November 4, 2007 19:55 - Successful Higher Altitude Test For Barn Door Kite
It was cool and quite windy outside, so I went out to the Old
Reynella reserve in the afternoon with Aren in the pram. Tucked away
under the pram was the MBK Barn Door kite in it's plastic bag. These
days I've started keeping all the MBK kites in their own bags, with an
appropriate tail already attached. Sometimes I'll leave a flying line
attached as well, with the reel in the bag. Then it's just a matter of
picking a kite and grabbing the bag, when the decision is made to fly.
We stopped at the edge of the reserve, and moved just a short way
onto the grass. A bit of loose grass thrown in the air confirmed we had
a gusty Southerly blowing through. It wasn't quite as strong as I
expected though. Hence the kite took a couple of tries before it rose up
past the height of the bushes into smoother air. With more line let
out, and the kite pulling harder in faster air, it was clear we had to
move a bit to keep out of the way of some trees and bushes. Kite in one
hand, pram handle in the other, we shifted to another shady spot nearby.
Sometimes you can't tell the exact wind direction until the kite is up a
We spent some time watching the kite with about 30 meters of
line out. Thankfully, it behaved really well in the gusty breeze that by
now was quite strong at times. No looping, not once. The little barn
door kite liked to sit at around a 40 to 45 degree line angle.
Occasionally, it would soar up higher in thermal lift. At one time it
hit about 65 degrees.
This kite spends a lot of time scudding sideways through the
sky when the wind is strong. If the wind gets stronger still, the kite
dives slowly to the ground, heading for the edge of its flying window.
Way out left or right in other words. However, recovery is easy. Just
slacken off the line and it recovers. Often by sitting upright and
drifting back towards the center of the flying window.
I let Aren hold the line a few times. He enjoyed it. In fact, he demanded it sometimes!
Finally, I let out the remaining line off the 50 meter reel.
With the line under a fair amount of tension, Aren enjoyed letting it go
and hearing the Ping! as it took up slack while I held the reel.
A small soaring bird approached from the downwind direction
and checked out the kite for a while. I'm no bird expert so I don't know
what it was. It looked like a miniature albatross. While about 200 feet
or so above the kite, it threw a few turns in a bit of rising air,
wings outstretched and not flapping. Then it flew on, still heading
The wind profile today was interesting. Looking up at the
clouds, I noticed a thin layer of stratus at about 2000 feet moving
slowly south. That's opposite to what the kite was flying in! Higher
still, maybe 3 or 4 thousand feet up were big fat cumulus racing north.
Yep, opposite direction again. Anyone flying in or out of Adelaide
airport would have experienced some turbulence passing through these
altitudes. In between the layers, the air just rolls around in all
With plenty of flying under our belts, it was time to reel in
and go home. With the kite down to maybe 40 feet or so, it managed to
scare off a magpie which had been walking around on the grass. It seems
we now have a decent moderate to strong wind kite to take out on those
November 6, 2007 23:09 - Sled Kite Triple Treat
It was a nice sunny day, with a bit of movement in the tops
of the trees. So out we went to the Old Reynella reserve, the 3 of us,
with all 3 of our sled kites. Hence the corny title to this blog entry
First up was MBK Skewer Sled number 2, now sporting a very
small stone taped to the middle of the left spar. Remember, this kite
always used to veer to the right, particularly in a fresh breeze. After a
few tries, it got some height in the gusty air. Conditions were a bit
much for it, and it didn't get much above a 30 degree line angle. One
time the air was so turbulent that the little sled kite collapsed and
turned itself inside out before resuming flying again! It was easy to
tell, since the stone was visible on the wrong side.
Maybe I added a bit too much weight with that stone. Now the
kite flies on its left side most of the time! It might never be a good
flier, despite the care that went into its construction. About the only
thing left that could possibly be making trouble is perhaps the shape of
one of the bamboo skewer spars. No 2 of these are the same, they all
have slight bends in them, some worse than others.
Funnily enough, I can remember reading someone's kiting
stories on the Web, and they talked about making 'perfect' sled kites
that wouldn't fly straight too. And others that were just slapped
together and yet flew perfectly! It seems that if a small sled kite
doesn't fly properly, just make another one and hope for the best. One
day I will make some sleds using fiberglass rods for spars, and then I
don't think there will be any trouble.
Giving up on sled kite number 2 for while, I pulled out the
original MBK Skewer Sled. It flies well in a decent range of wind
speeds, but the bridle attachment points are a little too far from the
top of the kite. I corrected this design mistake in the second kite.
After a few false starts in the gusty breeze, I soon had 100 meters of
3kg fishing line out. This stuff is so light it wouldn't be a danger if
it snapped, unlike heavier grades of fishing line.
