March 5, 2009 - Delta Kite Dodges Singaporean Hi-Rises
This blog is a little different. For a start, I'm sitting
here on the 9th floor of a block of Toa Payoh flats in Singapore . We've
been here for a couple of weeks, visiting relatives. As a parting
present, I decided to whip together a 1-Skewer Delta for my
brother-in-law and his family. Earlier today we took it out for a fly.
Singapore is not what you would call kite-friendly! The landscape
is very urban, and high-density housing is everywhere. You have to
search hard to find even a small open space. Where there's a will,
there's a way though, so we went down to the small public space amongst
the local residential buildings to see if the Delta would take to the
With very limited open space, surrounded by enormous tall
obstacles, it was a matter of waiting for a moderate gust to get
funneled through the immediate area. From time to time, this would
provide just enough airflow to loft the little Delta up 5 or 10 meters
or so. At least we proved the kite flew, before handing it over as a
gift! The sail plastic was a little heavy, and a meter or 2 of tail was
required, so it took more than a very light puff to get it to climb. The
closest thing my wife could find for string, when she went shopping,
was several short skeins of embroidery thread. Hence the flying line was
made up of several lengths knotted together! Crude, but it got the job
Rather than make a carbon-copy of the existing 1-Skewer
design, I decided to make an improved version based on some hints that a
visitor emailed me some months ago. This version, or one very similar,
is what the updated 1-Skewer design will be like, when I get around to
re-doing it. Don't hold your breath, it could be more than a year away.
Better sign off now. We are just about to leave for the airport, and airliners don't wait...
March 12, 2009 - Three Year Old Pilot Does Low-Level Loops
Hey, I never lie... OK, so the pilot was a toddler kite
pilot, flying a small single-line Delta kite. A gust got a bit strong
for the tiny craft, so it looped around a few times, close to the
ground. Said the young flier ... 'Uh-oh! Go up, go up!' And up it went
again, the little 1-Skewer Delta gamely climbing and darting around on
about 100 meters of 20 pound Dacron.
After arriving back from Singapore and leaving a 1-Skewer
Delta with our hosts, I must have remained in a small delta kite frame
of mind. Hence, when the family set off for one of our evening walks
around the suburb, I tossed the 1-Skewer Delta in the carry compartment
of Aren's pram. We were headed for the sizable reserve near the school
so in went the 500 foot winder as well.
To begin with I just flew the Delta around the play
equipment, over the heads of Aren and May. Then the usual need for
altitude took hold, and I moved out into the field. A light to moderate
gusty breeze was blowing which was OK for the kite. Before long, it had
soared above tree top height and was behaving itself a bit better in the
relatively smooth air up there. Even so, the limited wind range of this
little kite caused it to dive down low from time to time, as gusts hit
It was fun seeing what the Delta could do, on as much 20
pound line as it could take. That was just over 100 meters, or 350 feet.
Due to the weight of the line, the kite only managed a 30 degree angle
or so from the horizontal. Still, it was interesting to watch. A few
times it went into a shallow dive into the wind. Other times it would
hover at a large angle of attack, with only just enough wind to keep it
airborne. And of course, those gusts which would initially climb the
kite up high before overpowering it and throwing it into a dive to the
left or right.
Finally, I'll just mention Aren's turn at the kite. He came
running across the field, while Mum waited at the edge. He eagerly took
the line, but wasn't interested in the winder which he just dropped on
the grass. I just let him do what he liked for a few minutes. The
1-Skewer Delta stayed up by itself all that time, with Aren
enthusiastically working the line the whole time. I'm not sure what he
was trying to achieve, apart from having fun!
March 19, 2009 - Barn Door Kite Rides Blue Thermals
That just means there were very few clouds. Not uncommon here
in South Australia. The breeze was gusty and a bit fresh as we left the
house, so I threw in the 2-Skewer Barn Door and also the Dowel Diamond
in case the wind moderated a little. Down at the Wilfred Taylor Reserve
the breeze seemed ideal for the Barn Door, so up it went. Well, it
seemed reluctant actually, pulling away on the 20 pound line but not
As we moved across the reserve to find a shady spot on the
other side, I let out more line and soon the kite was flying on 50
meters or so of line, braving some quite fresh periods of wind. Finally
the medium-sized Barn Door headed off on a long trek to the right. Not
stopping, its nose gradually went over and it ended up diving to the
grass behind a small rise. No luck with a re-launch from the ground. It
felt like the line had caught on thistles.
