February 2, 2008 22:01 - Barn Door Kite Trips Up Seagull In Mid-Air!
It was a warm sunny day, so we went down to Brighton beach
and set up our beach tent on the sand. Of course we took a selection of
kites as well, to cover most wind strengths except the very lightest. It
wasn't hard to pick which kite to fly, after struggling with the tent
in a very fresh and gusty breeze blowing towards the water. The little
barn door kite, in fact the original one, was chosen since it has a good
record in strong winds.
The barn door launched easily and was soon battling the breeze.
Not too much line could be let out because there were plenty of people
around. We had to minimize the chances of clobbering someone on the head
with a bamboo and plastic missile, should the the wind get too much for
the kite. The kite did get forced down a few times, but it generally
coped very well, flying with line angles between 30 and 50 degrees most
of the time.
There were a couple of incidents involving seagulls. Not long
after the very first launch, a seagull flew past at low level and
actually contacted the flying line with its feet. I felt it more than
saw it, but did see the surprised bird a few meters away from the line,
continuing on after clawing back some airspeed! Much later during the
kite's flight, another seagull approached the line and only spotted it
when less than a meter or 2 away. It threw out the air brakes, beak high
and tail feathers low for just a a moment. The bird slowed down almost
instantly, before it decided it was going to miss, and resumed normal
Next up, after bringing the barn door kite down, was the Sode
kite. With some tears in the plastic near the mid section and a hole or
2, it was looking a bit the worse for wear. However, it shot straight
up after launch and actually seemed more stable than the barn door. The
long tail helped! After a while the breeze picked up even more and the
Sode was stretched to its limits. It's amazing a spar didn't snap, no
kidding. Line angles were anywhere from ground level to 70 degrees or
The Sode managed to stay airborne during some gusts so heavy
that clouds of dry sand started to drift across the beach. Forced into
wide loops and long sideways passes, the little Sode kite started to
sound distinctly like my delta stunt kite in a stiff breeze! How it held
together I don't know, I was even wondering whether the 20 pound Dacron
line would hold. At times the line had several kilos of tension in it,
that's for sure. Bear in mind this kite is only 29 cm (12 inches) from
tip to tip. I hung on while it darted in all directions, sometimes
curving in an arc, other times rocketing along a straight line. It did
hit the sand a few times too, but lived to fly another day.
The MBK Skewer Sode kite proved today that it has a better
wind range than any other MBK kite made so far! Its first test flights
were done in very light wind.
February 11, 2008 21:23 - First Tiny Dopero Kite Needs Tails
After finishing the somewhat involved construction of the MBK
Skewer Dopero no. 1, we headed out to give it a test fly. Since this
kite is wider than it is tall, and has a considerable gap between its
main and rear sails, it doesn't end up with a lot of sail area. That
plus the 4 spars required means that despite the great light wind
reputation of its big brothers, this little Dopero will probably need
more wind than the Sode. BBQ skewers only come in one width - thinner
ones would be handy for a Dopero with a wingspan of 1 skewer!
Well, we should have brought some tails with us because...
despite showing some hints of stability, it didn't take much for the
Dopero to go unstable and spin tightly. In either direction, mind you,
so it wasn't inaccurate construction. Not to worry, I half expected
that. For a kite this small, it would take a minor miracle for it to fly
Sometime soon I will be making another Dopero, in order to
write the instructions and take all the photos. The main difference will
be the 2 keels under the rear sail. This time round, I'll try making
them much bigger. You never know, in ideal conditions, it just might fly
February 13, 2008 09:07 - Tiny Dopero Kite Flies High With White Trash
Curious about that headline? :-) Read on for the full story!
It looked a bit windy outside, but I was dying to get the
Dopero in the air again. This time, it had 2 short tails of freezer bag
plastic, trailing from the lower end of each vertical spar.
Down at the Old Reynella Reserve... With the pram parked in
the shade of a bush, I tried launching the kite into the
light-to-moderate gusts from the south-east that were coming through.
The kite was reluctant to climb, despite a nice amount of pull in the
line, so I moved the towing point forward a centimeter or so. This
resulted in higher climbs, but stability was still a problem. Also,
there was a tendency to suddenly nose down into a dive then roll on its
back, before recovering again. Some of this was just a result of the
rough air flowing from the trees and bushes upwind.
By this stage, it was clear the little Dopero would not be a
very good light wind kite after all. Too much bamboo and too little sail
area! Plus, I'm pretty sure the black garbage bag plastic is heavier
than freezer bag plastic. However, it sure looked good with its jet
black sails standing right out against the pale blue sky.
To fix the stability, I added one extra short loop of clear
plastic to the tails. Now the tails were joined together, forming a
single loop from spar to spar. This little trick results in a more
efficient tail, without adding much weight. Sure enough, the Dopero
promptly soared straight up and I was able to let out plenty of line.
Soon it was happily flying around at 2 or 3 times tree height, at 50 to
60 degree line angles, and behaving itself nicely.
Aren had a good time holding the flying line too, while I
anchored the reel to the pram handle. He yanked the line from time to
time, sending long ripples along it, halfway to the kite far above.
