Kite Blog Posts

July 2008

Although very cloudy today, there seemed to be a bit of a sunny break, so Aren and I headed out to get some photos of the little 1-Skewer Diamond kite.

Kite Blog - Aren flying a clear plastic 1-Skewer Diamond kite from his pram.Aren flies from a pram

With the old instructions all rewritten and new photos taken, the How To Make A Diamond Kite page needed one final photo, for the bottom of the page. As you might have noticed, I always put a photo here of the kite being flown on a short line. For a change, it's Aren (in his pram) this time, rather than your's truly!

I wasn't too concerned about some nearby dark clouds, but that was before I checked the exact wind direction. Ooops! Time was of the essence, so I let out a few meters of line and got the diamond in the air.

With the bridle adjusted (and some extra tail), the kite behaved itself reasonably well. Well enough, in fact, to give Aren the reel, while I dropped to one knee and started taking shots. The kite did end up on the ground a few times, but that was to be expected, given the gusty wind and short line.

Aren did well, dutifully hanging on to the reel while I relaunched the kite and hurried back to take more photos. Happy that a few usable photos had been taken, I took the reel from Aren (with some difficulty!) and started winding in. And then the first few raindrops fell! Now it was a race to wind on the few remaining meters of line, stow the kite, and push the pram faster than the little fella has ever seen it go. So much for bringing the 2-Skewer Sled as well, since it would have gone up like a rocket in the moderate breeze that was blowing.

That's it for today, short and sweet. Well, it was short, anyway.

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.

July 5, —1-Skewer Sled Kite Launch Pic

Since rewriting the instructions for the 1-Skewer Sled kite, the launch picture at the bottom of the page has been missing. Today we finally got out with the little sled and our camera to fix that situation! Rain had been forecast, so it was a bit tricky timing the trip to the Old Reynella reserve.

My wife May flying a clear plastic 1-Skewer Sled kite.May flies the MBK 1-Skewer Sled

A moderate breeze was gusting through, although it was pretty light during the lulls. My wife, May, did the flying while I took eight photos of the sled kite on a short line. Aren looked on (from his pram) and even helped out, holding the winder at one stage. With the pics taken, I took over the winder and let out a lot more line.

The gusty conditions weren't ideal, and we hadn't bothered reattaching the flying line to get all the twists out. Hence the bridle was a bit twisted up and made the kite somewhat prone to collapsing. Never mind, it still soared up to a 40-degree angle or so a few times, with about 30 meters (100 feet) of line out. Strong gusts occasionally looped it to the right, before it would descend down to slower air and recover for another climb. A couple of nice little saves happened, just centimeters above the grass. Little single-line kites keep the pilot busier than big ones do!

There's not much more to report, other than we walked home in light rain!

July 12, 2008—2-Skewer Diamond Kite and a 2-Year-Old Flyer

Aren and I went out yesterday with the 2-Skewer Diamond kite to get some video footage for a new website page which is going up shortly. The weather was very cloudy, with fairly cool air temperature. A gusty moderate breeze was blowing through the Old Reynella reserve. It's always gusty here, which keeps things interesting when you are trying to photograph or video a kite down low!

There was no trouble getting the diamond in the air, but with its short tail it was having trouble climbing. Too much looping around was happening with every strong gust that hit it. Fortunately, I had brought along a fairly long extra tail—just a ribbon of black garbage bag plastic, with a few cross pieces tied in. Aren was still in the pram. I dropped the winder on the grass and went out to the kite, pulling down the flying line as I went. With the kite on the ground, I shifted the towing point forward about a centimeter or so and attached the extra tail. Then it was time to move back to the pram, letting the line slip through my fingers slowly as the kite climbed back up.

The extra tail made all the difference. The kite tried to loop left and right from time to time but corrected itself well. With a bit more line let out, the bright-orange diamond found smoother air and hung almost motionless from time to time, the long tail streaming straight out behind it. I think I slightly overdid the change to the towing point however, since the kite wasn't quite getting the high line angles I have come to expect of it.

