On this page are a number of easy steps showing you how to make an indoor bird kite from readily available materials.
MBK Indoor Bird
MBK Indoor Bird
The only materials required for this design are
- 1 sheet of plain copier paper. A4 or Letter size. Use colored paper if you want to!
- 18mm (3/4") clear sticky tape. In a dispenser preferably. Narrower tape would be even better, if you have it.
- A light plastic bag, at least 45cm x 30cm (18" x 12") before being cut open. I used large-size freezer bags.
- Any polyester sewing thread, preferably the lightest available.
The tools required, if you can call them that, are
- a pair of scissors
- a ruler
- a straight edge longer than 45cm (18")
- a ball-point pen
- colored permanent markers
Note: In the photos below, yellow lines have been added to make clear where the edges of sticky tape are.
Step 1 - Make Sail
Measured and dots marked
- Lay down a plastic bag, and smooth it out to remove the most obvious folds and creases.
- Measure and mark dots as indicated in the photo.
Bag flipped and dots traced
- Flip the bag over.
- Mark dots over the 5 showing through the plastic. See the photo above.
Bag cut and opened out
- Cut the bag along the sealed edge, to open it.
- Cut the bag along the opposite side to the side with 7 dots.
- Open the bag out into a single flat sheet, with the dots on top. In the photo you can see all 17 dots.
All lines drawn
- Using the dots to guide you, rule lines as shown in the (enhanced) photo.
Step 2 - Decorate Sail
Do you have permanent colored markers? Time to take them out...
Decorated with permanent markers
- My approach was to put a 0.6 cm (1/4") wide border of black all around on the inside of the sail outline. Followed by a colored swallow-tail shape set 1 cm (3/8") in from the black border. See the photo.
- You do whatever you like! Just try not to add too much weight though. Doing 'sparing line art' is how to make an indoor canard kite look good and minimize weight.
Bird shape cut out
- Cut all around the outside of the sail with scissors. Cutting thin plastic can be tricky so take your time. Sharp scissors help!
- From here on, we will refer to the plastic piece as the sail.
Step 3 - Make Spars
Measure And Draw
Dots measured and marked
- Take your sheet of paper and mark dots as shown.
Note: Each white line - even if it is so short it looks like a dot - has a corresponding measurement nearby.
- With ruler and pen, connect the dots as shown.
Laminate And Cut Out
Tape laid down over shapes
- Lay down sticky tape to fully cover the shapes. A small amount of overlap is OK.
Tape laid down over shapes, reverse side
- Flip the paper over so you can add tape to the reverse side of all the shapes.
Note: It might help to place the paper up against a well-lit window, to trace the corners. Another way is to poke holes through the paper with a pin, at all the corners. Then you can see where all the shapes are.
Spar pieces cut out
- Cut out all the shapes, as shown.
Join Vertical Spar Pieces
Equal width ends joined
- Lay down the 2 pieces with the widest ends, bringing those 2 ends together. Although there is no continuous straight edge, do your best to align the pieces as shown, by eye.
- Tape the pieces together at the join. Use just enough tape to go once around the entire join.
- Fold all the shapes in half down their lengths as shown.
- Crease all the folds sharply. The thin pieces are tricky, but it can be done! Just do the best you can, by working along bit by bit. Pinching between thumb and fore-finger works well.
- What you have now is a vertical spar (the longest piece), 2 leading edge spars (the next longest pieces), the spreader (wider in the middle) and 2 battens (the remaining pieces).
At this point, you're about half-way through learning how to make an indoor bird kite! The hardest bits have been done already, I'd say.
Step 4 - Attach Spars
Tape Vertical Spar
Vertical spar in position
- Flip the sail so the art work is against the table.
- Take the vertical spar and align one end to the top corner of the sail, ensuring the join is closest to the top corner as shown. Also ensure the fold angle is 90 degrees or a little less.
Spar taped on, at nose end
- At the top corner of the sail, place a short strip of sticky tape along the vertical spar.
- Gently press down on both sides so the tape sticks down to the left and right.
- With scissors, trim the overhanging tape flush with the sail edges. See the photo.
Note: If tape corners stick to the table-top, gently scrape away with a finger-nail or sharp edge.
Spar taped on, at tail end
- At the bottom of the swallow-tail, lay down a 4cm (1 1/2") strip of tape as indicated in the photo.
