How To Make A Parachute Kite

Step-by-Step - Page 1 of 3

The MBK Parachute

Learn how to make a Parachute kite with these easy-to-follow instructions. Fully illustrated with close-up photos, every step of the way.

The MBK Parachute kite in flight.MBK Parachute
The MBK Parachute kite in flight.MBK Parachute

These instructions will take you step-by-step through making a 119cm (4 ft) wide Parachute kite. It's not quite that wide in the air since the canopy takes on a distinct curved shape when inflated. This 14-cell kite performs best in moderate to fresh wind speeds. That's 20 to 38kph or 13 to 24mph. In gentle winds, this kite will hang in the air at fairly low line angles. In fresh winds, it pulls firmly for it's size, so small kids should only fly it while supervised!

Some of the lines are longer than the standard 30cm (12”) of most rulers. So, a handy trick is to stretch out a length of flying line, weigh it down at each end, and then make several dots beside it – less than a ruler length apart. The dots can then be joined by using your ruler. With care, you will end up with a perfectly straight long ruled line every time.

The MBK Parachute kite is inspired by full-size sky-diving parachutes. This tape and plastic version is somewhat simplified from the full-size canopy but works in exactly the same way. This Parachute has been tested in up to 40kph winds.


Materials for this kite...

The kite described here will do well with just about any fairly robust plastic sheet. For example, heavy-duty painter's drop-sheet or drop-cloth plastic. That would be around 4mil thickness for those buying plastic sheet in the US. My kite also used council bin liner plastic. Somewhat thicker and stronger than rubbish bin (trash can) liners.

Ordinary clear sticky tape in a dispenser is good for tacking seams together before laying down more of the same along the full length of the join. I used 1.8cm (3/4”) wide tape.

These instructions illustrate a parachute made with 20 pound (strength) Dacron bridle lines. This type of line is readily available from eBay and Amazon online stores.


Upper And Lower Surfaces

When this kite flies, one surface of the sail faces the sky – the upper surface. The other surface is easily visible from the ground – the lower surface. In between the two surfaces are vertical panels called ribs.

Note: I suggest you use at least two different colors for your sail plastic, for upper and lower surfaces. I also used a third color for all the ribs, to make construction easier to see in the photos. Accordingly, the instructions will refer to upper surface plastic, lower surface plastic and rib plastic.




Consider using my e-book Making Soft Kites to try any of the 5 spar-less designs in there. Hi-res, close-up photos help you through.



How To Make A Parachute Kite...
Making Upper Surface

Measuring Upper Surface

The Parachute kite - measured and dots marked.Measured and dots marked
  • Place some upper surface plastic on the floor. Fold it in half from left to right and run a sharp, straight crease down the left hand side.
  • Starting from near the top-left corner, measure and mark dots on the plastic. Just follow the arrows marked on the photo. Dots have been highlighted in yellow.

Hint: Judge the horizontal directions by eye. If you're careful, there's no need for a T-square since the sail ends up symmetrical anyway. Note that the vertical direction looks a little off, in the photo - the result of image perspective only!



Completing Dots For Upper Surface

Half the dots are already marked, so now you mark in the remaining ones. Almost invisible in the photo below, but they are all there, small and in black...


The Parachute kite - plastic flipped, dots traced.Plastic flipped, dots traced
  • Flip all the plastic over. Smooth out the 2 layers of plastic, double-checking that the vertical crease stays in place.
  • Make dots over all the dots showing through the 2 layers of plastic. Keep checking that nothing has slipped!

Hint: If it's too hard to see through the plastic, just lay it up against a sun-lit window to mark in the dots.



Drawing Lines For Upper Surface

The Parachute kite - all lines marked.All lines marked
  • Open out the sheet of plastic and lay it flat.
  • Connect the dots with marked lines as shown in the photo. The central crease is also drawn over. 


Note: The photo has been edited to make the lines darker and easier to see.



Taping Upper Surface

The Parachute kite - where to put sticky tape edging.Where to put sticky tape edging
  • Lay down 1.8cm (3/4”) sticky tape where indicated by yellow rectangles in the photo above. Note that most of the tape is stuck inside the outline.


Cutting Upper Surface

The Parachute kite - upper surface sheet cut.Upper surface sheet cut
  • Take your scissors and cut all around the outside of the shape, along the black lines. When you are finished, the plastic should look like the photo up there, with internal guide lines still intact.



Making Lower Surface

This ends up looking very similar to the upper surface. In fact, rather than doing the measuring all over again, it's simpler to start by tracing...