With the kite sorted out, it was time to get some videos of Aren flying! The first attempt was a bit short, since the kite ended up on the ground soon after I got into position with the camera. Aren was doing a fine job. He stood in front of his pram and held the winder, with about 10 or 12 meters (40 feet) of line out.

The second attempt was a short video of the kite doing an impression of a falling leaf. Sinking through the air, the dihedral design caused the wingtips to just rock up and down as the kite gently bellyflopped onto the grass during a lull in the wind. Never mind, there's no such thing as wasting film with a digital camera!

The third time around, it had a promising start. With Aren and kite in the frame, I thought "this is it." However, it dawned on me after a while that Aren was actually letting out line! To my amazement, the kite climbed right out of the picture. It just got smaller and smaller, and higher and higher! Am I allowed to be a bit proud of my 2 1/2-year-old expert kite-flyer?

Finally, I managed to get some half-decent footage of the little guy flying a 2-Skewer Diamond. The kite wasn't that close, so I had to pan between Aren and the high-flying kite most of the time. A couple of times the kite sank down in a lull, and both the kite and Aren were in view at the same frame. A rather cute section of the video features Aren pulling in line, hand over hand!

July 17, 2008—Tiny Tots Diamond Photo Session

There are just two things left to do for the new Kite for Kids page. A short video for the top and a picture of the Tiny Tots Diamond in flight for the bottom of page. Aren and I went out to the Old Reynella reserve about 20 minutes or so before sunset. A fair amount of breeze was gusting through, but it didn't seem to be too strong for a little flat kite. Sure enough, the yellow-plastic diamond was soon flying around on its short line. To keep things as simple as possible, this kite has no bridle. The 15-meter flying line is permanently attached to where the spars cross.

Aren (in the pram) was willing to hold the winder for a few flights. Yes, the flights were short since the wind strength was all over the place. Sometimes the kite just sank to the grass during lulls. At other times, gusts would overpower it and it would loop or dive and end up contacting the ground due to its short flying line. Despite this, I was happy with how it flew.

Any small kid should be able to tow this kite up or fly it in a light breeze. One small problem might be encountered, which is probably common to all small diamond kites. Or perhaps it's just worse on flat kites with no bridle! The kite tends to flip over and float along on its back when you try to launch it by dangling it from your hand. A beginner could have trouble with this, but there should be no problem if a second person holds up the kite to launch it.

Anyway, I kept firing away with the camera and got about eight pictures. Some were landscape, while some were portrait style. The setting sun helped light the kite and its tail from the side to make a more interesting picture than a midday shot. Having the sun right behind the kite would have been even better, but you can't just choose the wind's direction can you!

The last picture I took has ended up at the bottom of the Kite for Kids page—mission accomplished! There's no sense of scale in the picture; you could say it was a 7-foot diamond and get away with it!

July 19, 2008—2-Skewer Sled Kite Gives Rain Squall Early Warning

There was a just a bit of sunshine and no immediate threat of rain, so I took Aren down to the Old Reynella reserve in his pram. Also stashed away was the 2-Skewer Sled kite, with its repaired electrical-tape spar cap. Last time it went up, it was subjected to some violent opening shocks which caused one of the spar ends to spear through the taped cap. This kite flies equally well with the spars on the front or the back of the sail. However, from now on, I'm going to fly it with the spars on the back.

As far as I can see, having the spars on the back should reduce the chances of another failure at the spar end. When it flies in strong wind with the spars on the front, you can see curvature in the sail in the upper and lower portions. That is, above and below the tape which secures the sail to the center of the spars. This is obviously pulling on the spar caps, toward the center of the spars. Hence the failure happened when the pull must have been huge! With the spars on the back, the forces on the spar caps should be different since the sail can't bow out like I just described. As they say, "that's my theory and I'm stickin' to it!"

