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!
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 Diamond Kite
Last Saturday evening winds were light and dying further by the minute, so out came the super-light-wind Dowel Diamond.
MBK Dowel Diamond
This diamond was a special build of the MBK Dowel Diamond, reserved for the lightest of breezes. Even so, a few swishes around the back yard proved futile, so I headed out to a small reserve quite close by. Some delicate light-wind flying followed, with the kite never getting higher than a few meters off the grass. It was time to get serious :-|
After a couple of tow ups on 30 meters (100 feet) of 50 pound line, the big pale diamond finally held station at a modest 20 to 30 degrees of line angle. Imagine how light but steady the breeze was, to maintain that low angle with such a featherweight of a kite.
I had neglected to bring my usual carry bag of accessories—a pity since the kite really needed to be flying on 20 pound line in these conditions!
On a previous outing the breeze had been ample so several meters of light plastic tail had been added to settle the kite down. Today, all that tail was taken off to save some weight.
Finally, some very gentle rising air came through, and I was able to work the now tailless Eddy out to 60 meters (200 feet) of line. Mind you, the kite's angle from horizontal was never above 30 degrees the whole time! After a brief spell at 100 feet over some local houses, the air calmed right down. Down came the kite on its face, ever so gently.
At this time I spotted a pelican flying past, a short distance downwind. The bird was flapping — not a good sign on a day when rising air is the only way to keep your kite up there! Airborne pelicans can't be bothered flapping much at all, most of the time.
As the diamond descended, I pulled in line but not quite quick enough. The line had draped so low that it caught in a small tree on the far side of the reserve. I continued pulling in, so the kite overflew the tree and nosed in onto the reserve. This was a good result in the circumstances! The line was easily retrieved although the tree lost a few twigs.
Although short, it wasn't a bad spur-of-the-moment outing, although in super-light winds for a change.
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 Diamond at Dusk
was somewhat spur-of-the-moment, but it turned out extremely well. The
weather reports for the following week were dismal. It was definitely time to
grab a kite and head outside while flying was still possible!
With the sun just below the horizon the sky above was darkening by the
minute. The most subtle puffs of breeze were tickling the fronds of
Several attempts were made to get the diamond kite into the air. By
sitting it up against the side lawn fence, backing off then pulling in
line quickly, I tried to get the kite just above roof height. No luck. There wasn't a
chance of even maintaining height, it seemed.
Next, a similar
approach was tried on the rear lawn, which offered more room to tow up.
This was more promising. Also, it was a little more exciting since it involved
navigating the kite over the roof on one side and a large peach tree on
By now, Aren was helping by sitting the kite up against
the fence for each tow up; he also helped by timing the flights on his stop
watch—fun stuff for an 8 year old boy.
Finally, some line tension
materialized as the kite soared to about twice roof height. From there,
it was easy to slip out a few more meters of the 20 pound Dacron and let
the pale orange diamond gently climb back up to around 50 degrees of
angle each time.
As the minutes ticked by, the darkness deepened but it was still easy
to see the kite overhead. It responded to every little wind shift and
gentle gust. The kite was boosted at times to over 60 degrees of angle, on about 20
meters (70 feet) of line.
An airliner approached, way above,
landing lights ablaze and red/green tip lights glowing brightly. It
passed overhead, several thousand feet up. Around the same time, a bright
star peeked through the cloud cover, reminding us that we were flying
well after sundown.
What a magic flight! After Aren called out
"10 minutes!", we brought the kite down. Flying from small backyards
definitely has its charms.
Dowel Diamond Magic
A late evening outing produced some great light-wind action with the latest Dowel Diamond kite. First up was a short series of flights on just a few meters of line, to photographically record this individual kite. It has a very clean look now, with the clear packing tape caps quite invisible from just a short distance away.
With the images taken, I looked forward to getting the kite much higher on its 50 pound line. Above 100 feet, the breeze was smooth but slightly too strong for the kite with its current bridle adjustment. The diamond would tend to arc over on its side and then sink towards the ground, in a sort of "neutral stability"—not getting any worse, but not better either! Another clue was the occasional fishtailing of the vertical spar.
It was time to relieve some of that excess air pressure.
After bringing the kite down and shifting the towing point forward by a good 3 cm (1 in.) the flying was much improved. Also, the kite was genuinely stable this time!
As time passed, the wind seemed to moderate somewhat. This suited the rather lightweight diamond perfectly. Not only that, but the flying line tension was so light that I didn't hesitate to switch over to the 20 pound line. Just several minutes later, the kite was flying at around 50 degrees on almost 100 meters (330 feet) of line.
During the climb it was interesting to observe the gradual wind gradient that existed more than 100 feet off the ground.
A slight tug on the line would urge the kite up by just a few feet. There it would stay, not dropping back down, due to the tiny increase in wind speed compared to just a few feet lower. This was repeated several times. Amazing! It was such a delicate balance of forces.
