June 10, 2008 15:02 - New Barn Door Braves Spar-Bending Breeze
From the weather report for today, we knew we had a brief
window in which to get out and test the new 2-skewer barn door kite. On
top of that, it was going to be very windy. Oh well, the 1-skewer barn
doors did well in strong wind, so the new one should cope. Maybe...
Down at the Morphett Vale High School oval, I hitched the new 150 meter
line to the MBK Barn Door and flew it around down low for a while. This
was so May, my wife, could take a few pictures. After some fiddling with
the bridle it finally behaved itself and shot skyward in the freshening
breeze. Also, it shot to the left and to the right while struggling in
the stronger gusts! As you can see in the photo, I added some extra tail
to help the kite cope.
I could see a lot of flexing going on. As tension built up in the
flying line, the normally straight sides of the sail became distinctly
bowed. All 3 bamboo spars must have been bending considerably. It
reminded me of our cheap stunt kite when its fiber-glass spars bend as
you fly it in a very strong breeze!
The flexing had the effect of
loosening the knots, unfortunately. Twice, the kite suddenly started
spiraling to the right. Each time, I had to walk out to the kite on the
ground and re-tie the upper right slip knot. These knots usually hold
pretty well, but with the bamboo spars moving against one another and
flexing, it was just too much.
Eventually, I couldn't resist flying the kite quite high, on
maybe 80 to 100 meters of line. The poor kite took quite a battering,
straining this way and that in the even faster flowing air higher up. A
few times it even did a large complete loop, taking it to within just a
few meters of the ground. At this height, the lower wind speed usually
allowed the kite to recover by itself. On one occasion the kite needed a
bit of help, so I quickly walked towards it to reduce tension in the
While winding in the line before we went home, we noticed low
clouds scudding along at an amazing speed. It was definitely blowing a
gale up there, or close to it. Medium sized branches in the trees were
moving around. It will be fun to fly the MBK 2-Skewer Barn Door in a
more moderate breeze!
June 13, 2008 21:05 - 2-Skewer Barn Door Kite Perfect Match For 20lb Line
Summer weather was forecast for later in the weekend but Aren
and I couldn't resist taking the new 2-Skewer Barn Door kite for its
2nd outing. The sky was still 9/10 cloudy, with ominous dark patches
here and there on the horizon. Conditions were pretty ideal down at the
Old Reynella reserve though. A cool, gusty light to moderate breeze was
moving the tree tops as we arrived. I launched the Barn Door without any
extra tail and it behaved beautifully. Well, most of the time. Some
strong gusts really tested its stability when it was down low and on its
side, after being forced down in a large loop.
It's the middle of winter here so imagine my surprise when
the kite kept floating up to 80+ degrees line angles with a taut 60
meters or so of line out! It must have been small patches of lift, since
most times this was quickly followed by the kite sinking suddenly,
sometimes almost tail-sliding back into its own tail! At other times the
kite would race across the sky from right to left or vice versa. This
reminded me of the flying characteristics of its smaller cousin, the MBK
1-Skewer Barn Door. This would happen when the wind was fairly constant
and not quite strong enough to make it loop.
Aren had a chance to fly the barn Door too, from his pram. He
gamely held on even when it pulled hard! With more sail area than the
MBK 2-Skewer Diamond, this Barn Door is perfectly matched to our 20
pound flying line. I think when we get the chance to fly the 2-skewer
Barn Door on our 150 meter line, it will still be able to pull most of
the sag out of it.
The sun was nearly down at this point, so I hauled the kite
in, managing to fly it right down to my feet. Call me lazy if you like. I
call it getting the most out of a kite flying session! As it passed
down through treetop height, it nearly sank to the grass a couple of
times during lulls, before I towed it away from the ground and into the
June 17, 2008 18:46 - Striiiike 2! Bird Strike On Barn Door Kite Line
Yes, strike 2, when 3 unsuspecting birds flew too close to
the flying line. I'm sure the baseball analogy won't be lost on you if
you are from the U.S. or Canada! Actually it's a bad analogy since a
strike is when you miss isn't it. Mmm better get back to kites...
The wife and small son were going for a bus ride so I took
the opportunity to try the Wilfred Taylor Reserve in Morphett Vale for a
change. This has quite a sizable rectangular grassed area with only low
trees on 2 sides. After giving up on the MBK 2-Skewer Diamond, due to
the quite strong wind, the new 2-Skewer Barn Door came out. This
3-sticker struggled too, despite extra tail being attached. However,
there was some improvement after I shifted the towing point forward a
centimeter or so.
