On this page are a number of easy steps showing you how to make an indoor rokkaku kite from readily available materials.
MBK Indoor Rokkaku
MBK Indoor Rokkaku
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 2 dots showing through the plastic. Not far from the middle in 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 4 dots.
- Open the bag out into a single flat sheet, with the dots on top. In the photo you can see all 8 dots.
All lines drawn
- Rule lines between 6 of the dots as shown, to complete the rokkaku shape.
Step 2 - Decorate Sail
Do you have permanent colored markers? Time to take them out...
Decorated with permanent markers
- My approach was to put 1 cm (3/8") wide colored stripes down each side of the center-line, 0.6cm (1/4") apart. Then a 0.6 cm (1/4") wide border of black all around on the inside of the rokkaku shape outline. 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 rokkaku kite look good and minimize weight.
Rokkaku shape cut out
- Cut all around the rokkaku shape 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: Some of the dots were too close together to fit a complete arrow between them on the photo. The measurements show how far to go down (or up) in each case. Easy!
- With ruler and pen, connect the dots as shown. Note that not all dots are connected!
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, if you happen to be using narrower tape.
Tape laid down over shapes, reverse side
- Flip the paper over so you can add tape to the reverse side of all the shapes. It might help to place the paper up against a well-lit window, to trace the corner dots. 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. Note the center-lines of the vertical spar, at top - don't cut along those ;-)
Join Vertical Spar Pieces
Vertical spar pieces aligned before being joined
- Lay down the 2 vertical spar pieces, wide ends together.
- Check the alignment of the center-lines with a straight edge such as a ruler. See the photo.
- 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. The top piece is taped together around the middle.
- Crease all the folds sharply. The thin ends are tricky, but it can be done! Just do the best you can, by working along from the thicker ends and it should be OK. Pinching between thumb-nail and fore-finger works well.
- What you have now is a vertical spar (the longest piece), 4 horizontal spars (the next longest pieces) and 2 cross-members (the shortest pieces).
At this point, you're about half-way through learning how to make an indoor rokkaku kite! The hardest bits have been done already, I'd say.
Tape vertical spar fold
The purpose of this is to apply tape around the fold, in order to help the spar retain it's fold angle. It might be an idea to practice on a few bits of scrap paper first!
Strip of tape applied around vertical spar fold
- In the middle, fold the spar flat.
- Apply a 10cm (4") length of tape around the fold as shown - keeping the paper folded flat while applying the tape. In the photo, the paper has sprung back a little.
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. Ensure the fold angle is 90 degrees or a little less, all the way along.
Spar taped on, at nose end
- At the top corner of the sail, place a short strip of sticky tape across the fold line of the spar.
- Gently press down on both sides so the tape goes down then across to the left and right.
- With scissors, trim the overhanging tape flush with the sail edges. See the photo.
Spar taped on, at tail end
- At the bottom corner of the sail, lay down a strip of tape in the same way as before.
- This time, with scissors, trim both overhanging tape and the spar itself if necessary so it all looks neat and tidy around the bottom corner. See the photo.
Tape Horizontal Spars
Upper horizontal spars in position
- In a similar way, lay down the upper horizontal spars, ensuring the fold angles are 90 degrees or a little less.
- Adjust where the wide ends touch the vertical spar, so the horizontal spars are at right-angles (90 degrees) to the vertical spar. The thin ends should pass over the upper side corners of the sail. See the photo.
Horizontal spar taped
- Tape the spars in place. It's OK to let the thin ends go flat against the plastic when taped.
- With scissors, trim the overhanging tape and the spar-tips so it all looks neat and tidy around the side corners of the sail. See the photo, which just shows one side of the kite.
All 4 horizontal spar pieces taped and trimmed
- In a similar way, position and tape down the lower horizontal spars. See the photo, where all 4 horizontal spar pieces are taped down and trimmed.
Final tape added over vertical spar
- At this point, lay down a short strip of tape across the vertical spar as well. The top edge of the tape should be 5cm (2") below the upper horizontal spars, as shown in the photo.
Step 5 - Attach Cross-Member
One end of cross-member attached
- Using a ruler, make a small mark exactly half-way along the cross-member piece.
- Place the cross-member onto the upper horizontal spars as shown, aligning the mark with the fold in the vertical spar.
- Stick one end of the cross-member onto a horizontal spar piece as shown, using a square of sticky tape.
Other end of cross-member attached
- Now support the horizontal spar with some handy object underneath the sail corner.
- Shift the supporting object until the spar tip is 3cm (1 1/8") clear of the table top.
- Gently place a square of sticky tape over the other end of the cross-member, so it too is stuck to the cross-spar.
- Make sure the sticky tape is stuck firmly, then remove the supporting object.
Both cross-members attached
- In the same way, attach the remaining cross-member over the lower horizontal spars. There's the completed kite in the photo. The cross-members sure are hard to see!
- Don't worry if the kite flops a bit flatter with the support(s) removed. It all comes back into shape when the kite flies.
Step 6 - Attach Flying Line
You have pretty much finished learning how to make an indoor rokkaku kite at this point!
Thread laid down and taped
- Flip the kite over so the black dots under the vertical spar are visible.
- Mark another black dot, 5.5cm (2 3/8") below the dot where the spars cross. It's quite important to be accurate here.
- Cut off about 2 meters (6 feet) of polyester sewing thread and lay one end over the dot just marked.
- Stick down at least 3cm (1") of the thread by lining up a 3cm (1") strip of sticky tape with the dot, as shown in the photo.
Note: Those horizontal spars should really line up with the upper dot - it's out by a few mm but won't matter :-)
Second bridle tape laid across
- Add another 3cm (1") strip of tape cross-ways, as shown in the close-up photo. The kite is ready to fly.
Step 7 - Flying!
Indoor Rokkaku floats up
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.
Special Flying Tip
Full size roks rely on a curved vertical spar to achieve maximum stability. If your indoor rok wobbles about a lot while flying at a high angle, try this... Carefully crease the vertical spar as sharp as you can, but only from the nose and tail of the kite, back to the cross-member in both cases.
Ooops, I bent the vertical spar... OK, if this happens due to flight loads, it can seriously weaken the kite. To the point where it's no fun to try and fly any more. But it's easy to reinforce the spar enough to get the kite flying well again...
Just lay a few strips of tape over the fold in the vertical spar, right over the affected area. Then sharpen the crease again with finger and thumb-nail. See the photo below...
Vertical spar reinforcement, after over-stress
I hope you have enjoyed learning how to make an indoor rokkaku 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!