OK, so I parked the pram, pulled out the kite, and attached the bridle to the flying line with a Lark's Head knot. Laying it down on the grass, I turned the kite inside out to get the spars on the back! Then, it was a simple matter to get it inflated and hovering a few meters away in the light ground-level breeze. There were gusts about and plenty of wind higher up. Small branches waving around in the treetops were evidence of that.

It took a while to tease the kite higher into the air. I worked the line a bit, gaining a meter or two then letting out line, over and over. Finally, about 20 meters (70 feet) were out, with the kite still fairly low. However, from here, I stopped letting out line and concentrated on gaining height. Soon, tension built right up and the bright-orange sled was off, powering up to a 50-degree line angle.

The kite had only been up a minute or so when it really started to pull. Its trademark buzz from the super-tight flying line told me that wind speed had really picked up. Line angle went up to about 65 degrees. The kite was now close to its limits, hunting left and right. Ooops, it went rather too far to the left and right over a tall tree! So I hurriedly side stepped some meters to the right to keep the kite out of danger. This wasn't fun any more. I suspected a rain squall was approaching and looked upwind. Sure enough, the slightly dark area of cloud (which I had noted on arriving) had now got darker and closer!

Immediately, I put the red plastic reel on the grass and started pulling down the kite, walking downwind toward it. With the kite safely on the ground, I rolled it up tightly with its bridle lines to stop it inflating by accident. Then I quickly went back to the pram and wound the line onto the reel, while pushing the pram back toward the kite. And again, Aren got a quick ride back home! However, this time there was no rain, although the stronger wind did come through at ground level and start to blow things around. Such is winter kite-flying in Adelaide! The squall seemed to miss us, with the darkest clouds moving by just to the east.

July 20, 2008—Tiny Tots Diamond Kite: The Ultimate Test

No, I don't mean testing out a kite as such. Instead, today's flying was the final step in a test of my instructions for constructing it! My wife, May, who has never made a genuine kite before, worked her way through the instructions in about 35 minutes. That included going round the house to find some of the bits and pieces required. Finally, we all went out to the Old Reynella reserve to test fly May's creation. Also, we needed some video footage of our little son, Aren, running along towing the original MBK Tiny Tots Diamond kite.

An MBK Tiny Tots Diamond kite made from blue plastic.May flies MBK Tiny Tots Diamond

There was barely enough breeze about to keep the little diamond up, but this was probably just as well. We soon had Aren trotting along, with the little yellow-and-blue-plastic diamond kite sailing along behind. His towing speed was perfect! We managed to get a few sequences in the camera—some from behind, others from in front. I'll pick one, trim it down a bit to maybe 20 seconds or so, and include it at the top of the relevant How To... page on the website.

It's the middle of winter here, and the air temperature was around 10 degrees C. By Adelaide standards, that's pretty cold in the late afternoon! The grass was very wet from recent rain, but that didn't bother our little plastic kites.

With the "'kid tows kite" footage out of the way, it was time to get my wife's all-blue kite in the air. It ... erm ... flew better than the original I made! I think May must have got the center mark of the horizontal spar pretty spot-on, whereas mine was off a little. The instructions were designed for speed, so this measurement is done by eye, not measured with a ruler. Anyway, May noticed her kite in the air soon after I launched it. She was pleasantly surprised to see it floating obediently on the end of about 10 meters (33 feet) of line, upright and quite stable. A gentle gust of wind was coming through, so I could just stand there and fly it for a while.

I took a few photos of May walking slowly upwind to keep the kite in the air, still on a short line. Later, I flew the kite much higher, just to see how it went.

I couldn't help smiling to myself as May proudly took a few more photos of it in flight! A real "kite person" in the making perhaps? She managed to get the kite sail plus all of the tail from a single blue plastic shopping bag. These bags will soon be phased out in our state, South Australia.

