowel, not 5 mm like the rest of the spars and cross pieces. Fixing this oversight is next on the to-do list.

After this, I put up my own well worn and repaired Fresh Wind Box kite. For more than half an hour it zoomed about on 90 meters (300 feet) of 50-pound Dacron line. Despite not being a particularly large kite it required gloves to fly it today! Ouch.

At least two wind squalls passed over the field, although the rain held off for more than an hour. During the squalls, the 1.2 m (4 ft.) long box kite stretched the line super tight and emitted noises like a jet aircraft. The Dacron line joined in too sometimes, vibrating in a high-pitched squeal. In fact, I got the camera to record some of that by pressing the camera case against the line while taking a movie!

The longitudinal spars took on graceful complex curves as huge forces came to bear on the cell panels. But the kite survived, thanks to its 6 mm cross pieces!

Meanwhile, Trev had fairly successfully flown his Pterodactyl kite in the somewhat slower air below treetop height. Even so, the breeze was so strong for it that the dino's head/beak got bent sideways from time to time! Deary me, that's like a rudder on the wrong end.

Finally, the rain arrived and we hurriedly took everything down and got out of there. Hardly a scrap of sunlight had peeped through the whole time, but some fun was had after all.

At head height, a gust was recorded at 36 kph, but the forecast indicated gusts to the mid-40s at higher altitudes.

Definition of "A Strong Breeze"

You know the wind is strong when you go to check the wind meter—and it has just blown over on its stout little tripod! There it was, face down in the grass ... more later in this report.

With the sun out and forecasts predicting several days of nonstop rainy weather, it was time to race out and fly something before the skies closed up.

Down at a local reserve, the Dowel Box kite was quickly set up in the wind shadow of a handy bush, before being launched fairly effortlessly in the breeze blowing through. This time, the bridle loop was considerable shorter and the towing point was adjusted to a centimeter or two (1 inch) ahead of the upper cell's leading edge. Now the kite was all prepared for a load of high-wind punishment!

After scooting about wildly in the turbulent air near the trees, I managed to climb the pale-blue box kite out a little into smoother air—not to mention much faster air! 

As the kite passed through 50 feet altitude or so, a supervised class of small children came out from the elementary  (primary) school and sat in a row to watch. I guess the teacher was taking the opportunity to vary the curriculum somewhat.

To sum up the rest of the flight, you could say the wind was gusty and very fresh the whole time. Often, I had to hang on to the winder with both hands, just in case it got ripped away! For about half an hour, the Dowel Box kite flew about, occasionally fluttering loudly in response to high airspeed over its panels. But it was successfully riding out the very fresh conditions.

And then... On 90 meters (300 feet) of line, the wind really picked up for several minutes. I thought "that's it, bring it down." Just a moment later, something changed, causing the kite to loop to the right during a strong gust. It usually went to the left, so something was amiss. Down it went, deep, deep into the "power zone" as kite-surfing types like to say. Well... it was too much power, obviously. In an instant, the cross pieces were gone, who knows where. The rest of the kite soon came to ground.

I think I might rest the Dowel Box for a while. Actually, I'm getting sick of making new cross-pieces.

Oh yes, the wind meter—it showed an average of 9.3 kph near the ground. But a maximum of ... 37 kph was displayed! Make that well over 40 kph up at 250 feet, most likely.

Dowel Box Kite: Smooth Sailing Turns Rough

Just for a change, this flight with the Dowel Box kite wasn't over the rooftop.

Earlier in the day, things looked fairly calm. But by the time I got out there, there were windier periods. Down at the reserve, moderate gusts would come through from time to time. These were just enough to launch the Fresh Wind Box it appeared. Sure enough, after a few tows and sink outs, the blue "squashed box" design managed to claw its way higher. A bit of timing and working the line helped of course.

Passing through 100 feet or so, additional wind strength made for very ideal conditions for this kite. Climbing further was a uhhm ... breeze. Initially, the sky was rather overcast, and the box kite settled down to a rock-solid position in smooth moderate winds. Just over 90 meters (300 feet) of line was out.

A ragged formation of white corellas flew across, just downwind of the field. The birds appeared as flickering specks of pure white. Later, a splash of red and yellow shot past me at shoulder height; it was a parakeet of some kind, in a hurry to get somewhere downwind of my position.

