November 4, 2007—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 1-Skewer Barn Door kite in its 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 bit.
We spent some time watching the kite with about 30 meters (100 feet) of line out. Thankfully, it behaved really well in the gusty breeze that by now was quite strong at times. There was 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 toward 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 (160-foot) 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 upwind.
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, the 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 directions!
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 windy days!
On this site, there's more kite-making info 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.
November 6, 2007—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 three of us, with all three of our sled kites. Hence the corny title to this blog entry ;-)
First up was MBK 1-Skewer Sled #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 flyer, 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 two 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 there were 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 #2 for while, I pulled out the original MBK 1-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 (330 feet) of 3 kg 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 #1 over to my wife for a while, I had another go with #2. This time it was 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 sled #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. It was not successful since 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—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. It seemed like a bit of late thermal activity was about, so I thought about taking the Windjam delta kite out. It makes good use of the occasional bit of rising air that comes through.
We loaded up the pram with my young son, Aren, the delta, plus the MBK 1-Skewer Barn Door kite. That was 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 southwest. 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 two of line. It was up immediately. The kite was 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 three. 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 the barn door 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 relaunch it from the ground. Actually, it is a bit harder to ground launch than a diamond kite, because of those two 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 it 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. It was another pleasant little family kite-flying session.
November 18, 2007—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 three of us arrived 20 minutes or so before sunset, down at the Old Reynella reserve. A gusty fresh wind was 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 effect 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 (330-foot) mark to climb the kite up to a higher line-angle but then letting more line out to about 150 meters (500 feet).
Most of the time the kite sat at around 40 to 45 degrees, occasionally climbing to 50 to 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 the reel on the ground. It was 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 three looped 2-meter tails, and I was trying just one 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 there.
Back to the original barn door—it was 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 the 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—Barn Door Kite Number 2 Rides Out Some Wild Weather
This time it was just Aren and I, 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 thing.
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 (160-foot) Dacron line was out.
Yes, I've switched to 20-pound braided Dacron for the rest of the MBK 1-Skewer Series. It's a bit heavy for these little kites, but I will reuse 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 reappear 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 center.
The occasional patch of rising air would boost it up to a 60-degree 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 relaunch 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 lets 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 relaunch. In any case, the barn-door kite was now too unstable to get above about 3 meters (10 feet) 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—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 closeups 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 (330 feet) 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. That's 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 triple tail.
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—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 backyard 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 two bamboo skewers are exactly alike, I have discovered!
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 sundown, and the moderate gusty breeze had subsided to the occasional gentle waft. It was 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, at 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.
The story or stories above document actual flying experiences. My write-ups are definitely "warts and all" since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!
As mentioned earlier, there's more kite-making info here 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.