With the winder secured , we left it and walked over to
investigate the kite. Minutes later, we were making our way back,
hanging on to the line and it became obvious that the Barn Door had a
problem. Perhaps the attempted ground launches had loosened some tape,
because the sail had pulled across leaving several centimeters of bare
horizontal spar! Perhaps this problem had just begun when the kite first
went down, but I didn't notice. Back to the kite again. After fixing
the tape, it was also a good opportunity to slip the towing point
forward a centimeter or so. Not sure how it got out of adjustment by
itself - perhaps those ground launches...
Now the kite shot up willingly and by the time we got back to
the other side of the reserve it was happily flying between 100 and 300
feet or so, depending on the small thermals passing through. Small fast
birds occasionally flew past, no doubt giving a quick glance at the
orange intruder loitering in their space. While Aren played on the
swings and other equipment, I just relaxed and kept an eye on the kite.
Most of its 150 meters of line was out, and it wouldn't take much for
the kite to get hooked on a tree in the distance if anything went wrong.
Someone in a parked car had their door open. It appeared they
might be gawking at the kite as it shifted around the sky in response
to the changing strength and direction of the wind. Aren started begging
relentlessly to go across to the other set of play equipment. OK, time
to bring the kite down! Aren was a willing helper, pulling down the kite
with his 3 year old arms proving just strong enough for the job. I
wound the slack line onto the winder. However, the wind speed picked up
suddenly for a while and the line twanged out of Aren's hands much to
his surprise. After that he wasn't so keen to continue, so I finished
the job myself, trying not to let too much tension stay in the line as I
wound it on.
With the kite down to around 40 feet, I put Aren in his pram
and we made our way back across the field. The kite following like an
obedient pet. That's where the kite-flying stopped, so that's also where
this post will stop. :-) We didn't bother with the Dowel Diamond today,
although it would have coped.
March 23, 2009 - New Dowel Sode Flies Off Into The Sunset
Actually, I didn't it go too far, down at the reserve near
the school. Only as far as letting out 10 or 15 meters of line, as it
tugged and flopped around in very gusty moderate winds, flying in the
general direction of the setting sun. Earlier in the day the winds
seemed quite light. Perfect for testing a new large light-wind kite. Of
course by the time we actually got down there to fly...
Vainly attempting to shelter from the breeze behind a very
scant bush, the Sode took shape on the grass and dirt as I inserted
spars and connected bow-lines. Doing the ties is fiddly, but I'm getting
better at it - as you will too if you persist with these roll-up Dowel
kites! The bottom edge pockets worked wonderfully keeping the bottom
horizontal spar in place. Just a matter of bending the spar slightly
while locating it in the pockets, then letting it spring back into
The leaf-noise coming from the nearby trees was a worry.
However, time was short since that newsletter is due in a couple of
days! Also the weather has been rainy on and off recently. It took a few
launch attempts before the kite sail stayed attached! All the movement
was tending to make the corner straps slip off the spar tips. Finally, I
got them all tensioned up a bit more, moved the towing point back a
touch and then the flight in the video resulted. It lasted less than a
minute, as the towing point was still a bit too far forward and the kite
kept nosing over and flailing around in the stiff breeze higher up. It
was nice to see it fly at last though! The modifications that were
necessary after its first back-yard trial kept me busy for a while and
delayed the first real flight out in a field.
Judging by the first flight, this Sode should do fine in
conditions that suit it better. Less wind, smoother wind! Also, a 3 or 4
point bridle would stop a lot of the wallowing action which caused a
bit of trouble with the sail coming off. However, lighter winds would
make it move around less anyway. Give this kite a go if you are in a
light wind location!
March 27, 2009 - Dowel Diamond Struts Its Stuff At Festival
Actually, the Dowel Sled went up first, down at Semaphore
Beach. Very briefly, several times. The breeze was just too stiff for
it, despite the relatively smooth sea air. The leading edge kept folding
inwards and collapsing the kite, so we gave up on it after a while. Out
with the Dowel Diamond, with its slightly-too-heavy 6mm Tasmanian Oak
spars! One day we'll make another one with 5mm spars which should extend
the bottom end of its wind range quite a bit.
With the Diamond up a few meters it was clear the sail was
not quite right. The kite sat to the left somewhat, which would limit
how high it went. Not to worry, I just brought it down again and
tightened the left side panels a bit by re-doing the tie. However, this
time it started leaning to the right! Some days you get it pretty well
right on the first try, other days it takes a little trial and error.
