Dowel Barn Door Kite

Flying High in Gentle Winter Thermals

It was time to take out the newly redesigned Dowel Barn Door kite for a good high flight, after a quick stability check out in the backyard. And yes, it's winter here Down Under, with predictions for a soggy final two weeks in the month. However, the Dowel Barn Door kite enjoyed sunny conditions today—not to mention absolutely ideal wind strengths!

The MBK Dowel Barn Door kite and a Virgin Blue airliner.MBK Dowel Barn Door

I walked down to the small reserve near our home, pushing Aren in his stroller. The little fellow helped out by clutching one end of the rolled-up kite in one hand. Under the shade of a handy tree, we soon had the big barn door rigged.

The original Dowel Barn Door design must be frustrating a few people out there, since it was really quite tricky to rig.

The current design is now fully consistent with all my other Dowel Series kites, some of which have also been redesigned recently.

Anyway, the new Dowel Barn Door is now no harder to get in the air than say, the Dowel Sode or even the Dowel Rokkaku—at last!

Somehow, in the busy task of updating the How To instructions for this kite, I clean forgot to check the curvature of the horizontal spar. Not to worry, since the rok had the same problem, and it proved only slightly inconvenient to shave some wood off the horizontal spar on one side of the finished kite.

However, fixing a spar after the kite is constructed does mean it is a process of trial and error. Fortunately, just one attempt on the rok made a huge difference to its flight characteristics.

However, you just don't want to take too much wood off on the first go!

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.

The wind was light and gusting to moderate, so there was no trouble getting the Dowel Barn Door kite aloft.

In fact, we launched in a small wind corridor between two patches of trees at one side of the reserve. With 30 meters (100 feet) of line out, I took some photos.

One of these photos actually managed to catch a Virgin Blue airliner flying overhead on its way into Adelaide airport! I didn't even notice the jet until a fraction of a second before pushing the shutter button. Mind you, the camera zoom does make the jet appear somewhat closer to the kite than it actually was.

Looking at the kite on the ground, it was clear that the right side of the horizontal spar was slightly stiffer than the left side. This is often the case with hardwood dowel it seems! Hence, as expected, the Dowel Barn Door kite was leaning to the left quite a bit, particularly in stronger gusts. To ease the problem, I shifted the sliding knot on the bridle loop across by a couple of centimeters (1 inch). Fixing the spar is a much better solution though.

After adjusting the bridle, it was fun to hover the kite a meter or two above the grass while walking back upwind, letting the line slip through my fingers.

With 20 meters (70 feet) or so of line out, I held the line firm and the kite obediently rose above treetop height. From there, it was an easy matter to slowly let the kite climb further in the moderate wind gusts, until the 60 meter (200 feet) marker came off the winder.

Some cloud had moved in. It was mainly prefrontal cirrus ("mares tails") but I also noticed that a telltale small cumulus cloud had popped. Thermals!

After a few minutes, the clouds had moved behind the flying kite. It seemed a good opportunity to get some video that would give a sense of a "high-flying kite." A little zoom ensured that the Dowel Barn Door kite was big enough to be recognizable. The barn door sedately drifted in various directions against the background of cirrus cloud.

Much of the time, the barn door was flying at 70 to 80 degrees as it got caught up in patches of rising air. At other times it sank to 40 degrees in sinking air, or perhaps the wind speed had simply dropped for a while.

With the kite behaving itself well despite some left leaning, I couldn't resist letting more line out. However, 90 meters (300 feet) seemed to be a prudent amount to stop at, considering the small size of the reserve!

Even with all this line out, the Dowel Barn Door kite kept bobbing up to 70 degrees or more, from time to time, in the gentle winter thermals. Small gusts of thermal turbulence would occasionally hit the kite, sending long snaking S-bends down the flying line. The bright sun shone through the thin garden-bag plastic sail, giving flashes of back lighting.

The kite seemed like it would stay up there for quite a while, so I wound three turns of the line around a park seat as an anchor. Then I went over to join Aren in the children's play area.

Time wore on. The wind speed moderated somewhat, with the kite tending to hang lower and lower on average. Finally, we decided to call it a day, and I let Aren help me bring down the kite. In the very light wind, he had no problem hauling in the sizable barn door with his 4 1/2-year-old arms.

I wound the line onto to the winder until finally the kite was close to the grass just a few meters away. A small pull on the line resulted in a soft tail-first landing. Then I let the Dowel Barn Door kite flop slowly forwards onto the grass.

De-rigging was even quicker and simpler than setting the kite up, and we were soon on our way home.

I'm very happy with how the new barn door has turned out! And of course, anyone making it from the online instructions or the e-book will now have a much easier time of it.


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.