Kite Blog Posts

March 2009

March 5, 2009—Delta Kite Dodges Singaporean Hi-Rises

This blog is a little different. For a start, I'm sitting here on the ninth 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 among the local residential buildings to see if the delta would take to the air.

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 two 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 done.

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 Delta design will be like, when I get around to redoing it. Don't hold your breath, it could be more than a year away.

I'd better sign off now. We are just about to leave for the airport, and airliners don't wait.

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.

March 12, 2009—3-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 flyer ... "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 treetop 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.

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 330 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, there were 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, 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, which is 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 climbing quickly.

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, 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. There was no luck with a relaunch 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! This problem might have 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. I'm not sure how it got out of adjustment by itself, unless it was 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, so it was 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 duly followed 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 let it go too far, down at the reserve near the school. It was 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. This was perfect for testing a new large light-wind kite. Of course, by the time we actually got down there to fly...

While I vainly attempted 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. It was just a matter of bending the spar slightly while locating it in the pockets, then letting it spring back into place.

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 backyard 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. That is, less wind and smoother wind! Also, a three or four-leg 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 MBK 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. Then it was out with the Dowel Diamond, with its slightly-too-heavy 6 mm Tasmanian-oak spars! One day we'll make another one with 5 mm spars, which should extend the bottom end of its wind range quite a bit.

With the diamond up on a few meters of line 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 redoing 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 (330-foot)  mark. The diamond was just over into the registered kite-flyers area, not far from the entrance to the jetty. The kite's vertical spar fish-tailed slightly, indicating the strength of the breeze. The stronger the breeze the more it waggles!

Meanwhile, we relaxed under our tent on the beach, not far from all the other flyers 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!

This was just as well. Eventually, the bottom cap-tape on the kite gave way. Maybe the heat of the car trunk (boot) 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! Now 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 two 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 tailless display at around 200 feet above the sand. By this stage, we had discovered a bit of sunburn 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. All this project needs is thin bamboo BBQ skewers, the very cheapest garden bags from China, some Aquadhere, clear sticky tape, and, insulation tape for 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. That was 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 fresh sea breeze from the southwest 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 cellular kites.

It was a pleasure to realize that no other kite on the entire beach was near the 200-foot altitude of our humble little bamboo-and-plastic creation! It had 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. It was a nice flight to remember and the very first for this kite from a beach!


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.