Box Kites

And A Few Interesting Variations

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Box kites come in so many different types these days! You don't have to see many of the ads these days to realize that. In fact, the term is used rather loosely now. It almost means the same thing as 'cellular kite'.

Most box kites are bought, but you can make your own too - like this MBK Dowel Box.MBK Dowel Box
Most box kites are bought, but you can make your own too - like this MBK Dowel Box.MBK Dowel Box

The creativity in designing kites these days is amazing. Some are designed to fly stable, others will tumble if you release the line tension for a while.

Flying boxes with small wings are more stable and have even more lifting power than the traditional box. Like this winged box kite from Amazon.

Some look nothing like the traditional square designs. A cellular design called 'snowflake' is a good example of that.

Cellular kites are made up of many hollow cells, stacked next to each other. In these designs, the cells don't necessarily have flat sides.

I've seen examples of hexagonal kites that gently rotate on their axis as they sit in the same spot in the air. Others have parts that slowly rotate in the wind.

There must be dozens of unique designs around now, and who knows, that might turn into hundreds or thousands in years to come.

 Like to see a video clip? Just scroll down to near the end...

Making Box Kites

One of our MBK designs is quite a light one, as far as Box kites go. A breeze in the Gentle range is sufficient to see the MBK Dowel Box climb away.

The traditional square Box is not difficult to make, but does take more time than a similar-sized Diamond or Sled.

Keen for an even more complicated kite? Why not try a 4-celled tetrahedral kite made from bamboo skewers and plastic! Or even stack these together to make a big 16 cell or a massive 64-cell kite!

There are still many people who like to build from scratch, rather than pick up a retail Box from the local kite shop. Or these days, it's more likely to arrive on your doorstep from an online shop.

Usually a scratch build is something relatively simple, like the traditional square box which flies on one edge.

However, there are also some amazingly keen enthusiasts out there who tackle high-quality reproductions of famous historical kites. Like the Cody war kite, the Hargrave Box and Alexander Bell's tetrahedral designs. See further down this page!

I've already mentioned the Dowel Box for light to moderate winds. When the breeze blows harder, we pull out the fresh wind Dowel Box which stands a much better chance of surviving the strain! There it is in the photo, in flight on a sunny but very gusty day.

The MBK Fresh Wind Box kite in flight.Our 'Fresh Wind' version of the MBK Dowel Box Kite

The MBK Fresh Wind Box kite in flight.MBK Dowel Box Kite
(fresh Wind version)


Box Kite Types

The list below shows where the modern box design has come from. Despite that, plenty of people still fly these designs for fun! In some cases, these kinds are still being used for practical purposes too, like hoisting cameras or ham radio aerials.

  • Hargrave
  • Traditional
  • Cody
  • Triangular
  • Hexagonal
  • Tetrahedral

Photo of an original Hargrave designHargrave Box
Photo of an original Hargrave designHargrave Box

The history of the box style kite is an interesting one! Its lifting abilities and stability led to many practical uses. The generally accepted inventor of the box kite was an Australian called Lawrence Hargrave.

The main features were the 2 long straight spars running the full length of the kite, the diagonal braces which made the whole structure rigid, and the flat cloth sails giving it the unmistakable 'box' appearance.

A modern retail version of a traditional square 2-cell box kiteTraditional Box
A modern retail version of a traditional square 2-cell box kiteTraditional Box

The so-called traditional box came about after somebody simplified the Hargrave design. Also, it's square rather than rectangular.

The traditional design only needs the 4 main spars and 4 diagonals, plus the sail material. An interesting historical example is the so-called Gibson Girl box kite, which was used by downed air crews during the Second World War.

In flight, the Hargrave looks a bit like a biplane, but the traditional square design flies on one corner. This is because the bridle attaches to just one of the spars.

Modern scaled-down replica of an early 20th century Cody War KiteCody Kite
Modern scaled-down replica of an early 20th century Cody War KiteCody Kite

Over there is an example of modern Cody kites. The Cody's eye-catching design with 2 square inner cells and bat-like wings is well known amongst many kiting enthusiasts all over the world.