MBK Sled Kite 1 struggled to cope with the strongest gusts,
doing large slow loops and dives, sometimes all the way to the ground.
Occasionally the sides would collapse, and line tension would disappear
completely for just a fraction of a second. During less extreme gusts,
it would climb right up to 45 or 50 degrees or so. Despite the landings,
I only had to walk out to it once. It's not always possible to launch a
downed sled kite from the ground.
Handing Sled Number 1 over to my wife May for a while, I had
another go with number 2. This time with some success. Unfortunately, I
was distracted for a while as Aren was causing problems. Aren's not
quite 2 years old. I looked back to see my kite brush a tall tree on the
other side of the reserve. One tail got stuck on a branch, while the
kite did its best to continue flying in various positions around the
tree! Surprisingly, it eventually came free and kept on flying.
May had her own tree landing to contend with, shortly after.
She had taken her eye off the kite while reeling it in. Tsk Tsk Tsk. At
one point, when the kite was on the ground, she gave Aren the reel. He
held it for a while and thought he was flying Number 2, which was still
in the air! Very cute.
After both kites were down, I pulled out the Baby Sled kite
and tried to launch. No success, the winds were lighter now,
particularly down low, and this kite has a fairly narrow wind range.
After a few very short flights, we packed it away and headed home.
November 10, 2007 21:59 - Soaring Delta Kite and Zooming Barn Door Compete for Airspace
It was getting late in the day but still there was plenty of
sun and a variable wind gusting through the yard. Seemed like a bit of
late thermal activity about, so thought about taking the Windjam delta
kite out. It makes good use of the occasional bit of rising air that
We loaded up the pram with my young son Aren, the delta plus
the MBK barn door kite. Just in case the average wind strength proved
enough to keep the barn door in the air for a while. My wife May hadn't
seen it fly yet.
At the Old Reynella reserve there was a very gusty light
breeze coming from the south west. Parking the pram in some shade on the
grass, I rigged the delta, attached its nylon flying line and held it
out on a meter or 2 of line. It was up immediately. A bit erratic while
low down due to the nearby trees disturbing the breeze, but soon it was
climbing away as I line let out in short bursts.
Holding the narrow wooden reel in one hand, I flew the kite
from the other hand, letting line pull itself off rapidly for a second
or so at a time. Each time I stopped the line, the kite's nose would
rise before it pulled hard and climbed another meter or 3. In this way,
the delta went straight to 200 feet or so.
As this was happening, I was left on my own as May and Aren
went across to the play equipment some distance away. With the delta now
showing me the exact wind direction, I flew it with one hand while
pushing the empty pram crosswind for a few meters to get a bit more room
to fly in. The pram held the delta nicely, with both brakes on and the
flying line wrapped around the spongy handle a few times. The line angle
was hovering between 50 and 60 degrees most of the time.
Now it was time to concentrate on launching the barn door
kite. As expected, this was not as easy as the with the much larger
delta. Eventually, with the help of a particularly healthy gust of wind,
the kite got some decent height above the trees. At one stage it got a
nice boost from a small thermal, floating almost straight up with low
line tension, tail fluttering up high behind it.
At other times it reverted to its usual trick of sweeping far
to the left and right before correcting and heading back to the center
of the wind window. In fact, I had to run across the grass a few times
when it threatened to cross the delta's flying line! A bit of a
guesswork was involved since both lines were virtually invisible against
the blue and white sky.
When the wind dropped, I had to quickly haul it in hand over
hand just to keep it airborne. Even so, it ended up on ground a couple
of times. With gusts coming through all the time, it wasn't hard to
re-launch it from the ground. Actually, it is a bit harder to ground
launch than a diamond kite, because of those 2 vertical spar ends at the
top digging into the grass!
I found it interesting how localized some of the wind gusts
were. The kite could be in slow air while just a few meters behind, or
to one side, tree leaves were swirling madly in quickly moving air.
Eventually, May took the reel and started winding in, while I
kept an eye on Aren who was happily trotting around here and there.
With the barn door kite in its bag, we started on the Windjam delta
kite. Keeping an eye on Aren, I hauled in while May wound the line onto
the reel. This time, I managed to haul the delta right into my hands
without it touching the ground at all. Another pleasant little family
kite flying session.
November 18, 2007 14:20 - Barn Door Kites, Big Jets and a Helium Balloon At Sunset
A couple of unusual things happened during this outing. See if you can spot them...
It was getting late, but what the heck. Let's go do some barn
door kite flying! The 3 of us arrived 20 minutes or so before sunset,
down at the Old Reynella reserve. A gusty fresh wind blowing. We had the
original barn door kite as well as another one I made more recently.