A bird strike has happened before, which was also recorded in
this blog. 'Strike 1'. However, a second bird strike was still pretty
unexpected! I'm sure I felt a slight twitch in the line as one of the 3
birds appeared to make contact. All 3 took evasive action, before
continuing on their way towards the West. Perhaps looking out for more
inconsiderate kite fliers invading their airspace.
Since the breeze was moderate to strong, even the Barn Door
came to ground a few times. No problem, I just re-launched straight from
the grass. With its horizontal top edge, this seems to be a little
trickier than with a diamond, but still do-able. As soon as it toppled
over to one side, while being gently dragged, a firm tug popped it back
into the air for a quick climb back up. This was fun with 100 meters of
line out. A good way to startle nearby drivers or pedestrians! A bright
colored kite rocketing up from no-where, with no kite flier in view. I
was in a car park, right next to the field, to get those extra few
meters of line length!
A lot of time was spent low, zipping great distances to the
left or right before a slight drop in wind speed would allow it to
recover and climb back up to a 45 - 55 degree angle. In any case, a fair
amount of air time was spent near those maximum line angles. Since the
wind was blowing across the field rather than along it, I wasn't able to
get anywhere near the full 150 meters of line out. Just too risky with
all the unscheduled landings! Today's flying was the highest this barn
door has been so far, so that was satisfying.
June 19, 2008 21:33 - First MBK Kite Stack - The Diamond Plus Barn Door
It was a bit gusty outside, and seemed a bit strong for the
diamond. Our house is situated halfway up a slope in a slightly hilly
region of the suburb. So what, you ask... Over the past few months I
have observed that wind speeds tend to be faster near the house than the
wind speed just a kilometer or 2 away, over flatter ground. For
example, there might be a very gentle breeze moving nearby fronds and
tree leaves. However, on turning up at the flying field, it's
practically calm! And so it turned out today.
On arriving at the Wilfred Taylor Reserve, the wind was not
too strong at all. The breeze was ideal for both kites, although some of
the gusts bordered on being too strong. That's typical of this area.
Thermal activity all year round and very gusty breezes, whatever the
average wind strength.
We soon had the barn door kite up, which indicated the wind
direction. Then we moved around the edge of the reserve to find a spot
that would give the kites the most room in case of an unexpected
landing. By chance, the kite kept flying very close to the position of
the sun. Half the time we couldn't see the kite itself, and had to look
at the flying line to see how it was going! Hence, the kite's shadow was
always flitting around not far from where we were standing.
My idea for today was to attempt to fly the barn door on the
50 meter test line then attach the diamond beneath it on another line. A
2-kite stack or train in other words. Never did anything like this
before, so I was prepared for it to flop! The diamond had been prepared
at home, with a short length of line tied around the point where the
spars cross. Also, there was a simple overhand loop in the end to
provide a large knot. Today would be a test of my 48 year old eyes, with
no less than 3 tiny Larks Head knots to tie and untie at various times!
On the subject of the Larks Head - this very simple knot is
amazing useful, since it holds a kite line with complete security under a
lot of strain, but then is quite simple to release. Simple, but not
necessarily easy with thin 20 pound line! I think I've finally got the
knack, using a thumbnail to pinch the microscopic loop and pull it free.
Another technique I experimented with was trying to pull the knot apart
sideways with 2 thumbnails to loosen it, then go for the loop.
With the barn door flying high on its 50 meter line, I
wrapped the line around my hand leaving the last meter or so free. Then
it was just a matter of using the fingers of both hands to loop a Lark's
Head over the knot on the attachment line from the diamond kite.
Finally, I carefully freed my hand from the barn door's flying line and
transferred the tension to the diamond's flying line.
With the barn door frolicking around high up and pulling
strongly, I let out the diamond to about 10 or 15 meters. No room for
any more than that, unfortunately, with the prevailing wind direction.
First impression was that the flying line was under noticably more
strain with 2 kites pulling at it! That's logical. If one more kite were
to be added to the stack, the bottom one had better be on 40 pound
The diamond kept wrapping its tail around the flying line
behind it. Several times I brought down the diamond by walking out to
it, to unwrap the tail. Finally I figured a short tail would be less
trouble, and simply looped the single tail around and tied its end to
the tail end of the kite. This half-length tail worked pretty well, but
it still managed to loop around the line once or twice. However, the
diamond seemed to fly fairly normally while its tail was free. A strong
gust once caused it to do a complete loop while the barn door flew on
undisturbed, far above!
