August 4, 2008 16:16 - Barn Door Kite Explores The Limits Near Tall Trees
Some distance away from our usual flying fields today, we
stopped at the Holden Hill reserve off NE Road. This is a rather small
area for kite flying, ringed with tall trees. It makes things
interesting! First up was the 2-Skewer Barn Door kite, since some of the
gusts coming through at tree-top height were quite fresh and I didn't
think the 2-Skewer Diamond would cope very well. At ground level, this
small reserve is in quite a bit of wind shadow from houses and trees.
Also, the surrounding suburbia is not on totally flat ground. Some wind
directions here are better than others.
Taking the barn door from the boot (trunk) of our car, I noticed
that my kite had been noticed by another guy in the car park. He wasn't
impressed and gave a bit of a smirk "that thing'll never fly here -
there's not much wind". Or something like that - I'm only an amateur
mind-reader! Maybe he thought I was a sorry piece of humanity for having
nothing better to do than fiddling around with a kid's toy, who knows
really. Anyway, I walked out onto the grass and launched the kite.
Down low there was only the occasional light-to-moderate
gust, but that was enough to climb the kite to tree-top height after a
minute or 2. It was a case of pulling the kite up several meters when
tension was on the line, then just maintaining height or losing a little
while slowly letting out line, until the next gust. In this way, the
kite went up in steps. Doing this effectively is one of the pleasures of
single-line kite flying! It's definitely a skill that gets easier with
Soon a bit of rising air came through, despite this being a
rather cool winter's day. Taking full advantage, I urged the kite right
up overhead, way above the trees. For some reason I turned around at
that moment to spot the same guy in the gravel car park. He was craning
his neck gawking at the barn door, looking rather surprised to see it
there! Now it was my turn for a little internal smirk!
The barn door kite enjoyed the fresher breeze up at around
100 or 130 feet for a while. My wife May had a turn, while I supervised
our toddler Aren on the play equipment. Eventually we brought it down to
try the 2-Skewer Diamond.
To cut a longish story short, the wind picked up quite a bit
and the diamond really started to struggle, even with extra tail
attached. With the towing point shifted forward a bit, it was still
looping to the right in the spar-bending gusts. For the first time, I
actually noticed the normally straight sided diamond go decidedly curved
as the wind pressure bent both the spars! No damage done though. At
least the Barn Door had a good fly.
August 8, 2008 13:35 - 1-Skewer Sled Kite Video In The Can
Despite the generally rainy weather around here lately, the
afternoon was sunny with a giant blue hole centered over Adelaide. Time
to get out and get some video! Aren and I went down to the Old Reynella
reserve, where a moderate wind was blowing. For the first time, I tried
flying the 1-Skewer Sled with the spars on the back. No problems. The
little kite willingly floated up on a short line, which I secured to the
pram so I could have hands free for the camera.
The little sled climbed, sank and darted around in the gusts
close to the ground. Conveniently, there was a sizable puffy cumulus
cloud right behind it, from the camera's point of view. Every now and
then, the clear plastic sail would pass in front of the cloud. During
these times, the kite was somewhat easier to see. As I get the chance, I
am trying to get a 20 second movie clip of every kite in the series to
put at the top of its How To ... page on the website. After going home, I
put up the video of the 1-Skewer Sled.
Next up was the 1-Skewer Diamond, recently re-made according
to my standard construction technique. Annoyingly, this little diamond
simply wouldn't behave itself, looping to the right with very little
provocation! At home, I checked the balance and the symmetry, that is,
equal area of sail both left and right of the vertical spar. Both these
factors looked fine. However, I must have been a bit careless during
construction since one side of the sail billowed noticeably more than
the other when under wind pressure. That's a good way to make a kite
pull to one side!
On a very small kite, these kinds of errors aren't hard to
make. Come to think of it, keeping the sail flat is probably easier with
paper than with lightweight plastic! Anyway, I later tightened up the
loose panel by putting in a tiny fold and securing it with a strip of
clear tape. We'll see how it goes next time. If any good, the video will
Back to the flying field now... After putting away the
diamond in disgust, it was time to give the new barn door a test fly.
Like the diamond, this early design has been remade using the standard
construction technique. After a few short flights to get the bridle
adjusted, it was apparent the barn door was not stable enough to fly.
Then I remembered our experience with the original 1-skewer Barn Door.
Dihedral was not an option! Strange, since it's basically just a diamond
with an extra stick... So I put a bend in the horizontal spar by
bending it until it started to crack. Yep, this seemingly crude approach
is simple and effective on a bamboo BBQ skewer. If you do happen to
overdo it, it's nothing a bit of wood working glue won't fix. After
putting in about 20 degrees or so of dihedral like this, the kite
started to fly much better.