That was it, since the sun was about to go down. Photographic mission accomplished, for both kites!

July 24, 2008—New Sode Kite Flirts With Legal Ceiling

I wonder if any airline captains spotted it, only 1 or 2 thousand feet below, as they flew their downwind legs into Adelaide Airport. We were flying the new 2-Skewer Sode kite out of the Wilfred Taylor Reserve, in Morphett Vale. There was nothing naughty on our part, since we were well away from the airport. And at its highest, the kite would have been just a little under 400 feet above the ground. That's the limit for kites, balloons, model planes, or anything else like that.

The original 2-Skewer Sode kite in flight.Original 2-Skewer Sode

After we arrived, I pulled out the bright-orange sode, attached the 150-meter (500-foot) flying line, and tried launching from my hand. A few light-to-moderate-strength gusts were coming through, but the kite wasn't happy, straining on the line and looping back to the ground. With the sode on the ground, I slipped the bridle's Prusik knot about half a centimeter toward the nose and tried again. This time, all was well, and I flew for a while at low level so my wife May could take a few photos—like the one up/over there.

With the New Kite Photo Shoot out of the way, May and toddler Aren disappeared over to the play equipment on the other side of the reserve. For me, the kiting fun began! Despite initial misgivings about the rather flexible vertical spar, the sode behaved beautifully, with no signs of excessive spar bending. It seemed nicely balanced too, in that it showed no sign of tending right or left. Wind conditions were pretty ideal actually, that is, light-bordering-on-gentle strength.

Whenever a bit more tension came on the line, I let a few more loops off the large homemade wooden winder. Very soon, more than 50 meters (160 feet) were out. A small thermal came through and the sode pulled the line taut, soared almost directly overhead, and then flew a lazy figure eight before settling down to the usual 60 degrees or so. This kite flies nice and steep!

A word about the design of any sode. It's quite unique among "flat" kites, in that it has camber (curve) in its sail in the direction of the airflow. This is just like the very earliest aircraft and even some rectangular-winged hang-glider designs. This makes it much more efficient as a wing than just a "flat plate" design like a diamond kite.

Anyway, after looking around to see how I could give the kite a bit more room, I headed for a grassed area right next to the main rectangular patch. I was letting out line all the while. As the kite passed through 300 feet or so, the sag in the 20-pound line became more noticeable. Although the kite was pulling a bit harder, it started to fly smoother since it was so far above the turbulent air near the ground. Occasionally, it would lose some height or gain some height due to thermal activity.

Finally, with the kite at 400 feet, there was no more line to let out. I just left a few turns of the 150-meter (500-foot) line on the winder for safety! It would be a real pity to lose the kite so soon after making it. At this height, the line went out from my hand at about 40 degrees. However, for 150 or 200 feet below the kite, it seemed to be flying at a very steep angle most of the time.

This was very satisfying, but it didn't last long! Within minutes of reaching 400 feet, the kite showed signs of struggling in fast air. And of course, I could feel it pulling strongly on the line as well. Before I knew it, the sode was lazily looping to the right, losing height quite fast. There was no option but to drop the winder and pull in line quickly. This of course made the looping worse, but I wasn't going to let the kite come down in the neighboring houses and backyards! A couple of times, the line tension eased, and I stopped pulling in for a few moments to let the kite climb back up. Each time, however, the pressure came back on and I had to keep pulling in.

At last the kite was safely over the grass, and I just let it continue to lose height. The wind wasn't quite so bad at this lower altitude. A couple of times, I trapped the line under my foot in order to wind on a whole lot of line, which was just lying on the grass. I've learned from experience not to wind line on under tension! Even though the winder was solid wood, not plastic, the tension can be incredible since it builds up with every loop.

Just before the kite contacted the grass I gave it a bit of slack to slow down the impact. No damage was done. All in all, it was a fun fly with a few spectators witnessing the whole show!