Eventually, with the sun going down behind a bank of cloud cover, it was time to wind the kite in. It came right down to my hand, while a couple of guys gawked, possibly realizing for the first time that I had been flying a kite! I tend to fly so high that people just don't realize it's up there.
The wind meter had recorded 1.1 kph with a gust to 5.0 kph. I don't think the breeze was ever more than 10 or 12 kph up higher.
Dowel Diamond Light-Air Antics
With the power out for a few hours, it seemed a good idea to walk down to the local reserve with Aren—but not without a kite of course! There was just over an hour of sunlight left in the day and leaves were barely moving. But that's just how the Dowel Diamond kite likes it.
It turned out to be quite an interesting outing with the pale orange Eddy-inspired tailless kite. A few tows were necessary to contact the perhaps 3 kph necessary to stay up there. This was very marginal indeed, with the kite sometimes losing height on its face or in the gentlest possible tail slides, before edging upwards again. In point form, here's a few highlights:
Holding altitude at around 150 feet, but pulling so lightly that the 25 cm (10 in.) wooden winder could just be left on the grass! Later, I put the kite bag on it, just in case. I could have used the 20 pound line, rather than the 50 pound it was on.
Flying face down in the weakest of thermal air, holding height with the flying line draped almost vertically down to where several meters of it just lay in the grass!
Took my eyes off it for half a minute or so while winding it back in. At a very high line angle, it managed to get itself into a vertical dive before I noticed. The diamond just curved round in a large languid loop before righting itself, well above the tree tops. Whew.
With the line length back to around 10 meters (30 feet), I had fun dancing the kite just out of reach of Aren. He tried pelting it with a bark chip, and eventually succeeded in getting the chip stuck in the bottom corner pocket of the sail. Not once, but twice.
Checked the wind meter after half an hour or so of flying. Peak gust strength of 4.1 kph (batten down the hatches) and average wind speed of ... 0.0 no mistake, 0.0 kph! Most of the time the cups weren't moving at all. This was near ground level of course, but I think that 0.0 reading is a first.
Dowel Diamond Just Pips Dowel Delta
I was down at Knox Park on the last Saturday of the month, as is my custom.
The weather has not cooperated on the last couple of occasions. Even today the breeze was barely there. A friend of mine had his best light wind kite out—an MBK Dowel Delta done in ripstop nylon and sprayed in acrylics.
Giving the delta a good run for its money was my Dowel Diamond. This was a special one I once made, specially for very light conditions. To save weight, the spars were permanently attached so there was no shoelace tie or wood glue. Also, the electrical tape spar caps were done in lighter packing tape. The sail material was the cheapest nastiest plastic bag sheet available :-) At least it is very thin and hence feather light.
With both kites struggling to stay up on long light lines, I rather optimistically rigged the huge Multi-Dowel Delta kite. But by the time it was ready to launch, the other kites had come to the ground.
In vain I scanned the tree tops for an encouraging leaf. That is, one that was moving even just a little to indicate air movement! But there was nothing. Occasionally, birds fool you by jumping around inside the foliage and shaking the odd twig!
Before long we had packed up and moved to another location on a ridgetop just a few kilometers away. There was faster air up there, being forced over the ridge and surrounding hills. Both the diamond and delta were able to stay up easily. It became clear that the diamond had a slight edge in light wind performance.
The setting was very picturesque, with the glassy sea, a luminous red/orange sun about to set and dark smudges on the horizon indicating falling rain.
Diamond in Light Air
Though overcast and nearly windless outside, there was still a chance the 1.2 m (4 ft.) Dowel Diamond would stay up.
I selected my special light-wind version, which stays rigged—saving the weight of glue and shoelace tie. Also, it uses packing tape instead of the somewhat heavier electrical tape for securing the dowel tips to the sail. If a frog burps in the grass below, this thing will climb to 50 feet over it. Warm air rises. OK, I exaggerate (a lot), but yes, it's very good in light wind!
At the reserve, things didn't look promising at all. Not a leaf was moving, except now and then due to noisy birds hopping about from twig to shaky twig.
After a few unsuccessful launches into the barest of gusts, I laid out 30 meters (100 feet) of 20 pound line and towed the diamond kite up. Earlier, I had measured some breeze at 1.8 kph gusting to 3.9 kph. Hold onto your hat!
Anyway, the tow up did result in a brief contact with enough air movement to climb the kite very slowly at a 20 degree line angle. This was very marginal, but sort of fun too!
After much letting out and taking in of line, the Dowel Diamond finally descended from the leaden skies to end up in my hands once again. Flight duration was only 8 minutes, which was as good as it was going to get, unfortunately. By now, sunlight was dimming and the wind had stopped entirely.