Never mind, we soon had the Dowel Diamond soaring high on the moderate
breeze. The kite exerted a firm pull on the 50 pound Dacron line as I
continued to let it out, right past the 100 meter mark. The Diamond was
just over into the registered kite fliers area, not far from the
entrance of the jetty. The kite's vertical spar fish-tailed slightly,
indicating the strength of the breeze. The stronger the breeze the more
Meanwhile, we relaxed under our tent on the beach, not far
from all the other fliers on the south side of the jetty. Today, Friday,
was not an official festival flying day but quite a number of other
kites were in the air, and everything else was set up in preparation for
Saturday when the bigger crowds would turn up. May, my wife, served hot
coffee in a thermos flask while I sat back with the winder under my
calf and half a turn of kite line around my leg. The Diamond was out of
sight, but I made sure to check the tension and angle of the line once
in a while!
Just as well. Eventually, the bottom cap tape on the kite
gave way. Maybe the heat of the car boot (trunk) had weakened the gum...
I noticed that the line tension was down a bit. Thinking that maybe the
wind strength had dropped, I poked my head out to check the kite. The
bottom few centimeters of the vertical spar were bare - oooops. Quickly,
I went out and started reeling the kite in. By now, the sail had
slipped even further up the spar, and sail area was down to about half!
The Diamond was dropping faster, sitting right over on its left side but
not traveling to the left. Reel, reel, reel, must ... clear ... jetty
... ! One or 2 people on the jetty realized the kite was in trouble and
gawked. Finally, the kite was safely down on the south side and I went
over and repaired it on the spot, with some new tape.
Soon, the Eddy-like orange Diamond went back up and it
continued its tail-less display at around 200 feet above the sand. By
this stage we had discovered a bit of sun-burn so decided to go home
medium-rare rather than well-done!
March 28, 2009 - 2-Skewer Dopero Kite Shows Off Light Wind Performance
This happened down at our second day at the Adelaide
International Kite Festival venue (Semaphore Beach), although it was
actually the first official day of the event. Unfortunately for the
organizers, very light winds prevailed almost all day, which prevented
the most spectacular kites from even getting launched. However, this
blog post concerns just our own flying on that Saturday...
We had come prepared for a range of wind conditions, so it
was natural to pull out the premier MBK light-wind kite. The 2-Skewer
Dopero! I love this thing, it has an amazing wind range for something so
cheap to make. BBQ skewers, the very cheapest garden bags from China,
some Aquadhere, sticky tape and insulation tape spar caps. It hadn't
flown for some time since we've had a long run of windy weather this
year. Hence we walked to the grassed area where a few other people were
flying and put it up for a test fly.
Even up above the rough air near the ground, it was clear
that the little Dopero had a tendency to loop right. Easily fixed with a
tweak on one tether line and the upper bridle loop knot. Soon the kite
was flying straight and true, so it was time to walk past the jetty and
onto the Southern side sand.
As I backed onto the beach, I flew the Dopero just high
enough to avoid obstacles. Out a bit further, there was more room and
the kite willingly climbed up in ideal wind speeds. For it! The large
Deltas and Roks over on the north side were struggling to stay up.
However, there were still variations in the wind speed from minute to
minute. It wasn't long before I had found a nice spot to get all 150
meters of line out, with ample space between the lines of kites on our
left and right. The Dopero hung up there very stable in the smooth ocean
air. It wasn't the expected SouthWest fresh sea breeze though, which
the bigger kites were waiting for.
During lulls, line tension dropped and a huge bow developed
as the kite descended 50 or 100 feet and found equilibrium again. As a
little wind strength came back on, line tension would rise a little, the
line would start to straighten up somewhat and I could just see the
kite making a slow but steady climb back to 400 feet above the sand.
It's kind of hard to spot how fast a kite is climbing or dropping
against a totally blue sky! May, my wife, took a turn flying the kite
while I headed off to the jetty to get some photos of a couple of nice
It was a pleasure to realize that no other kite on the entire
beach was within 200 feet altitude of our humble little bamboo and
plastic creation! With no thermal help either. OK, there were a lot of
short kite strings on the south side of the jetty... Even so, most of
them were small diamonds, sleds or novelty kites that don't have the
efficiency of a Dopero.
After some time, maybe half an hour or more, we decided to
bring down the Dopero. As it neared the sand, I was able to pull it down
slowly and almost vertically before catching it in my hand. A nice
flight to remember, and the very first for this kite from a beach!