Kite Blog Posts

December 2007

December 4, 2007—Sode Kite Goes Up Like a Rocket, Passing Kids Impressed!

With only one test flight of the new sode kite, it was time to see what it could do in a bit more wind. To avoid embarrassment, I took our trusty original barn door kite as well. This was just in case the sode was a flop! Pushing Aren in his pram, we set out for the usual spot—the Old Reynella reserve.

On arriving, I pulled out the barn door kite first. It took several tries to launch in the tricky thermic conditions. The breeze was varying from almost calm to quite fresh, and this little barn door is not a light-wind kite. Eventually, up it went, way above tree height and into clear air. There were no problems once it got that high. I immediately had to shift sideways quite a bit due to the wind direction which had the kite rather too close to some tall trees.

We soon had the flying line wound several times around a small tree trunk, which allowed the reel to just lie on the dirt. There was no need for any knot; it's a trick we use all the time. Just over 50 meters (160 feet) of line was out. A few kids wandered through, glancing at the kite which was hovering at about 35 to 45 degrees of line angle most of the time.

Now it was time to try the sode! At first, it just looped uncontrollably, not gaining any height. OK, luckily I had brought some more tail, just in case. After adding another 2 meters to the 1 meter already attached, the little kite eagerly wiggled and weaved upwards, pulling furiously. I let line out as quickly as I could from the simple wooden winder, and soon the sode kite was way up there. To keep it separated from the barn door already in the air, I walked across to the nearby basketball hoop pole. A half dozen or so winds did the trick, with the winder lying at the foot of the pole. Almost 50 meters (160 feet) of line was out, with a few turns left on the winder.

With both kites doing well, it was time to entertain my young son for a while on the play equipment.

The barn door kite was on 3 kg (7 pound) fishing line, which was rather hard to see in the air. The sode was on 9 kg (20 pound) Dacron, which was much easier to see against the sky. During the gusts there was very little slack in the line.

The sode kite was a delight to watch with its high-angle flying! In fact, this kite seemed to fly at the best angle of any MBK kite so far, comparable to or better than the delta. It had its own characteristic snake-like motion, tracing out long ripples in its 3-meter tail. Sometimes the wind strength would get the better of it, and it would loop in a wide arc or dive many meters before recovering. Occasionally, the kite would claw its way up to 70 to 80 degrees in rising air before settling back down again.

The wind started to die a little, so I pulled down the barn door kite and packed it away under the pram. A few minutes later, the sode kite came to rest on the grass. After walking over to where the flying line was anchored, I relaunched it when the next gust came through. Immediately, it went back up to a high angle. A while later, some kids rode past on their bikes. One of them looked up at the kite far above and seemed most impressed! Maybe it was the high angle, but one thing's for sure—I bet he'd never seen a sode kite before.

I let Aren fly the sode for a while, before pulling it down. He even managed to pull in 1/2 meter or so by himself, while I wound line onto the winder. I think this will be great light-wind kite, particularly if I use less glue and fly with a shorter tail when weather permits.

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.

December 15, 2007—Barn Door Kite 2 Struggles in Port Vincent Gale

Port Vincent? Yes, we all went on a short holiday to this small town on the eastern side of Yorke Peninsula. Three MBK kites made the trip with us: diamond #2, barn door #2 and the sode. The day after we got there, we took the barn door kite with us to a small open area which led onto a man-made spit into the gulf. After quite some trouble untangling the flying line from the tail, we got the kite in the air. I made a mental note to wrap the tails and secure them with a rubber band as part of the packing-away process in future! The learning never stops.

It turned out to be a fairly miserable affair with the kite refusing to stay up for a decent length of time. The wind was fairly constant, blowing off the sea, but quite strong. The wind strength was the main problem, forcing the kite to make large loops into the ground. There was also a bit of rotor turbulence near the ground, since we were on a little plateau a meter or two above the beach sand. This had the effect of blowing back in the opposite direction to the prevailing wind. If the kite got too low over a certain area of ground it just got knocked out of the air.

Just to keep things challenging, the bamboo stick keeping the bow in the cross spar fell out a few times, forcing us to search for it in the grass after each hard landing. Eventually, it got lost in the sand. However, the wind was so strong that, would you believe it, the cross spar bent enough under air pressure to keep the kite nearly as stable as it was before! This would be understandable with a diamond kite, but these barn door kites are more rigid with their 3-leg bridles.