The original 1-Skewer Barn Door kite had a shiftable knot on
the upper bridle loop. That's another rather fiddly knot to make, which I
was hoping to spare the kite-making hopefuls who visit my site!
However, it seems to be necessary on 1-skewer sized kites. The new barn
door pulls to the left, and the only possible reason seems to be that
upper bridle loop. Hence I'll be updating the instructions to include
that extra shiftable knot. More memories coming back - I can now
remember making a tiny adjustment to the knot on the upper bridle loop
on the original 1-skewer Barn Door kite, which made a big difference to
how it flew!
Not the most memorable day's flying, with only 1 kite out of 3 actually flying well! But at least it's all fixable.
August 10, 2008 18:40 - New 1-Skewer Barn Door Trimmed To Perfection
Still chasing some decent flying footage of the updated
little barn door kite! Hence, when the sun popped out from behind the
clouds this afternoon, I couldn't resist taking a chance and heading
down to the Old Reynella reserve. There had been rain squalls several
times during the day, and by the time I got the kite in the air the sun
had disappeared again.
My wife is fond of telling the relatives in Singapore that I
fly kites 'rain, hail or shine'. Not exactly. The first spot of rain, or
even an approaching mass of dark cloud will cause me to get my kite
packed away! However, I do tend to fly regardless of personal comfort
sometimes. Like today, when the there was a freezing moderate-to-fresh
breeze blowing outside.
No luck with the video footage today, since the wind was too
wild to let the kite fly low for any length of time. Also, there was
very little sunlight and the video would have been pretty poor anyway.
However, the test flying was a success! Having re-bridled the kite so it
had a Prussik knot on the upper bridle loop, it was an easy matter to
stop the kite pulling to one side like it did originally. The Prussik
knot just had to be shifted by a mere millimeter or 2.
Also, I bent just a little extra dihedral into the horizontal
spar. I'll have to update the instructions to state '20 - 30 degrees',
that is, 10 to 15 degrees on each side. This tiny kite appears to need
it, particularly as it flies best in moderate to fresh winds. Bamboo
skewers just come in the 1 thickness, so the 3 spars make it a touch
heavy for its size. I'd use thinner skewers if they were available!
The sail of the 1-skewer barn door kite is clear freezer-bag
plastic, so it's a bit hard to see against blue sky. However, on a
cloudy day like today, it shows up quite well against white or very
light gray cloud. Perhaps due to a bit of polarization of the light, the
clear plastic turns a medium gray with a cloudy background. I only let
20 or 25 meters of line out, which took the kite just above the tallest
tree in the reserve.
The kite darted left and right, sometimes traveling a long
way upwind to each side before its stability kicked in and sent it back
to the middle again. Lulls would occasionally see it do a falling-leaf
maneuver nearly all the way to the ground before the next gust would
rocket it back up to a high line angle. Along with the 1-skewer Sode
kite, the little barn door really does cope well with strong wind.
We'll see if the weather tomorrow lets me get that 20 second clip for the How To make A Barn Door kite page!
August 11, 2008 16:17 - Soaring Barn Door Kite Attracts A Menagerie Of Birds!
Well, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing so how
could I stay inside? Lot's of work to be done on the upcoming eBook, but
the weather tempted me outside to fly the 1-Skewer Barn Door kite and
capture some video for its construction page on the website.
Down at the Old Reynella reserve, I spent some time fiddling
around trying to fly the kite down low and get some footage. However,
the little barn door had recently had its sail re-attached to a spar,
necessary after some recent flying. This seemed to affect the trim a
little since it was now up to its old tricks of diving off to the left.
Not to worry, a couple of adjustments to the 2 Prussik knots
of the bridle sorted it out ok. The towing point had to come forward a
bit to keep the little kite stable with the rather fresh wind strength. I
overdid it on the first try, but then adjusted it back just a fraction,
and the kite started flying nicely.
At this point I decide to play it safe for the video and fly
the kite high. This meant I needed all the optical zoom our camera could
deliver. In the bright sunshine this wouldn't affect quality too much.
See 20 seconds of the resulting footage on our How To Make A Barn Door
Kite construction page. Despite having all 50 meters of line out, the
kite descended almost to the ground in a lull at one stage, then shot
skywards again as a gust came through. That's where the video clip
It was good to see the new barn door having its first
extended flight on a decent length of line. Line angles were around 30
to 35 degrees from my hand. However, with the sag in the line, the kite
was generally sitting at about 40 - 45 degrees above the horizontal. Due
to one particularly helpful passing thermal, the little barn door
gamely made it up to almost 60 degrees for a short while. While up there
it floated flat on its belly and wandered around in many directions
before descending back down through the turbulence around the edge of
Anyway, what about the birds, you're probably wondering. In order, here's what happened...