July 26, 2008—2-Skewer Sled Kite Features in a Movie!

Actually, I was just after a 20-second clip to add to the top of the How to Build a Sled Kite page. The weather seemed ideal for the sled, so out we went, down to the Old Reynella reserve. After attaching the bridle to my spare flying line on the red plastic reel, the sled willingly took off from a hand launch. The wind speed was a bit marginal down low, so I was content to just let out line for a while. Suddenly, at around 10 meters (33 feet) altitude, the sled caught a gust and shot skyward.

As expected, the average wind strength suited the sled nicely. It was soon soaring high overhead, the tight flying-line getting up a bit of a whistle from time to time in the stronger gusts. With about 60 meters (200 feet) of line out, the kite ran into some quite strong wind and at one point did a complete loop to the right.

With the spars on the front of the kite, I had found it necessary to add a short length of extra tail to one side. However, these days I always fly it with the spars on the back, to avoid overstressing the spar-cap tape. The other day a spar went right through the tape, as the sail tried to bow out behind the spar. With the sail on the front, that should be less likely to happen. I hope!

My point is, that extra bit of tail didn't seem necessary now. It could have even caused that big loop—not to mention, it looked a bit weird in the first video I took! It had to come off, so I placed the reel on the grass and walked out to the kite, pulling it down as I went. A moment later the short loop of clear plastic was in my pocket. Then, it was just a matter of walking back to the reel, letting the line slip through my fingers as the sled hovered several meters in the air behind me. Getting close to the reel, I turned, gripped the line and tugged the kite into faster air. Then it was off again, straight up to a high line-angle.

I think the orange sled kite made the local magpies nervous! One was just standing on the grass, keeping an eye on the kite. Another maggie (Aussie slang!) shot past at low level, just a wingspan or two above the ground. They don't normally fly like quail.

With the kite more respectable for its movie appearance, I flew it high for a while. Then, to get it to fill the camera frame better, I pulled in some line to get it closer. After the slack line was wound onto the reel, I jammed the reel under my right foot and pulled out the camera. Even so, full zoom was necessary to get the kite appearing a decent size in the viewfinder. A minute or so went by as the sled continued to fly in wind that had moderated a bit, which was good. 

The kite would have stayed up all day, but soon we decided to go home. Again, it was the "reel on the grass, walk out to the kite" routine to bring it down. A nice bit of flying, it was.

July 28, 2008—2-Skewer Sled Kite Sucked Up Under Cloud Street

I'll get to the cloud street thing a bit further down this post. We'd just been out shopping (happy wife) with a couple of kites stowed away as well (happy hubby). This was not going to be a very long flying session, however, because the wind was moderate in strength and quite cold by South Australian standards—around 10 degrees Celcius. I went out first, to the center of the reserve near the school, with both kites. The plan was to fly May's blue Tiny Tots Diamond on a 50-meter (160-foot) line, and the 2-Skewer Sled from a bigger winder with 150 meters (500 feet) of line.

Soon the diamond was in the air, which looped around a bit while close to the ground. After it gained some height, its long tail started to keep it more stable. Its simple one-leg bridle, being attached to where the spars cross, is actually a little forward of where I would normally have it on a diamond kite. However, it was pretty ideal for the fresh breeze today! The tiny plastic kite handled the gusts very well, frolicking on the end of its line. There was quite a big bow in the line, since even 50 meters (160 feet) of 20-pound line is quite heavy for a 29 cm (11 1/2 in.) diamond!

May and Aren soon came across the field to join me, and they took over the diamond while I launched the sled. The sled went straight up with very little of the usual collapsing behavior, since there were no high obstructions upwind of us. Embarrassingly, the sled had more trouble handling the wind than the Tiny Tots Diamond, looping to the right from time to time! It went all the way to the ground a couple of times, but I managed to relaunch off the grass. One time I even relaunched from the top of a tree—oops! The kite needs some extra length on its left tail. Being a sled, there is no simple way to shift the towing point forward to cope with strong wind. Hence I might make another one one day, with the towing point set at 25% back from the leading edge instead of the current 30%.