Not one to give up easily, I thought "There's nothing under 100 feet up there—but what about at 200 feet?" So I laid out over 90 metetrs (300 feet) of line and towed up once more. But, it was a "sled ride" to the grass, with perhaps a couple of slight pauses as very light puffs of breeze occurred. It was worth a try!
Too Cloudy for KAP, So...
Just for a change I retrieved three Dowel Series kites from the shed and headed out. There was an emphasis on light-wind capability this time. Hardly a leaf was stirring, but almost half the Dowel Series designs excel in those conditions.
First up was the Dowel Sled. Somehow, with age, this kite has become a little cranky and I haven't had a decent flight out of it for a long time. Perhaps the perfectly unruffled leading edge of the newly-minted kite gave it a real advantage. That is, it had some protection from the dreaded curl-unders. Anyway, the thought keeps returning to re-make this design once more to give it greater longevity. I could try spars canted inwards to promote better inflation, for one thing.
The kite did ride up quite nicely on several puffs of the very light and variable breeze at the reserve. The big sled never quite made it into the smoother airstream at about twice treetop height. After several flutters to the ground I gave up and brought out the Dowel Diamond.
Now there was some real light-wind action. Surprisingly, the diamond seemed a touch more efficient than the sled and very readily rose right up. Despite having the same spar weight, but quite a bit less sail area! It was almost effortless to get it up to a 45 degree angle on 60 meters (200 feet) of 50 pound Dacron.
Soon, with slightly higher wind speeds up there, the diamond started to lean to the left. So down it had to come, so I could shift the bridle knot to the right by a couple of centimeters.
Oops—that was too much. So it had to come down yet again. The knot went to the left a bit this time.
Finally the pale translucent orange diamond was floating pretty much straight up. Maybe another millimeter or two was needed on the knot position, but it was close enough to climb to much steeper line angles than before.
It was a pleasure to feel the line tighten just a little more as the kite soared closer to the almost unmoving gray ceiling above. With time running out, I briefly let the kite fly up on 90 meters (300 feet) of line before starting to wind it in.
At ground level, before the flying line accidentally knocked it over, the Windtronic meter registered an average of 2.1 kph gusting to 9.4 kph. Maybe the gusts were 11 or 12 kph up higher, with the average perhaps half of that.
Light Wind Diamonds Dance
This was a late afternoon session in a breeze that was barely there. It occurred to me to put up both the Simple Diamond and the Dowel Diamond to observe the differences. One movie clip did catch them both aloft together.
Initially the Simple Diamond was launched time and time again, only to struggle to stay up at all. A spot of one-handed photography caught the kite waffling about several meters in the air while Aren looked on from below. Eventually it was time to give up and launch the real light-wind design, the Dowel Diamond. This particular one was a touch lighter than the original diamond since it was the "plans version", which was not designed for disassembly. We simply slid it into the rear of our small car, the 1.2 m (4 ft.) span just making it through the door opening.
Of course, the Dowel Diamond climbed willingly in the gentle puffs coming over the field. In no time there was 60 meters (200 feet) of line out. After this, the breeze occasionally died so the kite descended quite low before slowly regaining height again.
Finally, the breeze picked up significantly as the late afternoon sun peeped out and warmed the ground. A little convection was pushing parcels of air here and there for minutes at a time. This was actually too much for the light-wind-only Dowel Diamond, pushing it sideways to the ground at least a couple of times. Once, this draped the line over a tree. However, the kite was easily flown out of trouble after it came to rest on its nose in the dry grass and weeds.
Before we packed up and left, the wind meter recorded 4.7 kph and a gust to 7.7 kph. This suited both kites, so some more photography caught them in the air together. Mission accomplished!
A Tweaked Dowel Diamond Takes to the Sky
A couple of minor changes have been tried for the Dowel Diamond kite which aim to give slightly better tailless stability and also slightly increased wind range.
One of these changes involved copying the 2-Skewer Diamond sail shape which works so well. The other is to simply shift the lower bridle attachment point up to the middle of the vertical spar. This allows a somewhat shorter bridle and hence more tolerance for wind gusts.
This kite also tries out the idea of using clear packing tape for the tip caps.
being very hard-gripping and light, the almost perfectly clear material
will not interfere with any art work that you might want to adorn the
Well, back to today's flying... Winds were reasonably
light, but were gusting well over 15 kph at times. Perhaps this was closer to
20 kph. That's a bit much for the Dowel Diamond, which gets pushed to
instability in those conditions, without a tail. The vertical spar gets a
wobble up too!
However, with a few small adjustments to the
bridle knots, the pale orange diamond did OK on 60 meters (200 feet) of
Dacron line. A few times the kite sank sideways to the ground in faster
air, but willingly soared up high during the lulls. I just kept
imagining how the kite would be doing in a 5 to 10 kph breeze. That's what
it's built for!
The wind meter had been left at home, so no there are wind speeds to report today.
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.