Tracing Lower Surface

The Parachute kite - dots traced onto lower surface plastic.Dots traced onto lower surface plastic
  • Lay out the upper surface plastic on the floor, with the black lines facing up.
  • Lay out enough lower surface plastic to fully cover the upper surface plastic. A fairly light-colored plastic for the lower surface is a good idea, so you can see through it!
  • Make sure both layers of plastic are laying down smooth and flat.
  • With your permanent marker, make dots at all the corners. That's 30 dots in all. See the photo up there, where all the dots are just visible, in two rows of 15.



Extra Dots On Lower Surface

The Parachute kite - extra dots marked onto lower surface plastic.Extra dots marked onto lower surface plastic
  • The positions of four extra dots are indicated by the yellow dots in the photo above. Note the measurements from corner dots you have already marked.
  • When the four dots are marked in, remove the underlying plastic, leaving just the sheet with the dots on it...    


Drawing Lines For Lower Surface

The Parachute kite - all lines marked.All lines marked
  • Connect the dots with marked lines as shown in the photo. Notice how the lower surface shape is 3cm (1 1/8”) shorter than the upper surface shape. The dots at the bottom just show you where to lay the ruler for the vertical lines.


Taping Lower Surface

The Parachute kite - where to put sticky tape edging.Where to put sticky tape edging
  • Lay down 1.8cm (3/4”) sticky tape where indicated by yellow rectangles in the photo above. Note that most of the tape is stuck inside the outline.


Cutting Lower Surface

The Parachute kite - lower surface sheet cut.Lower surface sheet cut
  • Take your scissors and cut all around the outside of the shape, along the black lines. When you are finished, the plastic should look like the photo up there, with internal guide lines still intact.



Making Ribs

Firstly a template is measured up in 3 steps. For this, use any smooth light-colored surface which you don't mind marking with a black permanent marker. I used 2 sheets of plain copier paper, stuck together with sticky tape on one side only...

Measuring Rib Template Dots

The Parachute kite - how to mark dots on rib template.How to mark dots on rib template
  • For each step, start from the orange dot and mark the other dots by following the measurements and arrows.

Note: If there's no room for an arrow, there won't be one! Just go from the orange dot to the nearest red dot in those cases.



Marking Rib Templates

It's probably best to avoid using anything stretchy for this, like very thin plastic! The photos below show my template, made from 2 sheets of copier paper.

In each photo, you can just spot the join between the 2 sheets, running straight across the middle. The sticky tape is out of sight, on the other side...

The Parachute kite - rib template measured and drawn.Rib template measured and drawn
  • The first photo shows the marked dots of the template.
  • The second photo shows the rib outline drawn in, including the bridle attachment points. For accuracy, it's best to use a fairly thin tipped marker for this. In fact, I used a ball-point pen on the paper.
  • The third photo shows the guide lines drawn in, for taping and cutting the triangular vent holes. That's the 2 largest triangles formed by the lines.


Creating The Bridled Ribs

There are 8 bridled ribs, all identical except for 2 which don't have the triangular vents cut out. Each of these 8 ribs have 3 bridle attachment points – hence the name 'bridled rib'.

The first 3 images below have the black dots and lines enhanced, so you can see them easier...

The Parachute kite - first bridled rib -  dots marked, lines drawn, taped and cut.First bridled rib - dots marked, lines drawn, taped and cut
  • Place some rib plastic over the template.
  • Make dots at all the corners showing through, as in the first photo.
  • Draw lines between the dots, exactly as shown in the second photo.
  • Apply strips of sticky tape where indicated by the yellow rectangles in the third photo.
  • Cut around the rib shape with scissors as in the fourth photo. Also cut out the two triangular vents, along the black lines.
  • Make five more ribs in exactly the same way.
  • Finally, make another two ribs, but don't cut out the triangular holes! That's because these two will be the wing-tips of the parachute canopy.


Creating The Alternate Ribs

There are 7 identical alternate ribs, which have no bridle attachment points. In the finished canopy, there is an alternate rib between every 2 bridled ribs. Hence the name.

The Parachute kite - first alternate rib - dots marked, lines drawn, taped and cut.First alternate rib - dots marked, lines drawn, taped and cut
  • Place some rib plastic over the template and make dots as before - but leave out the bridle attachment points. As in the first photo.
  • Draw lines between the dots, exactly as shown in the second photo.
  • Apply sticky tape where indicated by the yellow rectangle in the third photo.
  • Cut around the rib shape and triangular vents with scissors as in the fourth photo.
  • Make six more ribs in exactly the same way.


 

The Parachute kite - all the ribs of the parachute canopy.All the ribs of the parachute canopy

 



Consider using my e-book Making Soft Kites to try any of the 5 spar-less designs in there. Hi-res, close-up photos help you through.


Continue to page 2


Like/share this site...

Like/share this page...

Comments

Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...