Both modern and historical Codys are like 2 box kites side by side, with some extra vanes and winglets added for more lifting power.

The idea behind this design was to make something that performed just like a Hargrave, but with even more stability and control. I've put together a little research on the original Cody War kite, in case you're interested.

Diagram of a 2-cell triangular box kite, showing bridle attachment point.Triangular Box
Diagram of a 2-cell triangular box kite, showing bridle attachment point.Triangular Box

Although the first box kites were rectangular, similar kites with 1 less or many more main spars will still fly.

In the case of 1 less, that makes a triangular box kite. The early ones required more complex cross-spar bracing than the traditional square box. 

A simple triangular design looks and flies very similarly to the traditional square box, with the bridle attached to one of the main spars. They take a bit more breeze to fly though, for the same size kite.

The triangular Box is often modified with the addition of wings, to make it more efficient.

Ham radio enthusiasts still use the French Military kite to hoist long aerials into the air.

A hexagonal design made from dowels and fabricHexagonal Box
A hexagonal design made from dowels and fabricHexagonal Box

Ok, what about adding more spars... A few kite designs these days are based on the hexagonal concept.

Yes, 6 main spars! The whole thing starts to look less like a box and more like a barrel. The pic over there shows a design pretty close to a traditional hexagonal kite. It's by Helen Howes, a pro kite maker who runs the charming little RaindropKites site in the U.K.

In theory, you can have as many spars as you like. In fact, it is possible to go all the way and make a circular kite that looks like 2 wide pieces of tubing floating in the sky.

"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 decided to run kite making as an elective again on this camp in the past week - so I bought all your e-books, a bunch of materials, and then took a group of 10 high school students through making the kites over 4 days. We built a diamond, a Barn Door, a Delta, and two skew delta kites. Again - every single kite flew."

Box Kites In Action

Creative people have done huge amounts of development on the box concept. It seems half the fun with such kites these days is inventing a new one! Some people...

  • keep the basic 4-spar box design
  • merge the basic box design with the delta or other simple kite layout
  • create cellular kites using many 'boxes' of various shapes
  • design for special behaviors such as tumbling or rotating in various ways

Here's a few examples, one for each category in the list above.

An interesting variation on the basic 4-spar design is the Explorer Box. Despite the classic 4-spar construction, this kite has triangular panels that give it a really unique look. It's designed so the bridle can be easily attached to any spar. This gives 4 different looks to choose from, when flown. Like many modern kites, the spars are fiberglass and the sails are rip-stop nylon.

A typical example of merging the basic box with other elements is the B-Box beginners' kite. This one is based on a triangular box actually. The addition of simple wings and 2 tails makes it a nice easy stable flyer. It handles gusty winds well. Easy to set up, and also made from ripstop nylon with fiberglass spars.

How's this for a cellular kite which Lawrence Hargrave would just shake his head at I think. The Lotus Box is a spectacular-looking kite with many triangular cells arranged in a circle, with extra sails on the outer rim. Look closely, and you can spot the basic triangular box kite in there! So it really is a box design. With so many spars, the manufacturer has made them out of graphite to keep the weight down.

Here's a good example of special behavior. The cleverly designed HQ Roto Kite rotates around it's axis while maintaining it's position in the sky. Eye catching hey? According to the makers, it's a 'a reliable flyer with light pull'.

Not many box kites these days are used for scientific or other practical purposes, at least when compared to how many of them are being flown for fun! The latest designs get shown off at kite festivals, and then sold off through kite shops both real and 'virtual' on the Internet.

Since the whole idea for most of these kites is to look at them, it's not surprising that lots of bright colors are used in the designs.

Here's an interesting flat-flying box design we saw at the Adelaide International Kite Festival...

Near the jetty at the recent AIKF 2016. Dubbed the 'neo-modern box kite' by the commentator...

Posted by My Best Kite on Monday, April 4, 2016


This winged box kite is a versatile flyer and would be at home on a couple of hundred feet of line in rough air or smooth. Let's put that another way - take it to a large inland park or down to the beach! Either way it'll put on a show.


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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 ...
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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