An enormous magpie just stood on the grass nearby, watching
me fly the barn door. No idea why! It stuck around for quite a while,
occasionally making some noise.
A short while after getting all 50 meters of line out, a
couple of smaller magpies flew close to the kite, just checking it out.
Perhaps they were pee-wees, I'm no bird expert, sorry. After a few lazy
circles at roughly the same height as the kite, they were gone. The
thought crossed my mind 'what's next? any more curious birds?'
I didn't have to wait long. Suddenly a squadron of 5 bright
green and red erm... parakeets? zoomed into view. They flew in close
formation, very fast. Their height off the ground varied from just a few
wing-spans to maybe 2/3 the altitude of the kite. After doing several
laps of the reserve, and making quite a bit of noise, they were off not
to be seen again. I think they were attracted by the kite.
That would have been enough to write about in this blog, but
then a real treat followed! Three magnificent pelicans glided into view
from the north, in formation. Long wings outstretched, not flapping.
They were somewhat higher than the kite, but perhaps they had spotted it
gaining some height in rising air. This is what soaring birds and human
glider pilots do. If you see someone else getting lift, you sneak over
to check it out!
Before getting very close to the kite however, the pelicans
started to turn. Sure enough, downwind and above them was a puffy
cumulus cloud marking the thermal. Within minutes the 3 birds were
noticeably higher, closing on the base of the cloud. Still in formation!
However they must have sped off to find even better lift elsewhere,
since they disappeared shortly after. I didn't see them flap the entire
time. They didn't need to.
Which all makes for a longer than usual blog post today! Hope you enjoyed it.
August 12, 2008 21:15 - 2-Skewer Sled Poses For eBook Pics
That's right, I just popped out for a quick fly at the Old
Reynella reserve to snap some new photos of the big orange sled. Well,
big by my standards so far! I once had a lady, toddler in tow, make some
comment on my 'little kite'. Yep, it was this one, the biggest MBK kite
yet made! Although perhaps the Sode comes close, in terms of effective
sail area... Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
There was a fresh gusty breeze blowing through, but I managed
to find a spot which was fairly clear upwind. No trees, since it was a
bitumen area for playing basketball. The sled went up and stayed up
fairly well on a very short line. Only 5 or 6 meters or so. I took a few
shots at this line length before letting some more out and then taking
more photos. Short line length means no quality-killing zoom necessary
and also less chance of camera-shake. With 10 kite pictures taken, it
was time to let out all 50 meters of line and let the kite test itself
out in the very brisk breeze higher up.
The sled started to struggle, tending to the right a lot.
Even a line-whistling 360 at one point, pulling like a horse! Around
this time I noticed that the left tail was twisted up somewhat. From
where I was standing, it was clear that the left tail would have a
little less drag force than the right tail. Perhaps this was enough to
cause the imbalance. It might be fixed just by replacing some of the
plastic loops in the left tail. Even easier would be just to add an
extra loop to the left side.
That's it for now. Time to process those pics and plug them
into the eBook document! You haven't heard? All the kite-building
content of the website will soon be available in PDF form, for under
August 13, 2008 21:49 - 2-Skewer Diamond Kite Finds Silky Smooth Air
Seems I'm in a blogging frenzy right now, I think this is the
4th day in a row I've posted... There was enough sunshine to warrant
going down to the Old Reynella reserve to get some footage of the
2-Skewer Diamond kite. The number of kite construction pages on this
website without a video at the top are gradually decreasing!
Down low the breeze was gusty as usual. Cumulus clouds were
everywhere, with plenty of mid-level cloud as well. I'm finding this is
handy for kite videos since you can see the kite's movement much easier.
After a little experimenting with a very short line and adjusting the
towing point for the conditions, I let out quite a bit more line and
took some video of the diamond kite. As you can see from the video, the
kite was still affected by turbulence and gustiness. It was not far
above tree height, although in the video the trees are further away and
so look shorter.
On 50 meters of 20 pound line, this kite still has enough
pull to take most of the sag out of the flying line, most of the time.
Finally I was sure there was enough footage to glean a nice
20 second clip, so it was time to let out the remaining line from the 50
meter winder. The average wind strength was fairly fresh, so the
climb-out was easy. To my surprise, the kite settled right down and hung
almost motionless at about a 50 - 55 degree angle.