After some time, the wind moderated just enough to let the sled stay in the air. I had about 100 meters (330 feet) of line out, and it was pulling like a horse. The line whistled and buzzed, not too far away from its 20-pound limit I suspect! There was very little sag.

The entire time we had been out, there was a huge cloud street directly overhead. These are just a collection of cumulus clouds in a long line. Sometimes, they can extend way into the distance, in a slight bend. From my experience as a sailplane pilot many years ago, I knew there was a lot of lifting air happening up there, although the lift is weaker in winter. Sure enough, it wasn't long before the sled kite suddenly made its way almost directly overhead, still pulling strongly. Looking at the flying line close to the reel, I estimated it to be at about 70 degrees. The kite itself was higher still, due to bow in the line.

Meanwhile, May had wound in the little diamond and had set off back to the car. The only way to get the sled down was to walk out to it, pulling line onto the grass. With the sled rolled up on the ground, I went back to the winder and walked to the kite again, winding on all the line. Then it was time to get back to the gas heater at home.

July 30, 2008—Toddler Keeps Sode Kite Photographer Fit

You'll just have to read a few paragraphs to get that title ;-) Today, it was just a short outing in the late afternoon. The wind was just enough to feel it on your face—sometimes. That was perfect for the 2-Skewer Sode kite, in other words!

I tried putting the sode in a black garbage-bag, like I do with our other kites if they are too big to fit in the carry compartment under the pram. Surprisingly, the sode was a perfect fit! With the open end of the bag laid across the handlebar of the pram, it's a handy way to transport a flat kite with the bridle and tail all neatly tucked away out of the wind. The bag itself can blow around a bit but it's manageable most of the time.

The original 2-Skewer Sode kite in very light wind.Hand-flown from a pram!

At the Old Reynella reserve, Aren and I soon had the sode out of its bag and attached to a spare 50-meter (160-foot) line on a winder. A short flight or two with 5 to 10 meters (33 feet) of line out confirmed that we needed to shift position a bit to give the kite more room. Also, it was to get some cleaner air! That is, less turbulent.

Aren dutifully held the winder while I took the photo up/over there. The sode is just hanging there low, in barely enough breeze to keep it airborne. After the photo was taken, we shifted.

On the other side of the play equipment, I spent some time trying to get a photo of Aren flying the kite on 30 meters (100 feet) or so of line. There was no luck this time. He accidentally dropped the winder once, and after that it was just too much fun doing it on purpose! Seeing Dad go scampering after the winder as it got dragged across the grass was a huge joke. Grr.

A few days ago, all three of us were out here, and we managed to get some video footage of Aren running along towing his Tiny Tots Diamond. This was posted at the top of the Tiny Tots kite construction page. Not long after, another kite site contacted us after featuring the video in their blog! A moderator at this site, Donna, just had to share it with the kiting community they are building there at Kites Club. For her, it changed some preconceptions about just how young kite-flyers can be!

Giving up on the photo session, I took over the sode and let out most of the 50 meters (160 feet) on the winder. I went slowly, letting the kite climb more or less continuously the whole time. Some gentle thermal activity was about, which at times boosted the kite nearly overhead. The cycle was evident. The kite soared high in lift, followed by some rocking of the wingtips in turbulence around the edge of the thermal, followed by pulling hard at a lower line-angle as the cooler sinking air clawed at the kite and prevented it from climbing. This happened a few times.

It's a delight to fly really, this 2-Skewer Sode kite—a great design for light-wind conditions. With today's wind speeds, the sode flew very steadily most of the time. So steadily in fact, that it probably would have been OK to remove some of the tail. I just didn't get around to trying that though—maybe next time!


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.