MBK 1-Skewer Box
MBK 1-Skewer Box
It is relatively simple. Also, it minimizes the total weight of the kite, for any given combination of spar and sail material. Light kites are good kites, for any proven configuration.
But if you really want your box kite to be a little different, why not try one of the 2 methods outlined below. It so happens that both of these approaches will result in a slightly heavier kite for its size, than a traditional approach would generate.
However, what does that matter in ... 'box kite weather'? That
is, a nice stiff breeze! You will still end up with a perfectly
air-worthy kite for those windier days. Or maybe for when a good solid
trade wind is coming off the ocean.
I would recommend a slightly larger gap between the upper and
lower cells of the kite, than the distance from the leading edge to the
trailing edge of each sail panel. This is for the sake of stability.
Getting back to that '2 sets of cross-sticks' idea for a moment...
I have actually managed to go one step further with my 1-Skewer Box design... There is only one pair of cross-sticks, with a strategically placed internal tensioning line keeping the kite rigid. There it is in the close-up in-flight photo.
When the weather's good and you have the time, it's great to get out with a kite or 3. But what about on bad weather days? Then it's time to pull out...
"Kites Up!" - my downloadable kite-flying board game! Apart from towing indoor kites, doing a spot of imaginary flying is the next best thing :-)
Building Box Kites Unbraced
Unbraced with cross-sticks perhaps, but still rigid. A visitor to this site submitted this idea, with photos, and has proven the concept in stiff winds. Thanks Jack!
Note that, unlike my MBK designs, this idea works best with square section dowel rather than round.
The photo on the left down there shows the kite frame, around
which the upper and lower cells are wrapped. This contrasts with the
more conventional approach of attaching the spars to the sail material
first, closing the cells then applying tension by inserting
cross-sticks. Both approaches work well for those who prefer them!
Notice the 4 short sticks near each end of the frame, and how
they are secured with small, accurately-cut wood blocks. The photo on
the right gives a close-up view of such a block. Obviously, you need a
wood-working aid such as a table-saw to do this quickly and accurately.
But if you can organize that, it's a solid approach to building box
Close-up of corner block
A couple of further points...
As with building box kites the conventional way, the short pieces should be positioned to the center
of the cells, along the main spars. (Yes, I know my Moderate Wind Dowel
design has its cross-sticks near the trailing edges. In lighter winds,
you can get away with that.)
Apparently a press-fit can work, if everything is cut accurately enough. I would prefer to glue all those joins though, since the kite will be flying in strong wind. The frame will be under considerable stress.
Building Box Kites With Slab Panels
You have to choose slabs with reasonable lightness and strength of course.
I explored this idea some years ago, using bamboo skewers for
spars. Small slabs of packing foam can be glued together to form the
upper and lower cells, before gluing the skewers into the inside
corners. At this size, the kite was rather inefficient and heavy. But it
Experimental foam slab Box kite
Experimental foam slab Box kite
The nice thing about thick slabs of foam is that they lend themselves
to shaping. I carved the edges of the slabs to create a crude airfoil
section, like a plane's wing.
This gave it more lifting force and I'm
sure it contributed to the successful flight in the gusty fresh wind
down at the park. Actually, it was more like gale force near the end of
the flying session!
There's the kite, over there in the photo...
The foam slabs were so solid that the skewer tips didn't need to
go all the way to the nose and tail of the kite. Ordinary woodworking
glue was used to secure the bamboo to the foam. The foam slabs were just
butt-joined to each other and secured with the same wood glue. The
dimensions arranged so the whole thing was square, and hence could fly
on one edge like a traditional box design.
Foam slabs would lend themselves to building box kites with rectangular
cells rather than square. You would then need to fly the kite 'flat'
rather than on one edge. This would require a 4-point bridle instead of 2
OK, I hear you say 'we don't often get gale force winds around here.' Not to worry - just build something bigger and look around for foam slabs that are relatively thin compared to their other dimensions. Use wood dowel for the spars.
For the best chance of success, I would go for dowel and slabs that appear
a bit thin or weak for the job. If anything breaks in flight, just try
again and move up to stronger materials where required. Otherwise, it's
just too easy to build something that won't fly in anything but a gale
or category 5 storm, due to sheer weight ;-)
In the case of foam slabs breaking, that would mean trimming down
the dimensions a little to achieve greater stiffness. Leaving the thickness the same of course.
As for busted dowels, just buy the next size up that is available, and try again.
Worried about the 'airfoil shaping' idea for the foam slabs? It's
not strictly necessary, but it would still be helpful to at least round off
the leading and trailing edges of both cells. This will definitely cut
down the drag forces a little and hence help the kite to be more
And how about building box kites with balsa wood panels? In theory, balsa wood could be used in a similar way to the foam slabs idea.
Do you have any aeromodelling skills? Have a go at making a
little balsa box kite, it should work fine. Particularly if you carve a
bit of an airfoil section into the sails! More than just decreasing
drag, this would also increase the lifting force of the sails.
Try this using thick slabs of the lightest balsa, to get some rigidity. Perhaps try a harder
grade of balsa for the main spars. This way, they can be thinner and
hence have lower drag to increase the efficiency of the kite.
Balsa wood would be ideal for building box kites in tiny sizes.
Ones that would use ordinary sewing thread for flying line, perhaps!
Also, these days it's easy to get hold of polyester sewing thread in
supermarkets. That's similar to Dacron, the single-line kite flier's
Some Simple Bridle Ideas
Regarding the towing point, this should be located on one spar, about
midway along the upper cell. A simple 2-celled box kite of almost any size seems to only require this single attachment point in order to fly stable. Perhaps with the aid of a tail, in the case of very small box kites.
Some experimentation will be required to get your box kite trimmed for best performance. Try this approach...
- Attach a bridle loop
between the nose and another point at least half-way along the same
- Attach the flying line to this loop with a sliding knot.
Start with the knot almost level with the leading edge of the upper
cell, and shift it back in small steps until the kite gets best height.
Why not try some of these ideas for building box kites. Don't let those windy days go to waste!
As mentioned earlier, there's another alternative to towing indoor kites if it's just not possible to fly outdoors...
"Kites Up!" is my downloadable board game. It's a PDF file which has all the documentation for the game plus images for all the components. Tokens, cards, the board itself and so on. Anyway, just click that link to see more info :-)