Smooth air! Smoother than I have ever flown an MBK kite in,
so far. Even the characteristic wing-tip wobble of the traditional
diamond kite stopped. The long tail swayed ever so slightly. Even so,
there was still a small amount of rising air coming through once in a
while. One of these events caused the kite to surge straight up to maybe
an 80 degree angle for a few seconds.
Pulling the kite down was straightforward. It's a tough
little wooden winder I'm using so I just wound the line straight on, not
worrying about the tension building up as the loops went on. The
diamond didn't touch the grass - it flew right down to my hand. I
stashed it, winder and all, in a black garbage bag before tying it to
the pram handle. Yes, my little boy had come along too! On this occasion
he was more interested in the swings...
August 19, 2008 23:09 - 1-Skewer Diamond No. 4 Imitates Angry Mosquito
Huh? It's the sound! In a stiff breeze, the latest 1-skewer
diamond gets up a very rapid flutter, in the strongest gusts. I have no
idea whether it was the leading or trailing edge. We were down at the
Old Reynella reserve, as usual, just Aren and I.
Back-pedaling a bit - the previous diamond had a very limited
wind range, so I determined to make another one. This time, the 2
bamboo skewers were selected carefully. They were the thinnest, most
flexible skewers from the ones remaining in the last packet we bought.
Remember, this whole packet was heavier than the original one we bought.
Additionally, I tried leaving just a quarter of the sticky
tape width inside the sail outline, instead of half. This saved half the
extra weight of the reinforcement tape. Finally, I just took more care
while attaching the spars to the sail. The results were amazing.
After an adjustment to the towing point to allow for the
fresh breeze, the little diamond took off and darted around, with only
the slightest tendency to favor one side. I tried to get some movie
footage while it was low, but the kite was simply way too fast to keep
up with! Plus the sun refused to come out, so the results would not have
been great anyway.
Time to see what it could do on more line! It was easy to let
out 45 meters or so, with the tiny diamond coping remarkably well with
the strong gusts. Looping occasionally, but staying in the air, despite
being aggravated to the point of sounding like an angry overweight
mosquito at times!
The diamond stayed in the air for a few minutes of rough air
mayhem while I gave Aren a ride on the swings. I just put a few loops of
line around one of the swing supports, and left the winder on the
grass. After this, I wound it in, packed it away under the pram, and
pulled out the 2-Skewer Sled!
The sled hated the conditions. The winter wind was quite
turbulent, even well above tree top height. This actually brought back
memories of narrow, rough-as-guts winter thermals when flying gliders
near Alice Springs. Sailplanes that is, not hang-gliders. Anyway, the
orange sled kite collapsed frequently, often opening violently or
fluttering almost to the ground before snapping open and trying to yank
my arm off as it strained sideways at low level. Not much fun really.
Just occasionally, it would soar high during a lull and get near its
usual 60 degree line angle. Eventually I had enough and brought it down.
We are still trying to get a chance to get some flying
footage of the 1-Skewer Diamond. The top of the diamond kite
construction page has been bare too long!
August 20, 2008 16:26 - Little Rokkaku Rocket Rides Roaring Wind
We needed a few extra pictures for the new kite-making eBook
coming out soon. So it was down to the, you guessed it, Old Reynella
reserve again. Below the pram were packed the 1-Skewer Barn Door and the
dusted-off 1-Skewer Rokkaku! My wife May shot some photos of the barn
door on a short line, before I had a bit of fun letting it fly higher.
Large branches were moving in the surrounding trees, so it was a good
test of strong wind performance. The little barn doors have always done
well in fresh wind, when properly tuned. It's really a moderate wind
With the barn door down and packed away, it was time to try the
stout little Rok. We took some low-level shots of this kite too, before
letting it soar with the eagles. Actually, we didn't see any today -
eagles that is ;-)
I must have been rather busy around the time that this Rok
was constructed, since I can't remember flying it much. That's a pity,
because I had a ball with this kite today! It coped very well with the
blustery breeze, possibly better than any other MBK kite including the
2-Skewer ones! The 1-Skewer Sode also does well in strong wind, with
enough tail attached. The little Rok traveled long distances from side
to side, before correcting and reaching around 45 degree line angles
from time to time. Not too bad for a tiny kite on 20 pound line. It was
forced to the ground just a couple of times, with about 45 meters of
We'll have to pull this kite out more often, when the wind is too strong for anything else!
August 24, 2008 19:48 - 2-Skewer Rokkaku Kite - Thermalling Magic!