Why fly on 90 meters when there is more line on the winder? Out it went, another 30 meters to 120 meters (400 feet). Not long after this, I noticed that the kite was scooting around a lot more, and even climbing overhead from time to time. Well, it went to 80 degrees at least. Thermals had arrived! Indeed, the sun was now out, although not quite at full strength due to thin sheets of cloud here and there. But the air had responded to the ground's warmth within minutes. Now I had a big fish on the line, not a barge.

All up, it was a great flight, with the wind meter peaking at 9.6 kph at ground level. But the wind would have been somewhere between 15 and 20 kph upstairs, I think.


Dowel Box Kite
(moderate wind)

Venerable Box Veers

Contrary to the weather-station readings just a couple of hours earlier, I arrived yesterday at the field to find "light winds and thermals."

The MBK Dowel Box kite in flight (moderate wind version)MBK Dowel Box (moderate wind version)

Were the light conditions problematic when carrying only a couple of 1.2 m (4 ft.) long box kites? Not at all—my old Dowel Box (moderate winds) should really have been named the Dowel Box (gentle winds). In fact, the lightly built traditional two-cell design can probably hold its height in a steady breeze near the top of the light range.

The old light plastic was brittle and a couple of tears needed repair with sticky tape, before a launch could be attempted.

To begin with, there were plenty of short flights where the box was pulled up into rather light gusts and simply failed to stay up. The next step was to lay out longer lengths of line and sit the kite on its lower cell. When a gust threatened to topple the kite backward, a firm tug on the line would accelerate it upward.

Then followed much working of the line, where the kite would be allowed to drift downwind whenever extra tension came on. In this way, more and more line length went out, and the kite could be pulled higher and higher each time.

Rising air was encountered quite often. Hence it was fun to watch the box losing little height as it drifted downwind, parallel with the ground.

Eventually, the Dowel Box took an elevator ride to 300 feet on 400 feet of 50-pound Dacron. Thinking it was going to be up there for a while, I took half a minute or so to secure the line and winder around my carry-bag. Then, l noticed the line laying flat on the grass, close to the bag. Surely not! But the box had indeed come all the way down to the grass.

The Dowel Box does not launch well by being dragged along the ground. So, I had to walk right out and get it in the air on a short length when the next gust came through. As I walked back to the bag, the kite gained height steadily in a long warm gust. Back at the bag, and after a little extra working of the line, the box kite was once again at 300 feet. At times a huge sideways bow in the line would develop as a thermal came near. The kite would descend a little, veer sideways in the direction of the bow, then power up and away as the line straightened.

After some great thermal soaring with the sun lighting up the sails from above, it was time to get back home. Several minutes were spent winding in before the Dowel Box kite came gently to earth a few meters away.

Nice flying!

Moderate Wind Box Towed Up into Perfect Air

It took quite a few tows across the wet grass, under an overcast sky, before the Dowel Box kite (moderate wind) was able to climb away. Finally, there it was, pulling a very firm tension into the thoroughly wet Dacron line.

Above 100 feet or so, the breeze freshened quite suddenly to perhaps 12 to 15 kph. This was a real contrast to the 2.9 kph average and 9.4 kph maximum recorded by the wind meter sitting just above the ground on its little tripod. The low gray clouds moved steadily along, reflecting the moderate winds up there.

I enjoyed seeing the box do its thing, gaining and losing height gradually in response to wind speed variations. It was good and stable, with six turns of line around a smooth metal pole proving to be very secure.

There was just a little drama when the wind speed aloft picked up and pushed the kite around in a wide loop to the left, the upper cell distorting ominously. Fortunately, I was able to unwrap the line from the pole in time to relieve the pressure on the kite, which by this time had descended to just 50 feet or less. Down there, there was not enough breeze to keep it flying, so a dozen or so sharp pull-ins were needed to contact the moderate air-stream once again. Some more relaxed flying ensued, at line angles of 45 to 50 degrees.

Just before bringing the Dowel Box kite down, a small soaring bird joined the kite for a few moments, before moving off again. Curiosity? Perhaps not, since shortly afterward, I noticed that the kite had gained height in some rising air. The sun had come out, and gentle thermals were lifting off from the field. Soaring birds are like glider pilots—they soon notice if someone else is using rising air!


The story or stories above document actual flying experiences. My write-ups are definitely "warts and all" since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!


As mentioned earlier, there's more kite-making info here than you can poke a stick at :-)

Want to know the most convenient way of using it all?

The Big MBK E-book Bundle is a collection of downloads—printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.

Every kite in every MBK series.