Although the air was smoother up there, thermals would come
through from time to time and shift the kite around. Left, right and up
to even higher line angles, with the line pulled nearly straight. Small
white bits of rubbish floated by above, at perhaps 500 feet or higher,
confirming that some rather healthy thermals were in the area! Hence the
headline to this post. ;-)
A few quite strong gusts came through, but the little Dopero
coped well. It shared the strain amongst its 4 bridle lines and held
enough tension at times to make the Dacron line vibrate! At other times,
the line would pulse with small ripples, feeling much like a fish
biting at the other end.
After nearly losing the kite in some trees way off to the
left, it became clear that something had changed with the kite. It
continued to hang left a lot, with the flying line bowed out to the
right, and ended up on the ground a few times. Perhaps a bridle knot had
slipped a bit.
Eventually I pulled the kite down and we went home. Having a
good look at the bridle, it seemed that the upper knot had slipped a
bit, so I shifted it back and tightened the knot. Anyway, it seems we
now have a delightful little moderate-wind kite to share with all the
visitors to the website!
February 18, 2008 12:25 - Tiny Dopero Kite Frolics In Light Winds And Thermals
After it's previous 2 test flights, I was pleasantly
surprised at the performance of the little Dopero in light winds, down
at the Old Reynella Reserve. Despite being a bit heavy for its sail
area, once it gets up there the Dopero floats very nicely. However, to
start with we just flew it around close to the ground to get some
With a few in-flight close-ups in the camera, I let the next gust
take the kite out to 45 meters of line. This kite is a pleasure to fly,
with no darting around as many kites of this size do.
Occasionally, the Dopero would float upwind in rising air,
reaching high line angles. If this lasted too long, it would ever so
gradually nose down into a dive, before turning to one side and losing a
lot of height. Recovery was easy. Just releasing all tension in the
line would put the kite into a belly flop, after which it would drift
back with the wind, take up line tension and start to climb again.
One of these thermal encounters resulted in the Dopero
floating very high overhead, before the lift died. The line went very
slack and bowed in several directions! How about that, seeing the
different directions the gusts are blowing in, at different altitudes.
This little kite took a while to construct, but I reckon it
was worth every minute! It's turning out to be a reliable flier with
quite a good wind range for its tiny size.
Finally, with the sun getting lower, thermal activity died
right down and the gusts coming through were barely strong enough to
even launch the kite. Even so, I did a little walk-past the camera while
May took a movie, towing the kite and letting it descend until it
filled the view finder! Some of that footage is going on the up-coming
construction page for the Dopero kite. Keep an eye out for it under the
How To Make A Kite section of the website.
February 27, 2008 14:40 - Styrofoam Box Kite's Maiden Flight
This flight actually took place quite a few days ago. I've
finally decided to blog it, after not bothering since it seemed such a
short and spur-of-the-moment thing at the time.
This box kite has been sitting in the corner of our work room
for some months now, waiting for a suitable gale to blow! It is
constructed from the foam packaging that enclosed a new microwave oven.
Eight rather thick slabs of foam were butted together, resulting in 2
box cells somewhat wider than they were high. Four bamboo skewers were
then glued to the inside corners of the cells, resulting in a heavy,
chunky box kite!
Since this kite was not exactly square, it made sense to
bridle it so it would fly flat rather than on one corner like a
traditional box kite. Sort of like a simplified Hargrave kite, if you
get what I mean.
To help improve its efficiency, I rounded off all the square
edges with a serrated steak knife. Also, I shaped the 2 upper flying
surfaces into an airfoil shape to further help its chances of getting
So, the day came when it was very windy outside. The isobars
on the weather maps must have been kissing each other. We turned up at
the reserve near the school and I went out by myself, while May and Aren
stayed in the comfort of the car. I had to promise I wouldn't be long!
Wonder of wonders, the thing actually rose up and flew!
However, it was slightly unstable, needing a more forward towing point.
As a result, it looped around a few times, hitting the grass hard once
or twice. A small chunk of foam flew off, but it kept flying.
At one point, a very interesting thing happened. The bridle
got caught up on a corner of foam, resulting in the kite flying level on
the wrong sails! The narrow ones, instead of the wider ones. However,
this meant the wider sails were now acting as vertical fins and the kite
was actually stable! There it sat, steady as a rock about 5 meters up,
while the wind whistled around my ears. What about the airfoil section I
carved, which was now sitting sideways in the air? It didn't seem to
have much effect. Perhaps it made the kite sit just a bit to one side,
but it wasn't obvious.
Around this time I noticed that one bamboo spar had snapped
cleanly in 2 spots, right next to the foam. The kite had been flying on
just 3 spars, with the wide butt joints giving it all the rigidity it
For some reason, I persisted with trying to fly the kite with
the bridle in its original state, thinking that I might try and move
the towing point forward when we got home. However, this proved awkward
so the kite is still sitting here in the room with me. For days I've had
intentions of repairing it with a new spar. And of course, we'll switch
that bridle around so it always flies on the narrow sides! It might
prove to be a beautiful little Category 4 Storm kite... Just kidding, we
don't fly when there's any chance of lightning!