Measuring and Cutting Two Tails
These tails start out as tapered ribbons cut from
a long sheet of plastic. Painters' drop sheet plastic is readily
available from hardware stores.
Two tails can be started by measuring,
marking, and cutting a long thin rectangle of plastic in half along
its length. Use some plastic of the same type as you have used for
the lower surface of the kite.
A plastic rectangle cut to the size required for two tails
Cut out a plastic rectangle with a short side
length of 20 cm (8 in.) and a long side length of 300 cm (120 in.). If
the original plastic sheet is not long enough, just join two or more
pieces together with sticky tape on both sides of the join.
Left and right ends measured up
Using ruler and marker, draw marks as
indicated in the photo on the left.
- Moving to the other end of the plastic, draw
marks as indicated in the photo on the right.
Rectangle cut to two tapered pieces of tail plastic
Note how one mark at each end is longer
than the others. Draw a long straight line from one of those marks
to the other long mark at the other end.
- Cut along the line just drawn. The photo
shows enough plastic so you can see the taper in both shapes.
Taping Up Tail
Take one piece of tail plastic and smooth out the
wider end on the floor.
A section of tail tube folded and taped
- Top photo. Starting at the edge where
the marks are, fold the plastic up from the bottom then down from
the top, then crease the folds so the flaps stay down—at least
for 30 cm (12 in.) or so. Line up the creases with the marks as shown.
- Middle photo. To hold the flaps in
place, use short bits of sticky tape as shown in yellow. Try to
maintain the small amount of overlap along the whole join. Also try
to keep the join halfway between the top and bottom of the plastic.
- Bottom photo. Complete the join by
laying down tape over the two small bits of tape.
Tail taped all the way to thin end
Move along and do another section similarly,
using another bit of tape to tack down the plastic before taping the
- Keep going, section after section. Right
along to the narrow end, as shown in the photo. Keep the
amount of overlap about the same, all the way along.
Both completed tube tails
Do the other tail tube the same way. There they
both are in the photo, folded into S-bends.
It's an octopus, so there are six tails to go!
The process is exactly the same, so no
instructions are needed here. However, I do recommend that you use as
light a grade of plastic as possible for these outer tails. I
used the lightest available painters' drop sheet plastic which
appears almost clear when unfolded to a single thickness.
Very light plastic is harder to work with,
but it will result in a more stable, more efficient octopus kite.
Also, near sunset, all that writhing clear plastic tubing will light
up and look amazing!
All eight plastic tail tubes completed
- Do the other tail tube the same way. There they
both are in the photo, folded double.
After flight testing, it was discovered that
considerably more tail length was needed! Hence, each tail
will now be extended by sticking on a plastic cylinder. So,
both ends will be as wide as the wide end of the tails
you have already done.
Plastic rectangles cut for the eight tail extensions
Cut two plastic rectangles from some spare
lower-surface plastic. The short sides should be 15 cm (6 in.)
long and the long sides should be 150 cm (60 in.) long. There they are
near the top of the photo above.
- Cut six more rectangles to the same size, from
the lighter tail material you have used before.
Now to form the
cylinders, using the same method as you used for the tapered
tails already done.
The plastic taped into cylinders
- Overlap the long edges of a plastic rectangle
by about 0.5 cm (1/4 in.) and join with sticky tape—along the whole
- Repeat the process to make another seven cylinders. All eight are in the photo up there.
cylinder (left) to a tapered tail (right), although over this distance
you can't see any taper.
Extension taped to existing tail
- Bring together one end of a cylinder and the
wide end of a tapered tail made of the same type of plastic. See the
- Insert the tail into the cylinder by about
0.5 cm (1/4 in.) and tape around the join with sticky tape. See the
bottom photo, where yellow lines indicate the sides of the
- Tape up the remaining seven tails in the same
Did you do the eyes? To make your octopus look
even more "like a bought one," why not take your black permanent
marker pen and draw in some suckers.
How to draw suckers onto a tentacle
Place a plastic tubular tentacle on the floor
with the taped join against the floor.
- Measure 30 cm (12 in.) away from the narrow
end of the plastic. Make a dot there, mid-width.
- Top photo. From the dot you just
marked, measure a further 30 cm (12 in.) and make another dot. Keep
doing this until you have made eight dots. The photo shows the
first three dots, near the narrow end of the plastic.
- Middle photo. Carefully draw in a
circle around each dot with a single stroke of the pen. As shown,
extend the circle to the sides of the flattened plastic tube.
- Bottom photo. Go back and thicken up
the circles to your liking, by adding more black to the inside
of the existing circles.
- Now measure and draw eight suckers on the seven remaining tentacles. Whew! Actually, you can save some time by using the first tail as a template. Lay tails side by side to get the sucker spacing right.
Note: Do you think a real octopus
would have perfectly circular suckers? Of course not, so don't
fret if your hand drawn ones aren't mathematically circular. It'll
still look great in the air!
Suckers drawn onto the tapered section of each tail—64 in all
Tails to Head
If you have drawn suckers, ensure that they are
all facing the same direction as the eyes. You don't want them facing
random directions, or the sky :-)
A tubular tail inserted and taped
- The top photo shows how the trailing
edge should be marked into eight equal sections. The easiest way
is to line up three marks with the middle ribs, giving four sections. Then
just divide each section into two, making eight altogether.
- Insert 1 cm (1/2 in.) of the the wide end
of a tail into the head as shown in the middle photo. Apply
sticky tape as indicated. The vertical pieces should be about 5 cm
(2 in.) long.
- Flip the head over and apply more tape, in
exactly the same way as before. See the bottom photo.
Done that first one? Now add all the other
tubular tails, taking care to make the darker heavier ones number four and number five, counting in from one side. Also, take care to keep each
tail between the marks. A little bit of space or a little bit of
creased plastic doesn't matter at all.
All tubular tails taped into the octopus head
In flight, the upper and lower portions of the
trailing edge separate and the flat tails become circular tubes due
to air pressure.
As mentioned earlier, there's more kite making on this site 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.
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