Determined to get some flying time in, I attached the plastic carry bag to the end of the tail, but it still was not enough. Then I realized a major difference between the refurbished barn door #1 and this one. Barn door #1 had tape reinforcing its leading edges, preventing stretch and holding the edges straighter. It had worked wonders on the kite's flying qualities, so why didn't I do the same for #2? It will be done now!

The flying session ended when the slip knot of the bottom bridle line pulled through. From now on we'll have to knot the end of the line twice to ensure these slip knots don't pull through, even when stressed to the max.

December 16, 2007—Sode Kite and Pelicans Over Port Vincent Beach

On another day of our Port Vincent holiday, we set up one of those nifty collapsible shelters on the sand. The breeze was light to moderate, perfect for the MBK 1-Skewer Sode kite with plenty of tail. With part of the sode's long tail dragging on the sand, it was a little unstable while trying to launch. Soon, however, it climbed away, weaving from side to side as it went. After letting out 20 meters (60 feet) or so, I handed the winder to May, my wife. "Ooh" she exclaimed, feeling the slightly heftier tug of the sode as compared to all the other MBK kites. This kite does have more sail area than the others, and in fact is 1 3/8 skewer-lengths long. It's rectangular "'wing" is a full skewer-length wide.

I noticed a football-sized rock not far away, so brought it over to act as an anchor point for the kite. With the kite's plastic carry bag wrapped around it, there weren't any sharp edges to damage the flying line. Taking the winder back from May, I let out the rest of the 50 meters (160 feet) of Dacron line except for the last few loops. With four or five turns around one end of the rock, the tension was sufficient to leave the winder on the sand.

This was our first kite-flying session from the sand on a beach. I was a bit surprised to find the breeze so variable, both in strength and direction. Wasn't beach air supposed to be beautifully smooth and constant? Actually, the breeze wasn't as gusty as further inland, in that the wind strength changes were more gradual. A few times, the little sode kite threatened to sink below treetop height. Once, it even drifted straight down fully stalled, before soaring up again to a high angle when the wind speed picked up. Most surprising of all were the changes in wind direction. Over a full 90 degrees! This prompted me to shift the rock around a little to ensure the line didn't slip off.

The days were getting warmer, so I guess all the variability was caused by small thermals popping off the warm sand. However, all the pelicans that flew past made no attempt to soar, so I wonder. These birds can just about gain height circling over a hot cup of coffee.

December 21, 2007—Delta Stunt Kite Limps Skyward With L-Plate Pilot

There's something quite different to report today. The MBK crew try out their very first delta stunt kite! Yes, my wife, May, bought me a $10 stunter from a local shop. It has a nylon sail, fiberglass spars, and hefty braided flying line of unknown type.

My only flying experience anything like this would probably be flying control-line (U-control) model aircraft in the 1970s! So it was going to be interesting. We all piled into the car for the short trip to the reserve near the school, in Old Reynella. Why this reserve, instead of the usual one? Basically because of all the wide open space. Stunt kites spend a lot of time at low level, so you don't need those upwind trees and bushes messing with the air the kite is trying to fly in.

Kite Blog - Tim rigs a cheap 2-line delta stunt kite.Rigging the 2-line delta stunt kite

We arrived and walked over to the open area where there seemed to be a bit of breeze blowing. So far, so good.

I laid the kite on its back and assembled it, slipping in the cross spar and clipping in the stand-offs. I had tied the flying lines to their rings while still at home.

Walking backward, I let both reels unwind, using a finger from each hand as axles! All 50 meters went out, so I would have a bit of time to react, when the kite got in the air.

Firstly, with a bit of breeze on my back, I attempted to ground launch off the grass as I am so fond of doing with single line kites. This just didn't work, with the stunt kite's nose staying firmly in the grass. So it was time to recruit the wife. ;-) May dutifully held the kite up, after which I pulled it into the air from out of her hands.

The wind at this time was wavering from almost calm to somewhere in the 2 Bft range. I'll get around to explaining the Beaufort scale on this site at some later stage, but 2 Bft is when the bottom edge of a flag tends to stay straight out from the pole. On trees, small branches start to move around.

So this is what happened. The kite climbed just a little before it started to rotate to the right. I corrected a few times, but it ended up on the ground soon after. This was my fault, since I had no idea just how responsive the kite would be.

Then followed a few more short flights, where my wife learnt that throwing the kite into the air just makes things harder for the pilot! These flights ended with

  • the nose pitching up and down, before settling on the ground
  • the kite entering a total stall, then spinning to the ground
  • the kite looping into the ground after almost entering a tail slide, and lurching up again
The cheap 2-line delta stunt kite in flight.Flying the 2-line delta stunt kite

Finally, we had a smooth launch into a decent gust of wind! This time I tried to hold equal tension on both lines, letting the kite climb away, straight up. Cautiously, I tried turning each way, managing to cover some ground to each side of the centerline. The stunter proved difficult to keep in the air when there was hardly any tension in the lines. Huge movements were required to get any turning response from the kite.