The original kite had suffered a bit at the hands of Aren,
our toddler. He had pulled at the sail causing it to come loose near the
tail end of the kite. This had the affect of loosening the sail all
over the kite, so every section bowed quite a bit when the kite was
flying. Actually, it wouldn't fly at all the last time I took it out! It
had become utterly unstable. I was so annoyed I didn't even blog it
here. :-) After returning home, I pulled the sail taut and secured it
with extra tape near the tail end.
With the little barn door nice and tight this time, I was
glad to see it willingly climb away as a gust came through our part of
the reserve. Beautiful. Nice and steady, the reel spun slowly as I held
the hole between my thumb and forefinger. The kite just climbed
steadily, soon reaching faster and smoother air above the trees. I kept
the reel spinning, stopping briefly at the 100 meter mark to climb the
kite up to a higher line angle, but then letting more line out to about
Most of the time the kite sat at around 40 to 45 degrees,
occasionally climbing to 50 -60 degrees and once sinking to about 20
degrees in what might have been sinking air or just a lull. The breeze
was quite fresh up there some of the time, but the little barn door
handled it easily, swooping sideways but never looping. In fact, after
the face-lift :-) it was more stable than when it was first made.
I walked back and threw a few loops of the monofilament line
around a handy tree branch and left reel on the ground. Time to test fly
the latest barn door kite. Well, it looked promising for a few moments
but then it was clear the attachment point had to come forward a bit. So
I did that and tried again. However, it still had a tendency to spin
wildly when given half a chance.
Two things came to mind. A bit more tail would help. After
all, the original was up there with 3 looped 2 meter tails, and I was
trying just 1 on this kite. I also realized that this kite was a little
more tail-heavy than the original because of some design changes I made.
A bit more tape across the leading edge will help to add some weight
Back to the original barn door, still flying about in the
late evening sky above us. As the sun set, the plastic sail and tail lit
up for a while, making it very easy to see. Particularly the tail, as
it shimmered and shone.
Around about this time, a couple of big jets went over, maybe
10 minutes apart, departing out of Adelaide airport. The sky was dark
enough to show up the red and green wingtip lights. The sky was almost
cloudless, with a bright half-moon nearly straight overhead.
A while later, the sun was below the horizon and the kite
became almost invisible. A couple of times, I walked back to the tree,
wondering if the kite was down. But no, there was the flying line,
angling up from the branch to which it was attached.
It was time to start reeling the kite in. I glanced up at the
sky, at the section where I expected to see the kite. To my surprise,
there was a tiny blue circle there instead! Someone's kid's birthday
party must have lost at least one helium balloon! As it drifted in the
distance, at least 1000 feet up, we located our kite and started reeling
in. May, my wife, wound the line onto the reel while I pulled down the
kite. Aren pitched in occasionally, grabbing the line and flying the
kite for a few moments.
With the kite down to 30 or 40 feet, it began to slowly
descend down upon a somewhat surprised magpie. The bird hurriedly hopped
away as the kite almost touched the ground beside it. At this point, I
started to pull the kite in more quickly, just keeping it in the air
until it was close enough to catch in my hand.
With both kites packed away under the pram, we all headed home. The barn door kite had had its best flight so far.
November 21, 2007 21:49 - Barn Door Kite Number 2 Rides Out Some Wild Weather
This time it was just Aren and me, with the new barn door
kite. This one doesn't have such high cheek-bones as the original one,
if you get what I mean. OK, the cross spar is further away from the
nose-end of the kite! Also, the bow in the cross spar extends from tip
to tip, unlike the original kite in which just the center section has a
bow. We went out to the, you guessed it, Old Reynella reserve again.
Now, the last time we took this kite out, it hardly flew at
all. It needed more nose weight for a start, so I fixed that by adding
layers of tape across the leading edge, flush with the edge. This also
made the leading edge tougher and resistant to stretch, which is a good
I have discovered that kites that fly well tend to float
directly to the ground when dropped. Fully stalled would be the
technical term. That is, neither the nose nor the tail dips first. With
tape added, the barn door now passed this test perfectly. We took an
extra tail as well, in case more tail was needed.
A few initial short flights looked promising, with the kite
much more stable than its previous flights. However, it would still loop
tightly sometimes when there was very little tension in the flying
line. Hence I decided to add the extra tail.
The wind was extremely gusty, more than the usually quite
gusty conditions we get around here. The land is slightly hilly, covered
with houses and tallish trees, and a few kilometers inland from the sea
in Gulf St. Vincent. On this day, the breeze varied from not strong
enough to lift the kite, through to powerful enough to knock all my
other kites out of the sky! I reckon those heavier gusts would be
getting close to gale force!
After moving the pram across the reserve a bit to get more
flying space, I added the second tail. Now, there were two 2 meter tails
side by side. This had the desired effect, with the barn door kite
climbing out nicely on the next gust that came through. The little kite
coped well with the conditions, like the original barn door kite, and
soon most of the 50 meter Dacron line was out.