I was quite happy with the outcome, although couldn't help
wondering how critical the position of attachment point is, on the lower
kite. Today it must have been close enough, since the diamond seemed to
hold a close to normal flying attitude while it was up. Its going to be
fun to do this again, with maybe 100 meters of line below the lower
Was kicking myself today for not bringing the camera. Have resolved to always bring it from now on!
June 21, 2008 22:56 - Revamped 1-Skewer Diamond Kite In Tow Tests
Tow Tests? Nothing fancy actually, I just had to tow the
little diamond through our back yard to above roof height a few times to
check the effectiveness of its tail. My standard construction
techniques have finally sorted themselves out, so it was time to
completely re-do the construction notes and photos for the MBK 1-Skewer
Diamond Kite. The 1-skewer sled was done last month. See the pattern -
one new kite as usual and one re-vamp of an old one each month. All in
the interests of keeping things simple yet effective for new
With spars from the heavy batch of bamboo skewers, this
little diamond won't be quite the light-air floater that the original
one was. However, there was a bit of breeze about, and the kite hung up
there above the roof for half a minute or so at a time. Rocking just a
little from side to side as small diamonds do.
Lulls would bring the kite back down, sometimes to hit the
roof! This was hard to avoid, since the 1-skewer kite doesn't have the
beautiful stability and predictability of the 2-skewer version with
dihedral. But not to worry. It wasn't the worse for wear after several
roof re-launches! Interestingly, the small diamond still flew well
despite having droplets of water on the sail and tail from our wet lawn.
Try doing that with a paper kite!
A couple of days ago, I briefly flew the 1-skewer diamond up
to about gutter height in the back yard, but it was obvious it needed
more tail. Increasing the tail length from 4 skewer-lengths to 6 seems
to have done the trick. The plans page and construction How To.. page
were updated accordingly, so people don't end up with a kite which
I might take it out again tomorrow and fly it on 50 meters of
line if weather permits. Also, we need to get the launch photo for the
bottom of the How To.. page. Aren, our 2 year old, might have a fly too,
since this kite couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding... The same
can't be said of the diamond / barn door train that we flew the other
day. I gave Aren a go, but he didn't have the strength to hold the line
in one hand without it slipping or pulling free. He can handle the
2-skewer diamond on its own though.
June 24, 2008 19:41 - New 1-Skewer Diamond Kite Tested
We went out today to the Old Reynella reserve with the new 1-skewer diamond kite. However, nothing much went right!
The Prusik knot had loosened and lost one of its loops.
Picking it apart and re-tying wasn't really an option out on the reserve
without my reading glasses, so I just pulled it tight. Where-upon it
ceased to become a sliding knot and just stuck fast in the wrong spot!
OK, no problem, I'll just tie a small overhand loop in the bridle line
to shift the towing point to somewhere near the correct position.
The kite still misbehaved, not wanting to fly during the
lulls but looping to the right when the breeze was strong enough to lift
it! I tore off a little tail plastic and attached it to the left
wing-tip to balance up the drag forces on the kite. This helped, and the
kite made it 10 or 20 meters in the air on its 3 kg nylon fishing line.
However, it was still not stable enough in the stronger gusts. Numerous
re-launches from the grass was the result, with about 40 meters of line
To cap it all off, 2 year old Aren retrieved the kite at one
stage, and managed to detach the sail from one spar! No more flying for
Now, let's go over those 2 problems again, they're easily fixed...
1. Prusik knots are usually fine, but it's probably a good
idea to pull plenty of line through so there's no chance of the knot
actually getting itself partly un-tied. Teaching myself a lesson here,
too! If it just happens to loosen up a bit due to handling, it's an easy
matter to grab the 2 pieces that are supposed to lie next to each other
and pull them both at once to tighten the knot. You can't over-tighten,
it will still slip along the bridle if forced, as it is supposed to. In
the air, there's no sideways force on the knot so it holds its
2. After getting home I double-checked the position of the
towing point and discovered it was still too far back. No wonder the
kite had such a narrow wind range! Also, the spars came from a heavy
batch of bamboo, unfortunately. It seems this can make a big difference
on a small kite. Correcting the towing point and adding even more tail
should help this kite to fly stable and high in a moderate breeze.
We'll soon be out again and hope to report on the little
diamond flying a lot better, on 50 meters of monofilament fishing line!