We had fun for a while, with me flying and my wife taking pictures. I was just trying to keep the kite in the air most of the time. The wind kept dropping, leading to a semi-stalled kite and loss of control. The control feel changed a lot with wind speed and how far off center the kite was, so it was a struggle.

Flying this kite should be a lot easier when the wind is constantly in the 2 Bft range or above. Also, it could be that more expensive stunt kites are easier to control! From what I read they are definitely more precise through the air. One big factor is the stretch in the lines. The braided lines of our cheapie behave a bit like rubber bands with 50 meters (160 feet) let out!

Never-the-less, which is My Best Kite? This delta stunt kite for now! Although, if I had to pick from the MBK range, it would have to be the efficient little sode.

December 24, 2007—New Rokkaku Kite: Brief But Satisfying First Flight

There's only a few days to go before the newsletter is due, so I quickly finished off the MBK 1-Skewer Rokkaku kite and associated website pages. Outside, the weather was blustery with almost 100% cloud cover, but I had faith in the four-leg bridle on this kite! Actually, it's the first four-leg bridle of any MBK kite so far. The barn door has three legs and all the others have just two.

All three of us went out, and we parked the pram on the south side of the Old Reynella reserve. I carefully removed the kite from its bag, stuffing back the lengths of tail that were there just in case the kite needed them. But no, the little rok rose up and quickly demonstrated that it had plenty of stability of its own. The bow in the top cross spar was about a finger width, with two finger widths on the bottom cross spar. That's measuring from the tightened string to the vertical spar.

This was very pleasing. Never in my whole life have I made and flown a flat-style kite with no tail! I just watched it for a few moments, amazed. Then I let another 5 or 10 meters (33 feet) of line out, to see what it would do higher up in smoother air. Unfortunately, this is when the sail decided to let go on one side and shift toward the middle. Out of balance like this, the kite just did tight loops into the ground. So that was that, since we hadn't brought any tape with us this time.

After spending some time with my wife, May, and our little boy, Aren, on the play equipment, we returned home. You'll be glad to know I fixed the rok and updated the construction info accordingly! We'll have a much better flying session with it next time.

December 26, 2007—Rok Dies, Diamond Rocks: Let Me Explain

I was just having a bit of fun there, with the title! In a nutshell, the new MBK 1-Skewer Rok failed again due to sail slippage. It's easily solved though, and I'll be building another one and posting updates to the construction notes ASAP. This time, I'll use the same sail-fastening method that every other MBK kite uses. The only minor downside is that the little lugs that let you attach and tighten the bow strings on the cross spars will have to be shifted in toward the center of the kite. They will poke into the sail somewhat and make adjusting the bow a little more fiddly. But at least the sail should remain nice and tight! That's vital for these small kites; it makes so much difference.

And Diamond Rocks? Well, we brought the MBK 1-Skewer Diamond #2 just in case. It's such a reliable little kite, it just took to the air with no problems. Within a minute or so it was sitting up there with 50 meters (16 feet) of line let out. It really ermm rocked. We left it up for 40 minutes or so, attached to the pram handle, while we entertained our toddler, Aren, on the play equipment. This was down at the Old Reynella reserve at which we often fly. The kite sat between 40 to 50 degrees in the air most of the time, which is very respectable for a small diamond. Once or twice some rising air boosted it to a good 60 degrees or so, pulling the 20-pound flying line almost straight.

Early clear plastic 1-Skewer Diamond kite in flight.Clear plastic 1-Skewer Diamond

This diamond kite has its own distinctive flight pattern. It rocks quickly but gently around the axis of its vertical spar. Sorry to get mathematical on you, but saying "wiggles its wingtips" could mean several things. As well as that, it swishes its tail every few seconds like an angry pet cat. Not so mathematical that time huh? With even more wind speed, it might dive a long way to the left or right, before correcting and finding its way back to center.

With just an hour or two to sundown, the tail started to glow. It seemed to just glow rather than shimmer and shake, maybe because it's had quite a bit of flying and has more twist and stretch in it now. Hence it just lays out straight in the air, except when the kite moves suddenly.

It was a bit disappointing about the rok kite, but never mind. Watch this space for some more successful flights with the next one!


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.