Yes, I've switched to 20 pound braided Dacron for the rest of
the MBK Skewer Kite series. It's a bit heavy for these little kites,
but I will re-use it later for the next series of kites. And no, I don't
know exactly what that next series will be yet...
Back to the flying. The sky was quite gray in parts, and
white in others, due to thick cloud layers. The kite became pretty hard
to spot with a grey background when flying high, but would re-appear
when flying lower, which was against a white background.
In such a strong gusty breeze, the barn door kite was fun to
watch. Although just as stable, maybe more stable, than the original
barn door kite, this one was now forced into a large loop from time to
time. At these times, and when it just dived a long way, it would get
close to the ground before recovering and soaring back up again.
With gusts a little less severe, the kite would just race a
long way from side to side, always correcting itself and heading back to
The occasional patch of rising air would boost it up to a 60
degree or so line angle for a few moments. It never stayed there long,
always getting driven back down again by the strength of the wind. All
in all, this kite in this sort of weather tends to cover a lot of sky!
I had to re-launch from the grass a few times. Because of the
wind strength, I tried to slacken off the line at just the right
moment, otherwise the kite would smack into the grass quite hard!
Aren had fun holding the line. He's getting stronger, able to
hold the line for a few moments even with the little kite pulling its
hardest! Sometimes, as 2 year-olds do, he let go deliberately. But Dad
was never caught out, oh no, I know his little tricks.
Eventually, the spreader keeping the bow in the cross-spar
popped out after a hard landing. Perhaps it happened during the drag
across the grass to re-launch. In any case, the barn door kite was now
too unstable to get above about 3 meters in the air. Hence we went over
to the kite on the ground, reeled in all the line, packed it up and went
home. I'm glad we have another successful kite to add to all the others
in the shed.
November 26, 2007 12:52 - Barn Door Kite - First Flying Pics
This was basically just a short photo session to get a
picture of the original barn door kite in the air. You might have
noticed the missing picture near the end of the How To Make A Barn Door
Kite page! We all went down to our most frequently visited flying field,
the Old Reynella reserve, with our new digital camera.
The old camera had given up on us a couple of weeks ago, so
it was an excellent excuse to upgrade from 1.2 to 5.1 Megapixels! It
won't make a lot of difference to kite flying pictures on this site,
apart from better color, due to the limitations of your computer screen.
However, the close-ups in my kite-building pages should be a lot
better, since they rely on blowing things up digitally. No more blurry
pics of knots and spar-joins!
The weather was warm and sunny with a gusty moderate breeze
blowing. Hence the little kite was a bit tricky to keep in flight on a
short string for May to photograph. Eventually she got a few shots, like
the one over there with Aren in his pram in the background.
Now I was free to get the kite up further to see how it would
fare. Soon, a gust came through and the kite was away. I quickly let out
over 100 meters of line, threw a few loops around a tree branch and
left the reel on the ground.
May and I took a couple of photos of Aren, our toddler son,
while the barn door kite frolicked overhead in very thermally active
air. One gust must have hit it from behind - the kite shuddered suddenly
and stopped flying for a moment, floating down with a slack line.
Another time, unbelievably, it soared right up to more than 70 degrees.
Amazing for such a small kite on a decent length of line. During all
this, the sun was in the same region of sky as the kite, lighting up the
clear plastic in the sail and showing off the fast ripples in its
We started pulling the kite down. I gave the line to May for a
while, and she smiled as she felt the kite wrestling with the wind high
above us. Aren had a turn too, although the kite was too far away for
him to spot without a bit of help. Eventually, the kite was down and we
packed up and walked home.
November 27, 2007 08:50 - New Sode Kite Floats In Light Air
This month's kite is based on the traditional Japanese Sode
Dako kite, otherwise known as the Kimono kite. A few tests out in the
back yard revealed that this one would need a tail. Apparently, larger
and more accurately made sodes can fly in gentle breezes without a tail.
I think that achieving this with a small bamboo skewer and plastic
design will be quite difficult. No 2 skewers are exactly alike, I have
We all headed out to the usual flying spot, but it was
crowded out with kids kicking balls around. Hence we went on to the
usual Plan B location, the vacant block. It was close to sun-down, and
the moderate gusty breeze had subsided to the occasional gentle waft.
Actually not too bad for testing a light wind kite such as the sode.
With a tail half as long as the ones I usually use, just 1 meter,
the little Sode kite managed to gain some height although it was barely
stable enough to stay in the air. I wondered whether it was a touch
tail-heavy with tail attached, so added a paper clip to the nose. This
did seem to improve its stability a bit, and I was quite impressed with
its ability to hang in the air with hardly any breeze.
That's it for now, the end of the month is a busy time for this webmaster...