Spar taped at towing point
- Sharpen the crease a little if necessary, so the paper sits at about 90 degrees over the plastic.
- Just below the join line in the vertical spar, add a short strip of tape as shown.
Tape Leading Edge Spars
One leading edge spar taped to sail
- Check the fold in a horizontal spar and sharpen the crease if necessary to get that 45 degree fold angle.
- Tape the spar in place with 3 squares of tape as shown. Wrap about 1/4 of the square around and under in each case.
- At the tip, trim the tape and paper flush as shown in the photo.
Both leading edge spars taped down
- Do the same to the other side of the kite. The photo shows both leading edge spars taped in place.
Step 5 - Attach Spreader
One end of spreader attached
- Place the spreader over the vertical spar, aligning the central mark(s) with the fold in the vertical spar.
- Slide the spreader along the vertical spar until one end just touches a leading edge.
- Ensure that the spreader is horizontal - 90 degrees to the vertical spar in other words.
- Stick the end of the spreader onto the plastic as shown. Use a square of sticky tape, folding the overhanging corner around and under. See the photo.
Note: The perspective of the camera makes the dot on the spreader look off-center. It isn't :-)
Both ends of spreader attached
- Now support the wing on which you taped the spreader, using some handy object underneath.
- Shift the supporting object until the free spreader tip just touches the plastic.
- Gently place a square of sticky tape over the free tip, so it too is stuck to the cross-spar.
- Fold the tape corner around as before, then remove the supporting object.
Step 6 - Attach Battens
Batten attached over wing
- Take a batten, sharpen the crease if necessary, and position it as shown in the photo. The lower end should extend just past the tip of the swallow-tail.
- Place a square of tape over the batten, about half-way between the spreader and the trailing edge of the wing. See the photo.
Batten attached at tip of tail
- Position the batten over one side of the swallow-tail, in from the plastic's edge by about half the batten's width.
- Place a square of tape over the end of the batten as shown in the photo.
- Trim off any overhanging paper and tape with scissors.
Both battens taped in place
- In the same way, add the remaining batten to the other side. There they both are, in the photo.
Step 7 - Attach Flying Line
You have pretty much finished learning how to make an indoor bird kite at this point!
Thread laid down and taped
- Flip the kite over so the spars are against the table.
- Mark a dot on the plastic 1.5cm (9/16") below the join-line in the vertical spar.
- Cut off about 2 meters (6 feet) of polyester sewing thread and lay one end over the marked dot.
- Stick down at least 3cm (1") of the thread by lining up a 3cm (1") strip of sticky tape with the marked dot, as shown in the photo. Press to the left and to the right of the thread, to avoid flattening the paper spar.
- Stick down another, shorter, length of tape - going across this time instead of down. See the photo.
Step 8 - Flying!
Indoor Bird under veranda
This is a very low-speed kite and it will effortlessly float up at walking pace. Be careful not to jerk the thread or pull too quickly, since this will promptly fold up at least one of the spars!
If a spar does fold up, don't despair. Just carefully pinch the paper where it failed, to get it back into that V-shape section once again. Then try again, going a little slower or smoother this time.
The Launch Technique
This is how I like to launch, on a length of thread equal to your shoulder height...
- Lay the kite flat on the floor, with the thread on top of course and the tail end pointing at your feet.
- Lift gently straight up, while taking a couple of quick steps backwards.
- If the kite appears to be rising, turn around and walk forwards while looking back over your shoulder.
- Within seconds, you should see the kite floating behind. Walk a little faster to climb the kite, slow down to descend. It's a fine balance!
If you have the space, try letting out more thread and adjusting your speed until the kite cruises along just short of the ceiling. Look out for light fittings and so on. Look where you're going too, from time to time ;-)
If you need even more line length, just tie on more thread and wind it onto a small square of cardboard.
I hope you have enjoyed learning how to make an indoor bird kite this way.
Ever Made This Kite?
You've probably read a kite-flying story or 2 of mine, after they appear under the "what's new?" link on this site. I sometimes wonder if anyone else has made and flown this particular design...
If you feel your efforts really paid off when the the kite finally got airborne - please type a few paragraphs in here telling us all about it!
P.S. I can only accept stories of at least 300 words. Just mention a few details like the weather, onlookers, the kite's behavior and so on - 300 words is easy!