This was going to be the moment of truth. Would the new
2-Skewer Rokkaku Kite be the first MBK kite to fly for more than a few
seconds without a tail? We came close with the 1-Skewer Rokkaku many
months ago. That little Rok ended up being a bit heavy and turned into
being a tailed moderate wind kite. Even a strong wind kite - check out
the previous post in this blog!
Earlier today I gave the 2-Skewer Rokkaku a bit of a whiz
around the living room by its bridle. It seemed stable! Not the best way
to test a kite, but it can give you a rough idea regarding towing point
Out on the reserve near the school, the new Rok soon proved
that it was stable. On a short line, and with the winder under one foot,
I snapped off a few in-flight photos and also took 30 seconds of video.
The breeze was gusting, but very gentle overall. Hardly enough to feel
on our faces. The Rok, with more sail area than any other MBK kite so
far, had no trouble staying up. During lulls, the kite would sometimes
sink tail-first. If the lull came more suddenly, the Rok would stall and
float downwards on its face, on a slack line.
Camera work out of the way, we made our way towards the
center of the field and let out much more line. The Rok behaved
beautifully, and soon climbed to around 400 feet on the end of our 150
meter line. Thermal lift was everywhere, and I felt like I was flying a
delta! Once or twice, gustiness around the edges of thermals was enough
to force the Rok into a loop or dive.
In light air that doesn't test its stability, this Rok often
hangs low. Just hovering there, the weight of itself and the line in
perfect balance with the small amount of lift being generated over its
sail. In this state, you can pull it up to any altitude you like, and
maintain that altitude by slowly pulling in line.
Today, the kite was sitting at just a few meters off the
ground during a lull, when I pulled it straight up to 200 feet. Bingo!
All of a sudden some extra tension came on the line and the Rok
accelerated upwards in a patch of lift. Now it was just a matter of
slowly letting out line as the kite continued to climb back to 400 feet.
I can tell that this kite will be our light wind favorite for
some time to come. If nothing else will fly, perhaps it will be worth
pulling out this Rok! It flies so well, even with a sail made of
relatively heavy garden bag plastic.
August 26, 2008 20:39 - Rok Kite Rides Sunset Zephyr
Well, I just checked, and even Wikipedia doesn't list the
traditional meaning of the word zephyr! As far as I know, it's an
old-fashioned term meaning 'very gentle breeze'. Often used by poets in
the 19th century and earlier. At least that was my understanding...
Anyway, Aren and I headed up to the vacant block just before
sundown to fly the 2-Skewer Rokkaku. There was hardly any wind, but
small gusts were coming through and disturbing the tops of the
surrounding trees, so it was worth a try. A hand launch or 2 did no
good, so it was time to try a pull-up. Not the variety that my young son
was wearing! I'm referring to the method of getting a kite launched in
very low wind conditions.
With about 20 - 25 meters of line laid out on the grass, and
the Rok lying face-down with the nose pointing at us, I pulled it into
flight. After a bit of brisk arm-work, the kite was near tree height and
had caught the gentle cool breeze which was wafting across the field.
Yep, the zephyr :-)
After this, I still had to work the line a bit, but
eventually all 50 meters of line was out. The Rok went up and down in
response to small changes in the wind speed, but managed to hang up
there for 20 minutes or so. There's something satisfying about flying a
kite right on its minimum wind speed! It reminded me of a flight I once
had in a small vintage single-seater sailplane. More than 1/2 hour of
the flight was spent between 800 and 1200 feet, as I scratched around in
1/4 knot lift and 'zero sink' over some sandy ground near the gliding
Just realized something. Our best low-wind kite and
strong-wind kite right now are both Roks! The little 1-skewer Rok with
its long tail can really take some punishment in strong wind. That dodgy
old YouTube video will soon be updated, don't worry...
August 28, 2008 19:06 - Diamond Kite Video Goes Up At Last
Just a short post here to document our little trip down to
the reserve near the school to fly the re-made 1-Skewer Diamond.
Conditions were perfect for it, including the wind direction. What's so
special about the wind direction? Well, the little diamond positioned
itself between us and the sun, which made for an interesting video. From
time to time, the sail would light up like a sign with the late
afternoon sun shining through the plastic. Just go back to that link up
there and check out the video! As usual, it's edited down to the best 20
After the video was 'in the can', we headed a bit further
towards the middle of the field to try and fly the kite higher. Not much
luck really, since the wind was very light and small diamond kites
don't thermal very well! After getting maybe 20 or 30 meters of line out
and having to pull it straight back in a few times, I gave up and we
By the way, I got a bit behind on these last few blog posts
and did the last 3 all together. The dates reflect the days we went
flying, but the posts all went up today. Hence you might like to also
read the 2 posts previous to this one...